Anyone who has ever traveled by airplane has heard the FAA required pre-flight safety announcement prior to takeoff. I, like many other passengers, often zone out during this important information except when it comes to the part about using the oxygen mask in the event of a cabin depressurization. During this portion of the safety announcement, passengers are instructed to place the oxygen mask over their mouth and breathe briefly before assisting their children. There’s a reason for this. You simply cannot properly assist your children if you become incapacitated. You must take care of yourself first then attend to the needs of your children.
As I raise my 13-year-old son with special needs, I am becoming more aware of my profound shortcomings as a parent. I am convinced that I cannot be the best father for my son unless I am constantly regulating and monitoring my emotional and mental health. This often requires personal time away that belongs to me. I also encourage that my wife take the personal time she needs that belongs to her. There is no shame when parents need to place themselves first. We’ve earned it and we deserve it.
I love my son more than anything in this world, but I also cherish the personal time I claim as my own to recharge, rehabilitate, and strap on the oxygen mask. I know my son benefits more if I’m present, conscious, breathing, and emotionally available to met his needs after I have met mine.