Like most moms, I take care of everyone else’s needs before my own. I make sure my kids have their food at dinner before making my own plate. I slather them in sunscreen at the pool before applying some to my own body. I keep them up to date on doctor’s appointments, sometimes letting my own checkups go too far past due in the process. Not only do I put my kids first, but I also put my husband before me. Once they are all taken care of, I can then turn to myself. As a mom, it’s what I do. My kids and husband are my everything. But lately, I’ve been wondering what kind of example am I setting for my little ones? Shouldn’t I put myself ahead of everyone else sometimes? I feel guilty for even typing that.

If your plane is going down, the flight attendants tell you to put on your own air mask before putting on your child’s. Tend to yourself, so you are able to tend to your child. This became clear to me over the simple task of getting a haircut.

I was overdue for a cut and color. I had even scheduled it a couple of times, but things came up. Kid things. Visits to the doctor, dentist, teacher – the activities were endless. Each time I thought about making that appointment, something would come up. I couldn’t make time for myself, because everyone else needed something first.

However, because I wasn’t taking care of myself, I started becoming resentful. I was playing the martyr in my head, and sometimes out loud to my husband and kids. I didn’t feel good about myself, and it showed. I had little patience, and felt crabby much of the time.

Until one day when I had just had enough. Enough of my out of control hair, and enough of feeling mad that I had to keep putting a hair appointment off. So I finally scheduled it. I walked out of the salon feeling beautiful. I felt confident. I was in a good mood. My kids noticed it and it fueled their good moods. This spread into me taking a short walk daily. I started taking a few minutes a week to paint my nails (and my girls’ nails too). Over the next several weeks, my frustrations with the kids decreased. I could deal with my teenager’s moody attitude changes easier. I felt calmer helping my 3rd grader with math, even when she was struggling with it and whining. The messes my two-year-old made constantly bothered me less. I felt more positive and energized.

I was a better mom.

It’s amazing how something so small could have such a big impact in my everyday life. I hope I am teaching my kids, especially my daughters, that it’s okay and necessary to spend time on themselves. My family will always be the most important people in my life, but I should be including myself in that group as well. How I feel about myself often determines how I act, and how I treat others around me. I do not want to feel resentful towards my husband and kids for something they really have no control over. I hope my kids will always have a balance in their life between caring for others and caring for themselves. I can help make that possible by setting the example. We can have it all. We don’t have to lose ourselves in the process.

The simple truth is I need to take care of myself first, so I can take care of my kids. They deserve it and so do I.

Tabitha Steffes

Tabitha Steffes is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. She is a mother to five, and a wife to a hard-working farmer. Her days are filled with love, chaos, and too much Diet Coke. Most mornings you can find her up hours before her family; writing, cleaning, or going on long walks. She believes you have to find time for yourself wherever you can. She loves finding ways to simplify her life, saving her family money, and finding joy in every day things on her blog She can handle any kid related issue tossed at her, and is a wealth of knowledge to her friends with kids.