Put your Air Mask on First

I’ve flown on a plane quite a few times in my life and no matter what airline it’s been, I know that before I can kick back, relax, and get my free peanuts, passengers will need to sit through a safety presentation. If you’ve flown before, you know what I’m talking about.

It may be a new video displaying safety measures; or it may be a voice over the intercom prompting neatly dressed airline attendants to demo how to click and release a seatbelt buckle, point out lit emergency exits all before explaining that if the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling of the plane. At that point, passengers are told that before they assist anyone else, they are to put their own mask on first.

The first few times I heard that last part, I had to give a second thought. That almost seemed counterintuitive. I mean, doesn’t it make sense to help those around you first? Wouldn’t that seem more noble?

But the truth is, you can’t take care of others well if you’re not taking care of yourself first.

As a mom, I’ve thought many times about how this parallels parts of mommyhood. Mothers have an innate desire to nurture and care for their families. Though we may find great fulfillment in these, the laundry list of to-dos and others’ needs can cause ourselves to fall to the bottom of the priority list. Changing diapers, folding laundry, and house clean-up can feel like never ending tasks, and we may wonder when there will be time to care for ourselves.

How often I’ve spent so much time putting others’ “masks on” before my own that I’ve become utterly exhausted, depleted, and honestly frustrated with feeling that Everybody Needs Me!

You see, I do find being the caregiver for my family very fulfilling, but I’ve had to realize that’s not what necessarily fills and refreshes me. And if I’m going to do this mommy-thing well, I need divine wisdom and strategies for how to “catch my breath” while on the journey. Because honestly, I don’t have time not to.

For me, that doesn’t mean taking a whole spa day to myself (maybe one day that will happen, sister) or taking off to the gym everyday, but I have found ways to revamp what’s important to me in this season.

Here are a few things I’ve done to “put my mask on”:

  • Evening bath – This is a great way to reset after a long day and it’s a few minutes when I know I can be completely alone. Plus, I’m half ready when I wake up the next day!
  • Night away – I’ve coordinated an evening a week with my husband for me to go out by myself if I want. It might be to a coffee shop, it might be just for a drive, but in my mind it’s a guaranteed time I can take for myself.
  • Exercise revamped – I used to have a gym membership, but it’s not as feasible in this season. Still, exercise is important, so I’ve found creative ways to fit it in. Sometimes it’s a dance party with my children, and other times it’s a 15-20 minute jog on the treadmill/outside when my husband is home. It’s usually quick, but, hey, it’s there!
  • Short Nap – For me a short nap can really reset me, so usually after the girls lay down for an afternoon nap, I do a quick clean up and lay down for a short nap. It’s amazing what 20-30 minutes can do!
  • Realistic Quiet Time Expectations – Since every moment of sleep is precious when you have littles, instead of morning quiet time with Jesus, I’ve found a more strategic time for it — after my short nap.  Again, it may be really short (depending on what my kids are doing at that time), but at least it hasn’t completely fallen by the wayside (most days anyway).
  • Don’t try to get it all done – I’ve found that it will never be all done, and at times I have to say, “Well, that’s it.” I try not to run ragged until my head hits the pillow but allow for down time … because tomorrow is another day to get more done, right?!
  • Earlier bedtime – I’ve come to the hard realization that I was just getting to bed toooo late. I also realized with turning off lights and checking the stove and kids before I get into bed takes about 20 minutes, so I needed to start walking to my bed earlier. Because let’s be real … sleep is of utmost importance and can affect every other aspect of your day!

And finally, probably the most important, we need divine wisdom with our time. God knows our schedule as a mom. He can help us find gaps and ideas on how to get the refreshment we need.

Like the other Sunday afternoon — I was cleaning lunch dishes after I laid my children down for their naps. I needed to go grocery shopping and was anticipating leaving right away when I finished. As I ran the dishes under water, I felt as if the Lord nudged me to spend some time with him before I went. The girls were both sleeping and that window would allow uninterrupted time. I could feel myself wanting to push back a little against the nudge. But I decided to listen and took some time with the Lord.

Honestly, I felt the wave of refreshment as I sat for those moments almost immediately. He guided me, and he can guide each of us this way! As mothers, let’s ask God to give each of us divine wisdom and creative ideas as to how we can “put our own air masks on” so that in turn, we can better care for those we love.

Keri Herzog loves to see women come to better know who they are in Christ. Previously she worked as the Assistant Dean of Women at Christ for the Nations Institute and also worked as the Assistant Dean for Leadership and Experiential Learning at North Central University. Currently she lives with her husband Jordan, their 2 daughters, and 2 German Shepherds.

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