I waited to board the plane from Ontario to Seattle. Since the flight was oversold, the airlines called my name and asked if it would be okay to put me in first class. Hmm, let me think about that! Yes!! When does that ever happen?!
I was nervous about flying alone with six-week-old Cameron, the possibility of his ears hurting and him screaming the whole time, and the other million fears that seem to buzz like a mosquito in a new mom’s ear.
We settled into our spacious seat, and I cradled Cameron in my arms. I unsuspectingly looked around and prayed Cameron would sleep for the sake of those around me who paid a fine fare for peace and quiet.
The stewardess stood in the aisle and began her robotic safety demonstration with a painted smile.
And then something I heard caught my attention:
“If you’re traveling with small children, put your oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.”
Ha! She’s crazy, I thought. There’s no way!
I glanced down at Cameron’s tiny twenty-one inch frame and vowed to put his mask on before mine. His life before mine. It wasn’t heroic, it was what this deep sense of bearing a child and going to the ends of the earth for him meant. But in my determination to care for Cameron, I was completely naive and missing the point.
Taking care of myself isn’t selfish if the end goal is for the betterment of those around me.
But why as moms does it seem selfish? The norm is Saturday morning drives to cheer on kids at their sporting events. Trading in Netflix and warm pajamas for late night carpool duties. Cleaning up blocks and books for the millionth time. Projectile vomit smeared on me in the middle of the night and my heart breaking for the one sick. Forgetting to eat because I’m concerned about everyone else being fed. Pom poms on the sidelines of every game and meet.
It’s glorious and difficult all at the same time.
As I started training for the marathon, I thought about the oxygen mask many times on my early morning runs. At first, the marathon training seemed selfish, and I felt guilty. I’d leave the house for hours to go alone on a run. But the guilt subsided when I realized I was becoming a better mom by taking care of myself, being healthy and having a goal to shoot for, my husband was more than capable of handling morning kid duties, and the kids looked forward to hearing about how many miles I’d conquered.
That stewardess was oh so right: Putting on my oxygen mask means I take care of everyone around me without passing out. Without stumbling. Not perfectly but without gasping for air.
What may feel selfish is actually life giving and feeds life into everyone else.
For those moms with little ones out there surviving, you’re stronger than you know and braver than you think.
Do something that scares you.
Try something that’s far beyond what you think you’re capable of.
And you’ll probably surprise yourself.
When I crossed the marathon line, it was the light in my kids’ and husband’s eyes that made every achy muscle and joint pain worth it. They were proud of me.
And about that oxygen mask, it’s knowing when it needs to be applied that is important. Hopefully we never experience the need on a plane, but in life we often go through emergencies that render the need for a little extra oxygen. It’s ALWAYS okay to ask for help.
But above all, don’t ever, ever forget to dream.