2021 for our family has been like playing chutes and ladders and constantly getting chutes. Our family schedule has felt like clay (or more like play dough) being molded and smashed over and over again.

I have been trying hard to keep up with the daily grind while unexpected road blocks and detours change our plans: Our “breaks” kept being postponed or cancelled; our time to sleep, to reconnect, and be as a family has been crossed off the calendar time and time again.

And even though I desperately wanted and needed a break- and even though I have been saying so over and over again; when the opportunity came to reschedule time away, I was ready to say no.

Why? With all that we have been through in the past few months I became worried about my children’s ability to cope: with change, with the transitions. I became scared that they would not be able to handle emotional expectations and adjustments that have been put on us right now.

 I thought it would just be easier for everyone if I said: “no”.

But in all that worry and concern; I lost sight of my own needs

Think of this: you are on a plane about to take off: the stuart(ess) with the oxygen mask reminds you that if the pressure in the cabin indicates the need: “put on your own mask before assisting others”.

That image came to my mind today and I realized: in survival mode I have forgotten how to put on my own oxygen mask. Worry and guilt have kept me from getting room to breathe.

Media makes it sound like in spite of the pandemic and all the related/adjacent issues this past year has brought up, we parents are still expected to do it all with limited resources. We are still expected to make awesome balanced meals, be engaging and present in play and conversations, be emotionally available and gentle in discipline,  plan structured activities at home, find ways to get them out of the house, set clear and consistent routines, help them learn to be independent, good listeners, kind and gentle, etc. All while we struggle to survive without breaks or support.

It’s like the world expects us to give oxygen masks to our kids and forget about getting our own.

But oxygen depletion leaves you exhausted, unable to think straight.  When mama doesn’t get room to breathe- she doesn’t think properly: she doesn’t cope with the demands put on her, she doesn’t self regulate well, her anxiety builds, she regresses in her healthy coping skills and so on. In the end everyone suffers for it.

If you are depleted of oxygen you cannot help others breathe either.

 So what does it look like to breathe?

For me it means being ok with taking care of essentials and laughing off the little things. It looks like putting down the heavy responsibilities that I carry around, when there is an opportunity.

I take those short moments (and they are very short in my house) when I am not needed to literally close my eyes and take a deep breath.  When my home is quiet-or the car is : I drink it in.

It’s allowing my mind to wind down when I finally get a shower alone. It’s taking that brief time slot of one educational TV show that kiddo(s) have earned to sit with coffee or tea and look out the window. It’s remembering to drink some water, put on favorite music as I clean, take a walk outside to get the mail or even opening a window for fresh air.

It means saying “yes” to break(s) without guilt, shame, or worry about my children’s well-being.

Do not let guilt, shame, or worry get in the way of seizing your windows to find breathing room. Recognize when the pressure in the cabin (your household) indicates that extra oxygen is needed and allow yourself a chance to breathe. So you can help your family breathe too.

PS: We will return to our regularly scheduled blogs (hopefully) next week-so see you then !

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