OnlyDads sent out a question on Twitter asking people to tell us what “putting children first” meant for them and their families. This post written by Ruth gets to the point very quickly – the airplane oxygen mask analogy will mean a lot to some readers I’m sure.
“Putting the children first”
I hate this phrase, perhaps because my parents stayed in their marriage longer than was healthy for them or for their children and as the last child at home I feel this impacted most on me. That said, as I’ve got older and talked about this time with both of my parents and had my own failed relationships I understand the complexity of my parents and their situation. Please don’t think I have bitterness towards them on that count, I am just trying to put into context what the phrase means to me.
So have I put my child first?
Yes, no, maybe.
When my husband walked out on me, suddenly, but in fairness not without warning, I was living in France, my daughter was 11 months old and we had already had to move from Spain when she was three months old due to losing our business. I had been living overseas for nearly four years and I was tired. I wanted to come home. I wanted life to be easier and I didn’t want to feel the hurt I was feeling.
Six weeks after he left I left. I moved my daughter for the third time in her short life and brought her to live in the town I grew up in where my mum still lives.
We now live 900 miles and a nine hour rail and ‘plane trip from her dad. Is this in her best interest? Probably not in regard to having regular contact with her dad and building a close loving relationship with him, but it was in my best interest.
To live somewhere that I could be myself, not feel trapped, not feel isolated and have a chance of building myself and my daughter a happy life.
In prioritising my immediate and future welfare above that of my child, I was, I believe putting my child first. As her primary carer it is imperative that I am well, in all senses of the word, to be able to look after her.
I think of it like the safety briefing you get on a flight, if the oxygen masks drop down, you are instructed to put yours on first before your child’s. Your child cannot look after itself so you have to ensure that you are able to.
For my small family I see us as equally important. Two people building a life together, one just happens to be smaller than the other, but believe me she is no less able to make her needs and desires known. So, for me, I have to be happy for my child to be happy. When all is said and done the only person I have to justify my decisions to is my daughter, I just hope I can instill in her the empathy and imagination to understand the decisions we make in difficult circumstances.