Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Have you ever flown on an airplane? If you have—and I’d have to say that a lot of people probably have—you know that even before the flight takes off, the flight attendant goes through the procedures to be followed in case of an emergency.

Whether you board the plane in the United States, or Canada, or Europe; whether you fly Delta, Air Canada or British Airways; whether your flight will last one hour or many hours, these emergency instructions are given, without fail.

And without fail, those instructions are the same. When it comes to the most important part—the life-sustaining oxygen—the flight attendants will tell you to put on your own air mask before you help someone else with theirs. The principle at work here is simple: you can’t save someone else until you save yourself, first.

That is advice that should be given to everyone with regard to life in general, but especially to the mothers among us.

Mothers tend to do for others first and always. We feed others, if you will, before we even consider feeding ourselves. Even when we feel under the weather, our kids (and often times, they are our grown kids) look to us for their favorite pasta, or their favorite dessert, and we, being mothers, do everything we can to accommodate them.

The point of today’s essay is that it’s okay, sometimes, to say no.

We get so busy and are so intent on taking care of others we forget to take care of ourselves, first. We think putting ourselves and our needs first is selfish.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just as, on a flight, we would need to secure our own air supply first, in life, we need to secure our own health and well being first if we truly want to be able to continue to take care of others. Ignoring our bodies’ needs for exercise, proper nutrition, sleep, and down time is not the way to ensure that we give our best to our families.

Of course, when our children are younger, we often do just that. No amount of reasoning with us is likely to get us to change our ways, either. Taking care of the kids is what we do, period.

But we moms have to recognize that there comes a point when we need to step back from the plate. When our children are no longer children, it is time for them to not only do for themselves, but hey, pay a little attention back to the ones who’ve given so much of themselves for so long.

When we reach our fifties, I believe it is good and wise and noble to begin to put ourselves first from time to time. We didn’t sacrifice for our children to earn a reward; we did it because we love them, and it is what moms do.

But the rewards are there regardless, and they need to be enjoyed. Probably one of the last lessons our children learn—and they don’t learn it until they’re well into adulthood—is that mothers are theirs forever, to love and appreciate and respect.

But mommies pass on the mantle of parenting to the next generation.


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