“Please put on your own oxygen mask before helping your children or those around you.

~ Every Flight Attendent, on Every Flight, Every Day.

Alright. The more I read and look at mainstream American media, the more it seems that marketing is overrunning reality. In the effort to sell products, corporations are out to make mothers feel guilty regardless of what they do. You spank your kids? You’re heartless. You don’t spank your kids? You’re too easy on them. You cloth diaper? Hippie. You don’t cloth diaper? Why don’t you love Mother Nature?! You homeschool? Your kids are going to be weirdos, and it’s going to be YOUR fault. You send your kids to public school? You clearly have no regard for their future, and they are destined to a life of crime. Private school?! Now you’re just a snob… Mommy. Can’t. Win. I could go on, but you get my point.

In one area, that I think is the most detrimental, Mommies are told that taking care of themselves somehow undercuts their ability to care for their kids. Spending money on your appearance, wellbeing, or personal interests is frowned upon, and linked to NOT caring about your kids. At the same time, we are sold a bill of goods that says if you DO NOT take care of yourself, you are giving your kids a poor example of how to care for THEMSELVES. So if you DO take care of you, you’re selfish. If you do NOT take care of yourself, you’re showing your kiddos that you are not worth taking care of and they shouldn’t take care of themselves. Perfect. What’s a mom to do?

Two years ago, when I hit rock bottom of my post partum depression, my mother lovingly reminded me that “I owed it to my kids to get my life back together”. She said I had to, “do whatever I have to do to be the best mom I could be for those kids”. At first, I felt guilty because I wasn’t already the pinnacle of motherhood. A couple of days later, I flew home for my son’s baptism. The flight attendant reminded us to don our own oxygen masks before helping the kids. A light bulb went off in my head. Epiphany. I have to take care of myself TO take care of the kids. Hello! Without taking care of myself, I can’t be the best mom for them. Mom’s words made sense without guilt attached, and I made a decision: I had to take care of myself.

Upon return to Washington, I signed up with a trainer recommended by a good friend. I started eating less like a diabetes seeking teenager and more like an adult. I started allowing myself to pay for child care to get the break that I previously denied myself. My kids flourished, and so did I. Of course, I had to offset this expenditure with some work to pay for it, but it was worth it.

Enter a cross country move to a location without a gym with childcare, my husband home more than ever before, but a pay cut, and a rural setting as opposed to suburbia and you get a Kate that weighs 20 pounds more and is crabby. I’d let myself go. I’d heard that phrase before, but I hadn’t lived it to this extent in a while. After Christmas, a friend and I took the resolution thing seriously. We were going to make this new location work, and we were going to do it in bodies that weren’t packing saddlebags and muffin-tops. We joined a local dojo that offered child-care with their fitness kickboxing classes, and started to attend three-to-five times per week.

I had never hit anyone or anything in any way that made much of a dent. I could shadowbox, but the idea of gloves and striking? No, thank you. WRONG. I love it. I get some of my frustration out while I sweat through my clothes. The people in the class cheer one another on, while developing a love/hate relationship with our trainer. He pushes us until we shake, and we leave tired but happy. My son stands at the window and cheers while we work out. He also loses his mind, and I have to take a break to calm him, every once in a while. It’s worth it to feel stronger, push myself farther than I expected I could go, and down the road lose some lbs. I also work with a trainer that helps me to be more honest about my nutrition and keep my brain in check. It’s a little expensive, but it’s worth the work I have to do to pay for it.

Now, my kids get an example of a mom with self-worth. They see me caring for myself, without being selfish and taking away from them. I’ll live longer because I’m taking care of my health needs, and they are seeing me make better health choices. For better or worse, I am one of their greatest role models. For me, that means having to care for myself before caring for them. I have to put on my own oxygen before I can help them to put on theirs. I have to take care of me, so that I can be the best me for them. However you say it, I’m not going overboard and taking away from their resources. I’m simply using those designated for me to the best of my ability. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Positive choices with the resources that exist plus planning and execution equals successful living and parenting. Oh, and by the way, to those that say fitness is a secondary priority and that keeping up with your body means you’re wasting the time you could be spending with your kids? Mama’s gonna knock you out… 🙂