I am one of those people who has always questioned the wisdom in the theory that you should put on your own oxygen mask first in case of emergency when flying with children.

It’s a lot easier for me to sit back these days and understand the logic of that reasoning, now that my kids are grown and they are no longer dependent on me for survival. Of course it makes sense: how could I truly take care of them if I were gasping for air myself? To be honest, when we are in the throes of child-raising, we don’t look at it that way. Our fierce instincts to sit on the nest, no matter what, supersede our deep-seated knowledge that we cannot provide help if we ourselves are suffocating.

That’s probably why John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work resonates with me. Anecdotal evidence, as well as research, point to the reality that if we are in a committed relationship, we need to work at being a good partner as much as we work at being a good parent.

In fact, I think these principles can save moms and dads the nosedive that can deprive them of the air needed to expand their own lungs to capacity, because they compel us to take care of ourselves emotionally, too. Consider these simple daily goals that Dr. Christine Carter of The Greater Good Science Center flags, based on Gottman’s plan for “five magic hours a week:”

  • 2 minutes every weekday morning
    Don’t leave the house without knowing what lies ahead for your partner
  • 20 minutes when you get home
    Decompress a little together before you plunge headlong into your evening routine. Listen actively to your partner, and be supportive. Think twice before you start offering advice at this time – the goal is to listen.
  • 5 minutes every day Find something you appreciate about your partner and tell him or her.
  • 5 minutes every day Give a little lovin’. Kiss, grab, hold, hug and otherwise touch your guy or gal. Here’s to hoping that it lasts more than five minutes!

My own observations, among thousands of camp families, confirms that caretaker adults who fan their own flames raise resilient children who are independent, happy, and successful. That means taking some time for the relationship that is the very container for a child’s growth. And it also means taking some “me” time.

If you need a visual, think about Maysie and Horton in Dr. Suess’ Horton Hatches the Egg. Yes, the moral of the story is to be responsible, even when it’s difficult; but the elephants also tell the tale that you have to be true to yourself.

In addition to fueling your own soul, you’ll be a positive role model for your children. It’s a win-win.