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The Father Factor


The Oxygen Mask Rule of Fatherhood

Posted by Ryan Sanders

"Seatbacks and tray tables should be in their upright and locked position and carry-on luggage stowed in the overhead locker or underneath a seat prior to takeoff." You've no doubt heard this announcement if you've taken a flight. But before this, and hopefully you haven't missed it, is the oxygen mask rule of flight safety. 

This rule applies to fatherhood too. No, we're not talking about the dad who's only out for number one. We're talking about being a dad who's ready to serve his family because his needs are met. Let's unpack this rule a little more... 


Maybe you didn't pay attention on your last flight, the typical safety instructions for the oxygen mask go like so... 

  • Oxygen Mask Rule #1 > the passenger should always fit his or her own mask before helping children, the disabled, or persons requiring assistance. (Read: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. THEN YOU'LL BE ABLE TO HELP OTHERS.)
  • Oxygen Mask Rule #2 > Even though oxygen will be flowing to the mask, the plastic bag may not inflate. (Read: KEEP TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK IT'S WORKING.)

Let’s get reacquainted with the five traits of the 24/7 Dad:

  1. The 24/7 Dad is Self-Aware: The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. Read more about The Importance of the Self-Aware Father.
  2. The 24/7 Dad Cares For Self: The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself.
  3. The 24/7 Dad Understands Fathering Skills: The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. 
  4. The 24/7 Dad Understands Parenting Skills:  The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children.
  5. The 24/7 Dad Understands Relationship Skills: The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community.

When I say "24/7 Dad" I'm talking about an involved, responsible and committed father. I'm talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He knows what it means to be a man. He understands he'ss a model for his sons on how to be a good man. If he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. Basically, he has the 10 Ways To Be a Better Dad memorized.

Everything about being a great dad is tied to one or more of the five characteristics of a 24/7 Dad. We started unpacking each of these five traits, starting with The Importance of the Self-Aware Father. We'll keep unpacking until we've covered all five traits. The great news is that these five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad! Let's talk about trait two, caring for yourself.

1) Take care of yourself. So you can take care of others.

You have to place the plastic oxygen mask on your mouth first. You won't be around long enough to help others if you can't breath. Likewise, the 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. What does taking care of yourself look like? To start, here are a few ideas...

  • you get annual physicals
  • you eat right
  • you exercise
  • you're a life-long learner
  • you have a strong connection to your family and community
  • you pick friends who support your healthy choices.

The 24/7 Dad models for his children that he respects and likes himself because he makes good choices. This may seem weird to read because we don't talk about this much in our culture. It can seem like you're better off caring for others so much that your health is if that's the proper way to live. But that's just not the truth.

The hero who isn't healthy, isn't a hero for long. When’s the last time you were at the doctor? If your answer to this question is “I go to the doctor every decade whether I need to or not!” you may want to consider modeling a different standard to your son or daughter.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself? 

2) Keep taking care of yourself, even it it doesn't seem to be working.

The plastic oxygen bag may not inflate after you put it on. But, as I understand it from my google search, this line in airplane safety is required in the United States because someone fatally removed their mask thinking it was not working. Don't do this...on a plane or in life.

As a dad, you may not think you need to take care of yourself. Some of this may seem unnecessary until it's necessary. But, we need to be in the business of prevention instead of treatment. What's the saying, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? 

When things are running smoothly, you may not see the importance of consistently caring for yourself. But, you can't miss this point. Even if you think you can go a long time without caring for yourself, you can't! We must be vigilant to care for ourselves. 

There's a healthy balance where you are cared for (read: no one else has to care for you!) and this frees you up to care for folks around you. You have your physical, mental, emotional house order (and consistently in check). Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Do I have a doctor? Do I know his name? Have I seen him for a check-up within the last year? How is my overall physical health? Do I even know what this means?!
  • What's my diet consist of daily? Am I giving the proper nutrition to think and be active? 
  • Do I exercise daily or at least weekly? Have I created options for being physically active? What are my biggest personal challenges? Am I ignoring them or dealing with them? What's my goal? Am I working toward that end?
  • Would my family say I'm a constant learner? Do I read? What do I read daily? Am I learning new things? Which of these things can I share with my children?

From physical health to emotional health, and everything in between, the 24/7 Dad is the well-adjusted dad. He understands he is responsible for his decisions and ultimately his actions. The 24/7 Dad also knows his ability to be with his children is affected by the choices he makes.

The 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself?

Richie knows what being a 24/7 Dad means. He wrote What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? recently over at his St. Louis Dad blog. Richie's number one way to be a 24/7 Dad is to: 

Have patience and laugh. Kids can be extremely demanding and can be so annoying...Just be patient with them. They don’t know that asking for water fifty times in a row is driving you bananas. So just relax, calm down, and keep your cool. The last thing your kids need to see is you getting angry. Just brush it off and laugh. Kids are very entertaining, just pay a little attention and you will see exactly what I mean..  

You can read Richie's full post What Being a 24/7 Dad Means to Me? and learn his top-five ways to be a 24/7 Dad.  


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