Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
Put your own oxygen mask on first.
Anyone who has flown in an airplane has heard that phrase.
The flight attendants teach us that in the event of an emergency, you must help yourself first prior to helping those around you. I am sure there are those out there that would do that without being told. But for most of us moms, our instincts tell us to do the exact opposite. Our instincts tell us to put our kids first, to make sure they are okay before we even consider our own well-being.
Many of us here in this group are adoptive moms of difficult-to-place children. Children who were older when they were placed with us, or who came home with special needs and traumatic histories. We are caretakers by nature. The kind of women who feed stray cats and the neighborhood children. We are moms who not only put our biological kids’ needs above our own-- we see other motherless children and make them ours, and then we put their needs above our own.
In the event of an airplane crash-- our instinct is to comfort our children, hug them and kiss them, fasten their oxygen masks, and hand them their life jackets before even remembering we need to take care of ourselves.
This is why we need to be told-- Put your oxygen mask on first! If you do not, you will pass out. You will not be able to help your children, and you will all perish.
This is true in life too. If mom’s well runs dry, everyone goes thirsty. This is true of all moms, but it is especially true for those of us with challenging children. We have children who daily push us to our limits. Children whose behaviors are so extreme we struggle to just to keep everyone alive until the end of the day. Our own self care often comes as an afterthought. Too many of us, too often, reach a breaking point. We think we cannot survive one more minute of this life. Some of us, when we reach that point, cannot even remember where to find our own oxygen mask.
So what can we do? How do we fill our own wells so we can then take care of our children?
1. Find support! You are not alone! There are other moms out there dealing with the same feelings, the same behaviors. I promise you-- whatever it is, there is someone else out there who is dealing with it. Call any other adoptive moms you know, click the resources tab on this site, email me, reach out to someone. You are not alone!
2. Remember what used to bring you joy. There was a time several years after my son came to me where I realized I could not remember the last time I had fun. That is unacceptable! It was for me then, and it is for you. Remember what used to bring you joy, and invest time and energy in that. Play a game with a friend, take time to read a book, work on a craft, take a class in something you enjoy. Make time for your own fun!
3. Take care of your body. It is so easy to let this slide. When we are tired and stressed many of us choose unhealthy food, we stop moving our bodies, and we stay up too late just to catch a few minutes of “peace.” Unfortunately, all of this makes us feel worse. Our bodies need healthy food, exercise, and sleep in order to feel good. We teach this to our children, we need to live it for them as well.
4. Nurture your spirit. Many of us find our lives with our children test our faith. Many of us felt called to adopt, and when that journey is harder than we could ever have imagined we find ourselves left with more questions than answers. Invest time in your faith. If the activities that nourished your faith before are failing you now- reach out to others and ask what has worked for them. Again, I promise-- whatever you are feeling, you are not alone!
5. Seek respite. We all need a break from each other. Whatever you need to do to make that break happen-- do it. If it means taking a day off of work while your child is at school? Great! Consider summer camps, baby sitters, relatives, day cares or church groups. Find someone who can keep your child safe for you for a few hours, and take a break! Your child needs to learn that you will leave and come back. You need to remember that you have a life separate from your child. This is not an option. Especially for those of us with young or home schooled children-- you cannot spend 24 hours a day 7 days a week with your child and expect to be okay. You have to take time away.
6. Check out alternative therapist. Check out this blog post by Lisa http://lisajordanpuddin.blogspot.com/2012/03/tapping-psychological-reversals-wet-dog.html about different alternative therapies she has found useful. If you look on the right hand side of the page you will find more information about each. Check out Brad Yates you tube page. He has a great video explaining tapping (EFT) here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiD72cZ5mcU It is a simple, noninvasive treatment that you can try at home for free. You have nothing to lose-- and I will swear it has helped both me and my child, and I can name several other moms who will swear by it as well.
7. Seek professional help. Any unresolved issue you had prior to this journey-- your child will trigger it. In addition to that, we are learning more and more about a phenomenon known as “Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” If you google it you will mostly find articles related to the spouses of combat veterans-- but this syndrome can affect anyone living with someone who has PTSD. The amount of stress their trauma brings into the home, the unpredictable behaviors, the uncontrolled anger-- all of that can cause PTSD in others. In the DVD Chaos to Healing, Billy Kaplan recommends parents consider seeking a therapist skilled in EMDR. When I saw that, I was at a point where I was struggling to even get out of bed, let alone respond to my child in a therapeutic way. I sought treatment, and found that working with a skilled therapist and undergoing EMDR was amazingly helpful.
6. And most important-- let go of the guilt!! Do not let yourself feel “bad” for taking care of yourself. Remember-- you have to put your own oxygen mask on. Without that you will not be able to help your child. That means even when you feel like you are doing something “selfish” that is just for you-- you are really doing it to help your child. Feel good about that! We want our children to grow up to know how to take care of themselves. We need to model that for them. Healthy adults take care of themselves first, and their children second. Let go of the idea that their needs must always come before yours. Remember, you cannot fulfill their needs if yours are not met.
- Sarah M
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