Why Don’t Men Have To Be Taught The “Oxygen Mask Analogy”?


One weekend this winter, my husband and I left the sanctuary at church to grab our coats from the hallway and then go down to the basement to pick our kids up from the children’s service.

I grabbed my coat, my daughter’s coat and my son’s coat off the hangers and then fumbled trying to keep them all from dropping on the floor while I attempted to get my arms into my sleeves. The kids’ hats and gloves were spilling out and dropping all over the floor, despite the fact that I’ve shown them a thousand times how to put their gloves in their hat and their hat in their sleeve.

My husband shrugged on his coat and slipped on his gloves and hat all in the time it took me to try to get situated. “Can you hold these coats so I can get my coat on?” I asked him.

“That’s why you’re supposed to grab your coat first,” he said, slowly buttoning up his peacoat, a pace that annoyed me with its casualness. “Put your coat on first, then worry about everyone else.”

I spent the rest of the drive home thinking about what he said. It was a stupid thing to be analyzing — grabbing coats off a coat rack—but it pointed to a larger issue within our family and other families in general.

I grabbed the coats because I wanted to be sure the kids had their stuff and everyone was buttoned up and warm before we went outside in the frigid winter air. I was putting my kids first, however small the gesture was. It’s the same reason I’m always the last one to get into the car. I make sure all kids are safe and accounted for before I open my car door and slide in.

The “oxygen mask” theory —in case of an emergency on an airplane, put the oxygen mask on yourself before tending to anyone else — is popular among motivational speakers and those intent on giving moms the space to put themselves first.

But we don’t have to remind men that “Hey, it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes, bro.”  It’s probably the same reason we don’t hear the phrase “working father” that often and why companies say “mom” when they mean “parent.” Men just do what comes naturally and have no problem putting themselves first for their own good.

What is the point of this post? Eh, I don’t even know. (I might have to start a new feature called “Random Crap I Couldn’t Put Anywhere Else”). But I know my husband has carved out “guy time” since our kids were born and rarely, if ever, deviates from it. He knows his limits and when he needs a break and he takes them. I don’t mean to generalize and say that my husband represents every man, but from the men I know, his way of life is not uncommon.

I do not say all this to demean men or call them lazy. Rather, I’m inspired by them and how the men I know approach parenthood. They don’t have nearly the amount of worry that most mothers do and they are much more likely to go with the flow and take deep calming breaths when everything’s going haywire.

Humor me. What do you think? Are men conditioned (by society, by their parents, by other guys) to take parenthood in stride?



  1. They are conditioned that way because they know we will take up the slack. Point. Blank. Period. And we do, much often to our detriment. But a lot of times if there are things to be done and we don’t do it, it just won’t get done. It’s easy to put on your own mask (or coat) first when you know you have someone else to put on everyone else’s.

  2. I do think that men are conditioned — by society — to take parenthood in stride. And, as K. Nicole pointed out, to slack a bit because they know, perhaps just subconsciously, that we (mothers) will pick up the slack.

  3. I totally agree. My husband is the same way and it can be irritating. Basically, our husband’s are as spoiled as the kids, which means we wives (and mothers) are doing an awesome job :-) 9 times out of 10 I put my family first. I do it because that’s what I was shown by mother. When we become parents we are sacrificing “me” in many ways. Unfortunately, many fathers don’t catch on as quick as the mothers.