The first time I flew on an airplane, I watched the safety demonstration like my life depended on it. As instructed, I checked that my seatbelt was properly secured, identified the nearest emergency exits, learned how to inflate the life-vest, and noted that my seat cushion doubled as a flotation device. I was keenly interested in everything I needed to know to survive an air travel disaster, and if necessary, I would happily put my head between my knees to prepare for a crash landing and calmly exit the burning plane without my personal belongings, because that is how you live.
But the first time I flew with kids, something changed. I followed along as the flight attendant skillfully mimed the Survivor's Guide to Falling Out of the Sky; Seatbelt? Check. Life-vest? Check. Butt-floaty? Check. Toward the end of the announcement she held up a severed oxygen mask, showed us how to wear it, and reminded us not to freak the eff out if it doesn't inflate. Then she stood there smiling like a creep while a disembodied voice from the back of the plane chirped, “If you are traveling with a child, secure your own oxygen mask first, then assist others.” And I was like, “Yeah. I'm not doing that.”
If we're all gasping for air like fish out of water, you can bet your ass I'm putting my kids' needs first.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand why we're supposed to arrange our own masks before theirs. I know it's safer and smarter and more sensible, but, in that moment, I knew I wouldn't do it. I knew that given the choice and despite the consequences I would never put my need for oxygen before my sons' – even if it meant I passed out and we all died because I was too stubborn and scared and dumb to take care of myself properly before attending to them.
I was thinking about this on Friday as I boarded a plane to meet a handful of girlfriends for a weekend away. Feeling excited for the days ahead, I was also pestered by guilt over what felt like a great big self-indulgence. I'm definitely not a martyr to marriage and motherhood, but I have always had major hangups about doing things that are just for me, and this was no exception. This is an annual meet-up of dear friends that in three years I had yet to attend, and I waffled back and forth for 9 entire months before deciding I would go, I was so hesitant to take a short trip that wasn't for work, or for family, or for
marital bliss. It felt incredibly selfish.
But I needed a breather.