Anybody who has been at sea will have been told this at induction. Just as anyone who has been on an aeroplane will have been told “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others to put on theirs”.
You can’t save somebody else if you are drowning yourself. You’re no good to anybody else if you’re not safe and strong yourself. Relate this to a real-life situation. Our first instinct is safety. If a crisis occurs, and you delay putting on your own life jacket, you will deprive yourself of immediate safety. You will begin to drown, and the first thing your body will do instinctively is grab at anything to prevent that happening. Chances are, you are going to drag others down with you. However, if you put on your own life jacket first, you will be safe and thus in a much better position to help others and save their lives.
Yet, we are brought up to believe it is selfish to think of ourselves before others. This is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves. And one of the most important to let go.
How many times do we, as parents, say “I would DIE for my children”? Well, what good are we to them then? No child would want their parent to die for them. Think of the eternal guilt they would then be likely to live with.
Consider the alternative “I am strong enough to LIVE for my children”. How much better does that feel? How empowering is that small adjustment in thought?
You may think it is only different words, but it is so much more than that. It is a different thought, a different frame of mind, a different energy frequency, a different neuro-connection that your body responds to.
There are so many ways we don’t put our own life jacket on first everyday. We work our butts off trying to provide things for our family that they actually don’t need, and probably would rather go without than losing their parent to illness caused by exhaustion, and may even be doing them more harm than good. Do we really need the huge house, complete with huge mortgage, so children can have a bedroom each, whilst depriving them of the close lifelong bond that can result from sharing a bedroom, and the lessons they can learn about peaceful co-existence in sharing a close environment? Do they really need the designer clothes and shoes at the expense of not having their parent around to take them to the park, or to sit reading and discussing their day with them? Do they need a parent who is stressed, not available for them, or ill because they are run ragged. Or do they need a parent who looks after themselves: does yoga/exercise, goes for a massage, has time for a luxurious relaxing bath or anything else that truly relaxes them, and returns to their children happy and ready to spend true quality time with them?
It is awesome if you can have it both ways, if you can provide luxuries for your children, let’s face it we all want to do that, and do it without stress. However, the balance needs to be right, the foundations of love and presence need to be there. We want our children to be balanced, well-adjusted, able to take care of themselves. Therefore, we have to be the best example we can be.
It is natural for children to want material things. They are brainwashed by what they see around them. But consider this: given the choice, would they want that shiny new bike that will take you 10 hours of your time and energy to earn? Or would they prefer to have you spending 10 hours of your devoted time helping them renew and customise an old bike then going out for a long bike ride with them? Which one will cost you more? Which one will feel like putting on your life jacket and THEN helping them put theirs on? Perhaps you can ask them that question directly.
Did I achieve this balance when my children were dependant on me? Absolutely not.
Did I pay with burn-out? Absolutely I did.
Have I learned from this? Oh I so have.
I was so much more focussed on giving my children material things. I was so wrapped up in what I believed was society’s idea of a good parent, I didn’t realise what true parenting was all about.
Thankfully, my children are embracing this journey with me. We share so many blessings now. A few months ago my son heard me in conversation with someone and joked “Is she being annoyingly positive again?”. I asked him “Which do you prefer, the annoyingly positive person I am now, or the depressed miserable person I used to be?” His response was “Oh definitely the annoyingly positive one!”