It’s not easy being a parent today.

I know that’s the understatement of the century. But there today’s parents have a lot more to deal with than my mother’s generation. When I was 8 years old, I’d leave my house in the morning and not come home until the street lights were on. My mother had no idea where I was. She just assumed I was okay.

Today, my mom would be turned into Child Protection Services.

My mother’s generation may sound crazy compared to today’s helicopter parents, but she did one thing right: she didn’t focus all her time and energy on her children. She actually made time for herself.

I can hear the collective gasp. Not devote our every waking moment to our beautiful angels? That’s insane!

Yet, when you’re devoting all your time to your children, you forget that your life matters too. You forgot the first principle of surviving parenting:

Put your own oxygen mask on first.

This principle is a well-known rule when flying. In case of emergency, put your own air mask on first before you put a mask on your child. And this is exactly what happens when you’re a parent. You forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of everyone else around you.

You’re Not Being Selfish, You’re Being Sensible

Destin Sandlin, an aspiring astronaut, wanted to find out exactly what happens when someone doesn’t put an air mask on. In an experiment in a special chamber, Sandlin starts to:

“lose brain function and cannot identify basic shapes. Soon, he can’t even speak or put his mask on and someone must step in and put it on for him to prevent him dying.”

Learning self-care is a really hard lesson for some moms. It’s so easy to compare yourself with other mothers. Facebook constantly shoves perfect pictures of happy children, gourmet home-cooked meals, and loving family outings. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of feeling that you’re not doing enough.

But you know the truth already. You’re a better parent when you’re healthy, well-rested and not running around like a crazy person. You can’t be the parent you want to be when you’re giving everything you have to other people.

Running on empty will never get you to your destination.

What works for me, may not work for you. But we all have the same basic puzzle pieces that make up a healthy person: a stable mind and a strong body.

Mind

Parenting makes us feel overwhelmed, frustrated, loved, and happy. And we all deal with our emotional challenges differently. Some go to counseling, take time for self-enrichment, take mood stabilizers and even find serenity in their jobs. Find something that works for you.

I personally can’t live without meditation and finds it’s the most grounding aspect of my day.

And don’t feel like you have to do this alone. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself from your challenges. Find a support group (online or off) and find someone that you can lean on. None of us can survive parenting alone – it takes a village.

Body

It’s not easy finding time to exercise and eat right. But it’s essential to your overall health, not to mention finding the energy to keep up with your children.

Who hasn’t gone through a fast food drive thru because they were starving and had to eat on the run? Who hasn’t chosen to sit on the couch watching cartoons because they were too tired to change the channel?

We’ve all been there. But finding the time to take care of your health is essential to the health of your entire family. Make healthy eating a family affair and get your kids to help make meals. Explore, try new things and make it fun.

And since your healthy lifestyle will impact whether or not your kids will make healthy choices, make fitness a priority. Take a class, count steps, play at the playground. Just find a way to be active every day. There are even cool ways to work out with your kids.

Always Put Your Mask on First

Everything I’ve talked about can help you find more peace and strength as a parent. And maybe none of my suggestions would work for you. That’s completely okay.

Just picture a recent day when you were so overwhelmed by the number of things on your to-do-list. You felt mentally exhausted and physically drained. You just wanted to crawl back in bed but your kids needed you to do one more thing.

There’s always one more thing.

We all have days that seem to go on forever. That’s a normal day as a parent. Remember that you can’t take care of anyone when you’re life is completely unbalanced. Maybe you don’t have to let your kids run wild in the streets like my mom did. But you do have to find time to create a healthy personal life for yourself – in whatever way best works for you.

Because you’ll be a better parent when you put your mask on first.