Posts Tagged ‘Breastfeeding Men’

Remember the Airline Oxygen Mask Instructions

breathe easier image

breathe easier image

The first time I referenced the oxygen mask metaphor was during my first job out of college with Teach for America. I had so much young, bleeding-heart passion for doing my part to foster social change in public education and all that remains unfair about it. I rocked (or thought I did) during the six week summer training program and with naive hubris requested a middle school assignment. I scored a particularly challenging gig. And soon after I began the school year, my overwhelm spiraled into severe anxiety and the inability to sleep at all for six weeks — and eventually the inability to do much of anything — let alone teach.

I was 23 years old. And I remember saying to one of my friends who was teaching with me at the same inner-city Houston school (and is still one of my closest friends today):  “There’s a solid reason the airlines instruct adults to put their oxygen mask on first, and then assist their child. If you pass out from lack of oxygen, you can’t help your child do anything. I can’t teach these kids when I am struggling to help myself.”

The decision to leave the job was agonizing and the aftermath solidly demoralizing. And yet my heart at the time felt clear that my presence in the classroom was contradicting the mission that I signed up for to provide excellent education for under-privileged children.

Now, fifteen years later with success in another career, I’m in a fairly chronic sleep-deprived state once again — but much less severe, and thankfully not because of all-night-long anxiety attacks.  Yes, we’ve “night-weaned” our baby, but that doesn’t mean she’s sleeping through the night.  My wakings now alternate between hearing the baby waking, crying briefly and my husband shushing her back to sleep, and my toddler waking me to request a trip to the bathroom or some water. It’s getting easier each week and I know there is also magical parent-child closeness to be relished during this chapter of life.

Yet the self-care struggle remains. As I strive to provide consistent loving care for my girls while frequently neglecting myself, I’m reminded of the airline oxygen mask instructions and the poignant applicability of this metaphor to these intense early years of parenting. (more…)

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