Women Need to Secure Their Own Oxygen Mask First and Stop Feeling Bad


You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s a good life lesson: Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Most women will comply when flying, but it becomes a difficult metaphor for daily life—because the average working mom, according to research, clocks 98 hours a week of work from their day job and home duties combined.

It’s why the article about emotional labor in Harper’s Bazaar went viral last fall. Or why one Alabama mom’s back-to-school photos were so hilarious. Women are notorious for putting others before themselves and internalizing the stress caused from undertaking a never-ending list of thankless tasks.

The Eternal Loop

Changing diapers, making dinner, picking up kids, picking up after kids, picking up after the dog, remembering birthdays, planning birthdays, taking out the trash, making doctor’s appointments, emptying the dishwasher, filling the dishwasher, doing the laundry … all in an effort to keep a household running and the family’s needs met.

While being selfless may be noble, it can potentially be detrimental in the long run. When women don’t take the time to focus on their own health and well-being, it suffers—which ultimately affects their family’s well-being.

  • Exercise: More than 60 percent of U.S. women don’t get the recommended amount of physical activity. A new study published in the medical journal Neurology® found that middle-aged women who were physically fit were 90 percent less likely to develop dementia compared to women considered moderately fit.
  • Sleep: Research shows that women actually need more sleep than men—20 minutes more a night, in fact. That’s made more difficult by the fact that women are more adept at hearing noises with emotional significance than men, so they’re more likely to wake to the sound of a child.
  • Mental Health: According to research, 10 to 15 percent of women—double the number of men—will experience depression at some point in their life. Women are also more than twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder.

Putting On the Mask

It all comes back to the oxygen mask: You can’t help your kids, your husband, or your dog if you’re unconscious. Get started by talking to your family about making changes to put yourself—and your health and well-being—first, which will benefit your family in the long run.

Here are some resources to help you focus on improving your well-being despite your hectic schedule:

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