If you’ve ever paid attention to the safety speech on an airplane (we all do, right?) you’ve no doubt heard them reference the oxygen masks. You know, they’ll fall from the ceiling, won’t necessarily inflate, etc. But the interesting thing to me has always been the very last part of the oxygen mask speech. That’s where they instruct you to put on your mask first before helping those around you. The logic is simple: you aren’t much help to others when you yourself are passed out on the floor.
This has become a sort of running joke with Michelle and me. She’s never been great with setting up personal boundaries for herself. She’s a type A person with an unbelievable drive for life and for the amount of things she thinks she can accomplish each day. As a result, this causes her to experience burnout moments of exhaustion. As her husband, there have been times when I need to lovingly coach (or when that doesn’t work, strategically convince) her that she needs to slow it down a bit to take care of herself.
If we go out of town together I usually have to help her the night before set a bedtime—literally a cutoff point—where she will shut down the preparations and go to sleep. As we all know, there’s always more to do. My selfishness allows me to navigate the oxygen mask easier than my wife. I’ll pack my bag first and then ask her what I can help with around the house. By that point she’s already done a lot of it and we usually get into what we affectionately know as the “oxygen mask conversation.” I’ll defend my actions by explaining that I’ve first put my mask on so that now I can help. At least one of us was listening on the plane. She doesn’t see it this way.