Mums, put your oxygen masks on first before you help your child



The flight attendant says that on the plane, I think ‘that can’t be right? Can it?’ then I think well if I am not breathing then, er…then yes it is completely right.


This has followed me around as an image for parenting. Especially in the early years when I was so exhausted and tired and my boobs felt like they had been stolen by small people. The nights when I had changed one nappy too many…The times when I wanted to write in huge words above my bed A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP, to remind myself of the possibility because I didn’t believe it existed. I felt I had been lied to as nobody had told me that that was how the early years mothering would be.


Right now I am writing this piece with four children who don’t go to school right outside my room one of them is squeeking a squeeky toy (who invented those? Do we know?).  My friends six year old has just urgently burst into the room and  told me to watch the pasta dish that her Mum has put in the oven, my daughter has walked in and is talking to me about whether or not she should henna her fringe and my husband has made himself a seat out of a piano stand and I can see out of the corner of my eye he is about to fall off. My son is asking about whether we can upgrade our internet. I am trying to upgrade my levels of concentration, it isn’t working. I am waiting for the oxygen mask to drop from the ceiling and to metaphorically help me tell everyone ‘I can’t breathe right now and I need a boundaries guys.’

I need to look after myself.

As an (unschooling, homeschooling or not) mother I need to put my oxygen mask first. We know this as mothers, I know this but do I remember it? No. This list is to remind me of how I can be better, as well as to whisper to the memory of who you essentially are. The woman before the mother.



Look after yourself. Create a boundary around your own time, as I write this I lift my eyes to the sky, as did you just read that last bit a few paragraphs before? But yesterday I was better. I made a sign and I put it on my door so that I could work and it was respected.



Just move, do something, it feels so good to get oxygen flowing through your blood. I wrote a piece here about that.




No 3.  EAT WELL.

Just eat well, shop well, and look after yourself.




I write about this here, when looking after everyone else’s needs I have been sometimes forgetting myself and also funds can run low so when they do, enjoy what you do have. I have learnt to really enjoy the simplest of things and to accept that I really don’t need much, it is not the stuff that makes me happy, it is the experiences. Joshua Becker writes about this here.




Find your tribe. Beth Berry writes so beautifully about this here. This to me is so important, as a Mum, person, human on this planet I find it so important to connect up with others. I write about this here.




I gave that up a long time ago! But it is easy to get caught up in getting the whole parenting thing right. I talk about this here.




It really doesn’t matter what other people think. Does it? I don’t mind what other people think, I am over it, what is important is that inner voice with myself, the one that reminds me I am doing OK, when the night time gremlins comes and dance at the end of my bed and remind me of all the things I have not done.



I can sit back and enjoy the parenting ride knowing that my ‘oxygen mask’ of thoughts can drop down at any given time and remind me to look after myself before anyone else. That isn’t what I was taught to do, I was subconsciously scripted as a woman to put everyone and everything else first. I know this by the way I watched women in my family running around after everyone else.

Something deep shifted for me when my Mum left our family when I was younger. Perhaps that was her oxygen mask dropping down, her warning bell, her breathing space to be who she was before she was a mother. As an adult I now understand it.

I am doing my best to lead by example and teach my girls to look after themselves first. In doing this, in compassionately caring for ourselves as women first and then others maybe we can gently and subtly change the course of history, perhaps it really is that simple. We can then be the shining lights for the future generations of women who can care for themselves without even questioning whether or not they should put themselves first.


‘Jump, Fall, Fly from schooling to homeschooling to unschooling’ is now available HERE as an e book

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid's book by M.J. Amani called 'Excuse Me, I'm Trying to Read' and also 'I am Me, You, Us and We' by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony 'Jump', Fall, Fly - from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling' Her art work can be seen at