Put Your Mask on First Mama

If you have flown on an airplane, you’ve most likely heard the Flight Attendant say during the safety procedures that parents need to put their mask on first before putting on their child’s. The reason they say this is because you’re no good to your child if you pass out from lack of oxygen. So, why don’t we follow these guidelines in everyday life? Why are Mother’s expected to apply their child’s mask first as they die trying to save them?

My son caught a cold last week at daycare. I did what every mother would and sacrificed my sleep and energy to take care of him. This meant hours spent in the middle of the night rocking him to sleep propped up on my chest. I suffered so he could be comfortable, because that’s what mothers do for their children. Then I succumbed to the same cold.

It was inevitable. I was getting minimal sleep and sucking snot out of my 1 year old’s nose. The hard part isn’t that I got sick, but that as a mother I’m expected to continue my motherly duties as if I’m not sick. You’ve seen those memes about the mother when sick still cooking dinner, doing laundry, caring for her kids, despite how she feels. Then the meme continues with a picture of Dad when sick laid up in bed whining like a kid and demanding to be waited on hand and foot by Mom, when she has no help with the kids.

This isn’t fair! It creates very unrealistic expectations of women/mothers to be super human and require no rest when sick. Sorry, but if that is what a “good” mom is supposed to do, sacrifice her own health for her family, then I’d rather be a “bad” mom. How are we to be expected to continue caring for the whole family when we also feel like crap? Why do husbands get to rest until they feel better, but mothers do not?

I told my husband yesterday, I’m staying in bed and you’re caring for me and our sick son. He didn’t particularly love this demand. He even feigned for a moment to tell me, “I’m really not THAT sick!” Of course, he ate his words and apologized, but I was fuming.

As mothers, we aren’t allowed to get sick. We aren’t allowed to put our mask on first. We have to muster up every little bit of energy in our ragged, sick bodies to continue caring for our family. I realize this is the 21st century and times have surely changed, but really have they!? If they had, we wouldn’t still be celebrating this image of the selfless mother that sacrifices everything including her health for her kids and husband and household.

Even as I laid there in bed binging on Netflix and relaxing like I demanded I needed to properly recover, I felt this nagging sense of guilt. I actually felt guilty for being sick and for not helping my husband with our son. This guilt prevented me from fully resting my mind and recovering.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband is great and he helps a lot with our son and even brought me tea throughout the day. What isn’t great is societal expectations of women and mothers. We are expected to birth children, be 100% dedicated to them despite our own needs, and when we need a day for ourselves or maybe more than a day to recover, we are meant to feel guilty. I don’t want to feel guilty any longer for taking care of myself.

My mother always told me, you cannot pour from an empty glass. If I’m running on empty, why don’t I deserve a break. I honestly don’t care if my house is messy, if I feel like crap. Chastise me if you will, for not being the perfect mother. Believe me I chastise myself enough for the both of us. My mind tells me I’m not the perfect cook, I’m not the perfect caregiver, I’m not the perfect wife. I’ll tell you what I am though. I am tired of being told what I am not.

Mothers are human. Humans make mistakes. Humans get sick and need rest to recover. Humans need praise too. Humans need love. Humans need their cups filled. How can mothers be expected to be super humans? Super humans have super powers. Unfortunately, though it may seem like mothers have super powers, we don’t. We have super big hearts that make us feel so much empathy it hurts. We go above and beyond not because we physically are able to, but because we force ourselves to in order to meet the needs of our loved ones.

I’m here to say to all the mothers out there, put your mask on first! You’re no good to your family if you don’t care for yourself first. Be selfish! Take time for your own needs. Screw society! We aren’t super humans, though we may wish we were. We deserve a break. We deserve to get sick and recover without guilt.

I’m still sick and I am going to take a hot shower and binge watch Brigerton, because I deserve this time to heal myself. My husband and son will survive without me. I’m no good to them, if I’m not good to myself.

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