There’s an elusive balance to be struck between living for yourself and living for others. I remember years ago, at the tender age of 21, sitting in a church home study group debating the Archbishop’s book for reflection over Lent in which he proposed ‘God first; Others Second; Self last’.

Our study group roundly rejected this. Surely, you would be in no fit state to consider the needs of others unless you took some care of yourself.

Not wishing to challenge or denigrate Lord Runcie, (after all, he’d been awarded the Military Cross, so drew on personal experience about putting other’s lives ahead of his own) they proposed a compromise: ‘God first; yourselves and others second’.

I was reminded of this during the emergency procedure announcement on a recent flight. ‘Be sure to adjust your own oxygen mask before helping others’. I looked down at my young son beside me and tried to imagine watching him gasping for breath while I calmly fitted my own oxygen mask. It was never going to happen… In the unlikely event, like every other parent, I would have attended to him before myself.

Some situations, though, are harder to judge.

Official advice in the face of a terrorist incident (so easily available thanks to the fabulous Citizen Aid app which if everyone installed it their phones could save lives…) is ‘early escape increases your chance of survival – Run, Hide, Tell.’ The military community in which I now work, received this information with marked scepticism. Looking round the room at their smirks of derision, one could tell that a Be the Best ethos and years of army training would mean that running and hiding would be the last thing they would do.

A lone parent friend of mine laments the fact that having been the apple of her daughter’s eye for her formative years during a decade of career and relationship sacrifice, now finds herself at the receiving end of her teenager’s repeated (and manifestly false) accusation that she never thinks about anyone but herself and has never cared about what her daughter feels whenever there is any disagreement.

I console her by reminding her about the latest research on teenage brain development, that teenagers are just like that, and that probably, the reason that her daughter says it, is because it’s manifestly untrue and she knows it will hurt. Hurt it does. Not simply because it flies in the face of all evidence, but because cuts to the very quick of today’s parenting; how do you put your child’s needs first without sacrificing your needs so completely that it damages both of you?

Managing competing needs with limited resources is my lot as a manager. Much harder to be a parent – managing competing emotional needs with completely inadequate resources.

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