Put your own mask on first

“If now isn’t a good time for the truth, I don’t see when we’ll get to it.” -Nikki Giovanni

To be the parents and managers we need to be, the first thing we need is an understanding of ourselves and the impact and effect we have on others. We need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable truth of how we show up in the world. And if the uncomfortable truth for you is that you suspect you’re a little bit selfish, well then, that’s okay.

Try breathing without oxygen

When you travel as much as I do, you pretty much memorize the safety directions on an airplane. Except on Southwest. Southwest is the best airline to travel if you’re looking for a laugh. The flight attendants like to lighten the mood with the “safety features” speech and often insert their own playful, sarcastic, one-liners.

One time I was coming back from Los Angeles, with both of my daughters, and the flight attendant said, “If you’re traveling with one child, put your own mask on first. If you’re traveling with 2 ask yourself which one has the most promise.” Tzophia, who was around 7 at the time, looked at me with her big blue eyes—”which one has the most promise? “, she was thinking. It was so clear from her concern.

When my kids were really little, babies really, my mom used to encourage me to make time for myself. That’s challenging when you’re taking care of two little babies and trying to grow a business. But when I used to run out of energy and I would cry about how crazy my life was, my mom would say, “You know in those airline videos they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first. Why do they tell you to do that?”

Because without oxygen you can’t breathe. And if you can’t breathe, you can’t help anyone around you. So both as a parent and as a manager, you MUST build time for yourself into your schedule. Exercise, meditation, a walk with your spouse, coffee with a good friend—whatever it is. I used to do those logic puzzles you find in puzzle magazines to decompress when I flew. That was my oxygen (yes, I’m that nerdy). Now I do jigsaw puzzles as a form of meditation because honestly, sitting on the floor with my legs crossed just does NOT do it for me. And I refuse to be guilted into thinking I’m a bad person because I don’t meditate.

Don’t wait to explode or get resentful

Here’s the amazing thing: Every time I took time away from my business or my kids to exercise or get together with a friend or get my nails done, I reminded myself that I was replenishing my soul so that I could give more to my family and my employees. And my business grew, and I was a better mom.

So schedule it in your calendar. Ask someone who loves you to hold you accountable and make yourself a promise—you’re going to put your own oxygen mask on first. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to be able to give the people that count on you your best.

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