Secret to Self-Care without being Selfish

I used to go straight from work to pick up my children at school. They would rush to hug me with dirty hands, there would be the loud chatter of a school, and they would immediately launch into telling me about their day. I was on sensory overload and all I wanted to do was go home, get something to eat, and have some peace and quiet. So I rushed them out of school to rush to the car to rush home. Meanwhile I was only half listening to them talk because I would rather listen to music or the thoughts in my head. It has been a long day and I deserve some quiet time I thought to myself.

This is where the seed of selfishness begins to develop. I focused on my needs and desires without considering those of my children. It is the focus on myself without consideration for others that is at the heart of selfishness. My children knew that I wasn’t listening so they spoke louder and over each other until I yelled at them to stop interrupting and talk quieter. Then the tears came and everyone felt angry and sad. And I felt resentment and guilt.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

When you travel on an airplane they explain that “Should the cabin lose pressure oxygen masks will drop down. Place the mask over your own nose and mouth before assisting others.” If you do not give yourself oxygen you will pass out and be unable to assist others. Or in my case, if I do not give myself a break I will be resentful and angry and hurt people I love.

My oxygen mask means stopping at home before I pick up my kids from school. Sometimes I leave work early and other times I pick them up later to make this possible. I change my clothes, get a snack, and enjoy the quiet of the house. I am then more present and focused on my children when I’m with them. I am physically more comfortable, don’t worry about my clothes, and I am fed. Taking those 10 minutes actually helps me to be less selfish and I am not resentful or angry or guilty. Instead I am as I want to be, excited to see my children and hear about their day.

Do you put your own oxygen mask on first? If you don’t, how would your relationships be different if you did? How would you feel if you breathed fresh air before tending to your other relationships? Let’s discuss!