How Kerry Washington Became My Spirit Animal

I’m about to get bossy all up in here.

It doesn’t happen super often, so I thought I’d warn everyone before I got down to the bossy business. I won’t start yelling, I promise. It’s all gonna be ok.

But I have to ask: When was the last time you put yourself first? No really. I’m not talking about going to the bathroom by yourself, you guys. I mean, when was the last time you took good care of yourself on a regular basis??

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you right now: I hardly ever do this. Almost never. And I’m pretty certain most of you have the very same answer.

You know when you hear pieces of advice so often you start ignoring it? Until all of a sudden you’re in the right frame of mind and the stars align and the words being said start making so much sense it knocks you over? Yeah. That happened to be this weekend.

The last time I flew, I remember watching the flight attendants give instructions on oxygen masks. You know the drill: secure your own mask first before attending to anyone else’s mask. How many times have we heard this?? How many times has this been compared to own lives as moms?? How many times have we really paid attention to it??

Over the weekend at BlogHer, a couple different (keynote) speakers used that analogy of the oxygen mask on an airplane. Two of them. At different times within the conference. One might think the universe is trying to tell her something.


screen grab from Kerry Washington’s Instagram feed

Or maybe I just really like listening to Kerry Washington and will do whatever she tells me to do. That might also be true.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

I didn’t know how much I loved Kerry Washington until I saw her on the stage at BlogHer. She’s classy and intelligent and wonderful and awesome. She kicks all kinds of ass. (But she does the ass kicking in such a way that you realize that it’s exactly what you needed.) (Which I totally did.)

When asked about how she ‘does it all’ or finds balance in her crazy busy life, she said: “I have to take care of me first.”


She says that she has to make sure all the basics are covered. Has she slept enough? Has she eaten properly? Has she exercised? Has she prayed or meditated?

Let’s go over the basics again because I really need to:

*Have I slept enough?

*Have I eaten properly?

*Have I exercised?

*Have I prayed or meditated?

Just so you know, I can’t answer any of these questions with a yes. Not one.

I know, I KNOW it’s so easy to sit here and tell Kerry Washington to stop talking. With all her fame and money and people to help her, how could she possibly know what “real” life is like. But…I think she gets it more than we think. More than most, maybe.

As I listened to her talk about how she handles and takes care of herself, I was in awe. Not because I feel like she has it all figured out, but because it is something she actively tries to manage. She knows that to be her best self, she has to handle those four things.

I’ve been a little out of sorts for quite some time now. But it was sitting in this conference center, listening to the magnificent Kerry Washington, when I started to see why. I’m…I’m not handling any of those things right now. I’m EXHAUSTED. I rarely make sure I’ve eaten the proper fuel. There has been no real prayer or meditation in my life lately. And do we really have to bring up exercise? (No, I haven’t done that one either.)

So here’s the deal: I know that many of us (if not all of us) are in the same boat. Everyone else’s needs come before our own. We are burning the midnight oil AND burning the candle at both ends. (That’s a lot of burning.) We are running ourselves ragged and we’re not making good choices about our health. We are not putting our oxygen masks on first.

I’m not telling you all of this because I expect it to be a magical fix to all the things. I’m telling you this because I know how hard it is as moms to take care of ourselves first. It feels impossible.

But what if we stopped making it quite so hard? What if we remembered that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can be good parents?

It doesn’t need to be earth shattering. It can be small and simple, slow and steady.

But it needs to be something.

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  • Reply
    Kim Tackett
    July 29, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Sing it! Loved meeting you at BlogHer, and she’s exactly right. My girls are 20 and 26, and one of the things I would change is to have spent more time exercising, rather than worrying about how clean the house was (not that my house is ever clean), or if everyone actually had clean undies for the day (not that every one always did), or if we had a beautiful meal on the table (not that we always did). So yes, oxygen mask first…and please, let’s connect again for coffee in midtown!

    • Reply
      Jill Mansfield
      July 29, 2014 at 10:31 am

      I LOVE this!! It feels so “selfish” to take care of yourself first when it really is the opposite!

      I’m emailing you today for a date for coffee!!

  • Reply
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