Get Your Own Oxygen Mask First!



“In the event of a sudden change in altitude or cabin pressure, your oxygen mask will appear in front of you…If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance, secure your mask first and then assist the other person.”

That part of the in-flight announcements always creeps me out a bit. I could never understand how they could seriously expect me to put on my own mask before that of my child. “Of course my baby comes first,” I’d think. But one day, I finally understood: I can’t help my children if I’m not “all there.”

Parents are constantly faced with guilt. From themselves, from societal and peer pressure (often based in good intentions, but still…), from their own parents. There is so much pressure to fill your childrens’ lives with happiness and experiences. And we should do that—but, as with so many things in life, there need to be limits. So often, in trying to constantly fill their little spiritual and emotional cups ‘till they runneth over, we end up letting our own go empty.

That’s a problem.

You can’t give of yourself if you have nothing left to give. That’s a hard fact for many to reconcile, but it’s true.

We think that we need to “do it all”—after all, Sherri over there is running the PTA, running her own at-home business, her kids are all staying out of trouble and doing well in school and her Instagram feed is full of smiling faces; if she can do it, we can do it, right?

Nothing is as it seems—and comparison truly is the thief of joy. What you see on the surface is rarely the full picture. Who knows how many things Sherri feels like she’s behind on or that she should be doing, but isn’t or can’t. You just don’t know—and frankly, it’s not your business. Your life is your own, so live it!

Give your kids those experiences, set up play dates, take mornings at the park when there’s an opportunity. But don’t forget about you in the process.

You need time for you—whether it’s 15 minutes a day or a few hours on the weekend to catch a movie or lunch with friends. Take it. And when you do, a funny thing will happen: You’ll be more present for the other family-centered moments. You’ll again find joy and more peace at home. And the people in your life will notice and find better enjoyment in you.

When you take time to fill your own cup back up, you’ll inadvertently have more to share with others. By taking time to make yourself happy, you’ll naturally help others in turn find more happiness.

It’s hard to take that time and, for some, even harder to admit that they need to. But no matter how “all together” anyone seems, remember that they need it too—and maybe, just maybe, part of why they can do “so much” is because they are taking some time to fulfill themselves.

I hope I never have to put myself to the test on the literal oxygen mask scenario—but in life, I like to think that I’m passing the test—to the appropriate degree—on the regular. I urge you to do the same.




Karl P.

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