Happy Mom, Unhappy Mom: Secure Your Oxygen Mask Before Helping Others

The importance of taking quality time to care for yourself, so that you can put your best foot forward when caring for someone else

oxygen mask
(Image: iStock.com/UberImages)

Have you ever been called selfish when you’ve done something just for you? Do you sometimes feel guilty after taking time for yourself? If so, you are not alone.

I once struggled to pay attention to myself, and instead, I was busy dealing with all the daily rituals that keep us on life’s hamster wheel. Now I know that making personal time is extremely important and arguably one of the most critical life strategies that “happy moms” employ and “unhappy moms” resist. (While that’s the title of this ongoing series, the challenges also apply to men and women, parents and non-parents alike.)

You most likely recall hearing flight attendants explain that, if a plane loses cabin pressure, that you are to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you pass out, there’s no chance to care for someone else. Securing your oxygen mask first actually allows you to care for a loved one. This instruction may seem unnatural; the exact opposite of what our instincts may direct us to do. However, I believe this directive also applies to everyday life. If we are unable to care for ourselves, for whatever reason, we will likely struggle to adequately care for others.

I’ve seen—and personally experienced—what can happen when we are too busy “putting oxygen masks” on family and friends before ourselves. I believe in and strongly encourage us to adopt an oxygen mask mantra, or OMM. I like that it resembles the meditative OM sound, since both promote approaches to wellness that help bolster our energy.

My Story: Not Easy to Do at First

Like many, I saw my mother, grandmother, and aunts sacrifice tirelessly, putting themselves last and focusing on others first. They were my role models. I remember my grandmother and mother constantly working, cleaning, and pleasing. They cooked and always ate last. If they knew someone liked something they made, like their fresh rolls or homemade lemonade, they would stay up late or get up early to have it ready. My grandmother had a large family, and, other than when she ate or was at church, I don’t have a memory of her resting.

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Valerie Mosley is an investor passionate about impact and is a co-founder of Heart Beings. Her most prized accomplishment is being mom to her three children: Taylor, Ryan and Amanda.