Mother's Day Gift: Let's follow First Mom, Michelle Obama's lead and focus on taking good care of ourselves for our families!

"If you're traveling with a child, please place the oxygen mask on yourself first."

There's a reason they tell you (especially mothers) to put the oxygen mask on yourself first when you're on an airplane with a child. You can't help the kid if you're passed out. But let's be honest. Who among us would really do that? We are hard-wired to take care of others first, then with the scraps and dregs of our energy and time, we scrape together our own self-care.

Let's Start a Mama's Day Revolution: Give the gift of a 'Mommagram'

Look, we love flowers, chocolate (we do love our chocolate), pancakes in bed.... who doesn't? But this year, I propose a revolution in our mama's day thinking. And in the thinking of our families, loved ones and communities as well. What if everybody who loves mothers and who is one, or who is caretaking woman of any kind, turns all the focus and loving care onto the mom, or mothering person? What if we followed First Mom Michelle Obama's example of taking great care of ourselves for our families!?

What if as a culture and society, as cities, communities, neighborhoods, religious institutions large and small, as public policy makers and power-wielders, we all collectively said:

Hear Ye, Hear Ye...It is now officially declared we must make all these sleepy gals take care of themselves

As communities supporting mothering (and thus families) we will find creative, ethical ways to build systems providing sane, dependable, affordable healthcare, childcare and education.

As families and friends, we will support mothers (even those reluctant to help themselves) by reminding them to LISTEN TO THEIR BODIES; by reminding them to get their mammograms and pap smears; to have their skin checked for skin cancers and create more flexible work schedules so they can actually DO these things. Support women to listen to their bodies' signals. If they say they are having shortness of breath, jaw pain, or indigestion, we will call 91. We will no longer allow women to ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. Heart disease is the number one killer of women each year, according to the American Heart Association - too often because as overworked, overwhelmed, others-centered creatures, we don't listen to our bodies.

"Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, " said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU's Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. "Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue."

Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn't get help right away.

'I thought I had the flu'

"Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.

"They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first...There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack."

So let's make this Mother's Day the one where we stop letting moms have heart attacks that go untreated.

Heart Attack Signs in Women

1.      Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

2.      Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

3.      Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

4.      Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

5.      As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these signs, don't wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

According to the American Heart Association, too many women ignore symptoms.

If We Love Moms and Motherhood So Much: Prove it

Today, and on every day forward, we will, in effect, walk the walk. If we love moms and motherhood so much, prove it. Let's support mom's effort to make her health a priority. I'm calling it the gift of a Mommagram.

We have this cultural narrative of reverence for all things motherhood (only after she's made the apple pie!) We talk a good game about how moms are the cornerstone, the lynchpin of family. But when it comes down to it, when the rhetoric meets the road, our public policies, our health system, our wealth distribution, our routines of work and school and habits and expectations of childrearing and family maintenance are all deeply grounded in the requirement that moms put the needs of their partners and children and extended families way before their own needs. It's so deeply ingrained in us that if you ask most moms what they want, what they really, really want for Mother's Day, they'll say time, time to sleep, to be quiet, time for a foot rub; and someone to clean the house and cook and fix all the stuff that needs fixing.

We are tired beyond tired. We are foggy and blurry and doing the good-enough best we can. So let's let the village help raise us back up. Hey, village, we need help caring for ourselves, too!

"If Mama ain't happy..."

I remember once taking my daughter to the pediatrician because I was worried my daughter had strep throat. The doctor, a kindly old-school doc seemed right out of Central Casting for a Dr. Marcus Welby character. He swiveled his chair right toward me when we walked in. My daughter, then 3 or so, was sitting on the examination table so I wondered why he was looking so closely at me.

Treat the Mom

"I heard your wheezing all the way down the hallway," he said. "Have you seen someone for your asthma?" I said no, I was just really worried about my daughter's sore throat and if she had strep because I think she was exposed in school...."

"I'll get right to her," he assured me, and winked at her. "When I was in medical school, back in the Dark Ages," he said, "the first lesson they taught us was to check in with Mama. If Mama's not okay, everybody's in trouble."

He told me he could not treat me himself. I assured him I'd go see somebody but could he get to the Strep test on my kid? He picked up the phone and called a buddy, an internist in the same building. "He'll see you right after I'm done with your daughter. Promise me you will go," he said. Not smiling.

And I did. Because I needed to take care of myself or I couldn't take care of my family. So, Happy Mother's Day, ladies. May you give yourselves the gift of support and good health on this day, and every other.

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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