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Amanda Peet on Motherhood: 'Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask' First

11/18/2009 at 04:00 PM ET
Courtesy Self

Forget the parenting books. When it comes to advice on raising Frances ‘Frankie’ Pen, 2 ½, Amanda Peet seeks her words of wisdom from none other than airline flight attendants. “‘You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you put on others,'” the December cover girl for Self magazine says.

The concept may look good on paper, but Amanda admits following through with the philosophy is often easier said than done. “It’s a good metaphor for parenting, but it’s really hard to do sometimes,” she notes. “A lot of women feel that if they’re exerting energy in different areas of their life…it’s automatically detrimental to the child.” Not the case, continues the actress.

“I think the exact opposite is true. Children need to have a role model who is able to identify her passions and go after them.”

To that end, Amanda is a strong believer in female relationships and cherishes her time spent with her girlfriends. In turn, the 2012 star hopes Frankie will take note and nurture her own friendships later in life. “Sometimes I feel guilty about making time for my friends, but that’s a good model for Frankie, and it’s poignant to me because she’s a girl,” she explains.

“It’s important for her to know that when I leave her, it’s to go see someone who needs me. That I have to stay on the phone right at that moment because I’m checking with a friend who’s opening a play or something like that.”

Although her friends play a large role in her life, Amanda ensures time spent with her husband David Benioff and Frankie remain high on her list of priorities. That said, quality couple time since the birth of their daughter often means a stay-at-home date night! “We put Frankie down, then order in and watch Mad Men or Nurse Jackie,” she laughs.

Her close-knit group that she has surrounded herself with also serves as her own personal soundboard when it comes to making decisions, something Amanda admits she cannot do alone! “I have moments where I’m incredibly spontaneous and incredibly certain about a route we should be taking,” she shares, “and other times, I’m completely paralyzed and I call my sister and mom and I talk to one of [Frankie's] teachers and to my girlfriends.”

Should her plans go awry or her choices turn out to be less than perfect, Amanda insists on dusting herself off and trying again — a lesson she hopes to instill in her daughter. “I think it’s important for her to know that you can fail and then recover and that — it’s so corny — but that failure is important,” she says. “It’s part of the thing. You cannot escape it. There’s nothing you can do. There’s no way you can control everything that much.”

Click below for Amanda’s thoughts on keeping fit.

Juggling motherhood and her career has left little time for much else — including fitness, much to the delight of Amanda! “I have a lot of fantasies about being a better exerciser, but they haven’t come true yet,” she jokes. Hopeful that Frankie will adopt the same approach and be “naturally healthy without having to count and assess and weigh constantly,” Amanda plans to teach her child the true meaning of beauty.

“I certainly don’t want her to be obsessed with exercise or diet or calories or body image. I’m dying for her mental time to be spent looking outward, even if that sounds corny.”

Source: Self; December issue

– Anya

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Showing 7 comments

Liz on

Hey, that’s my motto! LOL!

Seriously, I always say that about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. It’s so true. You have to take care of yourself or you’re of no use to anyone else.

It’s a shame that taking care of yourself is often perceived as selfish. As a mom, if you’re doing great and feeling great then everyone in your family is too. If you’re tired and down and overwhelmed, nobody in your family is going to be feeling good.

Take care of yourself, mamas!

noam on

her interviews are always great. she definitely seems to have good philosophies when it comes to parenting…i agree that parents should continue to cultivate their own friendships. i remember being young and my mother having her designated monthly girls’ nights. not only did it allow me to see my mother as more than just a mother at a younger age than many of my friends, i found a group of women i could turn to in addition to my mother, and i had a basis for making my own tight-knit circle.

genegirl on

yeah, she seems grounded here, but read another part of the story on the PeopleMag website this morning where she claims that she wants Gisele Bundchen’s body and being critical of her own — seems at odds with this excerpt w.r.t. healthy body image/living that she wants to teach her daughter.

Em on

While I don’t perceive it as selfish to “take care of yourself”, I do think that this line of Amanda Peet’s is often used to justify selfishness on the part of many parents.

Also, when we put our children aside to pursue our “passions”, we are telling our children that we aren’t as passionate about them as we are about our own interests outside of them. Peet walks a fine line and needs to exercise caution. Is your passion Hollywood fame? Or is it your family? Or is it sharing with your children a meaning purpose in life that contributes positively to the world?

Liz on

Very good point Em, and I totally agree with you. I did read the whole post here, but I kind of ran with the title in my first comment.

For me, “taking care of myself” means little things like getting pedicures, massages, and going out with my girlfriends occasionally. The thing is, I do it after my child is asleep! His papa is home and my child doesn’t know the difference. So I don’t have to explain to him why someone needs me more than he does, and that’s why I have to go away or be on the phone.

I think you have a great point also about “pursuing your passions” being interpreted by a child as a lack a passion for them.

Elle on

Em, I respectfully disagree. Spending some time away from your children does not tell them that they are less important. Moms (and dads) need time for themselves and they should not feel guilty for it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and when I return to my family after an hour or two at lunch with friends or getting a pedicure, I feel more refreshed. Are you familiar with the phrase “happy wife equals happy life”? I believe that a mom’s mood and energy can set the tone for the family. If I’m happy and energized, this filters down to my husband and children. If I’ve had a bad day and feel a bit down, this seems to bring them down as well. I also think it is very important for children to know that mom and dad aren’t just “mom and dad” and that they have friends, hobbies, passions, jobs, etc. that make them who they are.

cimone on

It was an interesting read. But Will Smith said the “put your mask on first” principle in Essence magazine in the interview he did with his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith a year ago. It’s still a fitting life principle. Overall, she is saying the same thing that every other actress is saying.

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