Why do Chicago parents put themselves last?

A few weeks ago, I did something stupid. I actually made an appointment for all five of us to go to the dentist for cleanings and checkups at the same time. The same time. That’s right, three children aged 4, 5 and 6 and two parents. You could tell all hands were on deck in the dentist office that day because the hygienists and the dentist handled us with grace.

It doesn’t matter how much the dentist office prepares for us though, sometimes the timing is just off. For whatever reason, the kids’ checkups were finishing as I was getting into the chair. Three kids were on the loose. In a dentist office. With their new Ninja Turtle, Princess, and Crayola toothbrushes and fresh tubes of toothpaste. Digging through the dentists’ treasure box. Arguing over toys.

Meanwhile, Brian and I are strapped to chairs with implements in our mouths.

I tried my best to let “Jesus take the wheel” in that moment, closing my eyes and thinking, “How much trouble can they get into, really?” Luckily, somewhere I heard Brian mumble: “Et da iAd, ould ya. It own.” Translation: Get the iPad would you, and sit down.

The moment was of course stressful, but typical.

You parents know what I’m talking about.

We always go last.

For pretty much all of September, my husband and I battled a horrible case of bronchitis. While we did our best to drink fluids and go to bed when the kids went to bed, as parents, our needs were met last.

Deadlines are missed, opportunities passed by and we get cavities when our kids don’t (I had mine filled yesterday).

All this had me wondering: Does it all really make me a better parent?

Running myself ragged can’t always be the solution. And what kind of parent am I, if am a sick one? What kind of parent am I, if my needs aren’t met too?

So, I decided to take some age old advice from my earliest days of parenting, when my oldest was just hours old. My OB said, “Take care of yourself while you take care of the baby.” She reminded me that on any airplane, any flight attendant will remind you that in the event of an emergency affix your oxygen mask, then help those around you.

I know it is difficult, and there is often the dreaded guilt associated with occasionally putting our needs before our childrens,’ but trust me, you DO NOT want to be strapped in a dentist chair with a mouth full of implements while your kids run rampant with fresh tubes of toothpaste.

Parents, I plead with you. Flu season is upon us because every kid I see has a runny nose. The holidays are gearing up because the last aisle in Target has Christmas lights for Pete’s sake. I just got a progress report in a folder yesterday so I know those parent teacher conferences must be coming up.

I beg you, be kind to yourselves.

Your kids are counting on you!

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