Whenever I find an article on self-care ideas, I find it out of touch for moms.
The article is always filled with self-care ideas that say things like “get 8-9 hours of sleep” or “take a day for yourself and binge watch your favorite show”. Last time I checked, no mom ever had the time to spend an entire day binge watching TV. Also no one knows the effects of chronic sleep deprivation like a mom, and that monster under my kid’s bed that wakes her (and me) up at 3 am in the morning isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
So as a mom with a house full of kids and an endless to-do list, you need the quick and dirty guide to self-care. Self-care is important and at the end of the day, we need self-care to maintain physical, mental, and emotional health.
So here I tell you all the self-care ideas for moms that have worked for me.
The importance of self-care
A lot of my moms joke that staying at a hospital with nothing too serious for a few days sounds luxurious. The very fact that this sounds like a vacation should be a red flag on just how important self-care is and that moms aren’t getting enough of it in their daily lives.
Self-care really is more about making sure you are at your very best by taking care of your needs.
For a while, I didn’t think I had time to put my needs first because as a mom that is usually how it goes. However, even dedicating a small portion of everyday to yourself can be life changing because it allows you to be a better (and happier!) mom.
So, what are ways you can increase exercise, eat better, and improve your sleep? For your emotional and mental health, what are the ways you can lower stress and anxiety?
Only do self-care things that you like
Now that my life as a mom is extra busy, I find it even more important to only do things that I really enjoy when it comes to self-care.
The last thing you should do is a yoga class because it is a good self-care idea if you hate yoga. I think for a very long time I would always try to order salads because you should eat healthy. I still don’t like salads. Instead, I add veggies to meals in other ways.
I know this might seem obvious, but it is important! Keep searching until you find self-care ideas that work with your schedule and that sound good to you.
Quit the continuous mode, especially the continuous cleaning mode
A while ago, I read the book The Happiness Project and while I loved a lot of her tips to be happy and recommend the book, I whole heartedly disagree with one tip.
The tip is the idea that if it takes less than 5 minutes, then do it immediately. If I follow this advice (which I did for a while), then I am constantly doing things and never have 5 minutes for a breather. It really increased my stress levels.
Instead, I have learned to turn off the continuous mode, especially the continuous cleaning mode. I schedule time in my day to clean. I pick one big house chore each day (outside of dishes and laundry), which doesn’t leave my house perfectly clean, but clean enough. I have also added a family pickup time 15 minutes before we start bedtime, which has everyone helping and gets most of the toys and clutter off the floors.
Ditching the constant cleaning has been revolutionary for my mental and emotional health. It allows me to enjoy my day more.
Dish Dad, Laundry Mom
While we are on the topic of cleaning, another thing that has worked well in our house is to assign one daily chore to each parent. This might not work for everyone but if you both contribute to household chores, I highly recommend assigning chores between the two of you. You are not constantly trying to keep the workload fair or fighting over whose turn it is to do the dishes.
Now, my husband does dishes, and I do laundry. Split chores so they fit your family. Maybe your other half makes school lunches or grocery shops? I don’t worry about the dishes because they aren’t my responsibility. We fight less and I never feel like I am nagging him. For other ways to navigate marriage after kids, read my post on marriage tips after baby.
Quit external motivators
A fascinating study I learned about in a parenting course showed that external motivators backfire big time. It is a study from Stanford University by Lepper and Green. It showed for kids who love art, spontaneous drawing reduced by 50% when they started receiving rewards for doing art. Additionally, aesthetic quality of the artwork decreased.
External rewards reduce intrinsic motivation. What does this have to do with self-care for moms?
Well, after learning this, I realized that I use external rewards for myself all the time as a mom such as if I get the laundry done, then I can do this fun activity. After reading the study, I wasn’t convinced that my external reward made the chore less “enjoyable” but wanted to give changing my thought process a chance.
I spent a week where I didn’t use any external rewards for myself and instead always left time in my day for fun activities no matter how much work I got done. I know it might sound silly but it has really improved my mood and emotional health.
Fill out a sentence journal for each your kids
There are many days that are exhausting, filled with chaos or end with a really hard bedtime. One thing that has really helped me end the day on a good note is a sentence journal for each kid.
At the end of each day, I write in a sentence about each kid in their journal. I might write something they said that was absolutely hilarious, a sweet moment, an accomplishment or a note to them.
I think I get stuck personally on all the things that went wrong. The mom guilt of not being a perfect mom is something I struggle with, and this allows me to remember the best of the day. I also feel like I do so much work that just never ends and the sentence journals remind me why its all worth it.
Make your special time with your kid self-care focused
Special time is a really popular parenting tool that focuses on giving kids the attention they crave. The logic behind it is that kids have attention buckets that need to be filled and if they can’t fill it with positive attention, they will go for negative (bad behavior) attention.
I have started spending 10 minutes one-on-one with my kids each day. Some days, we do more time and other days, getting 10 minutes is a stretch. Some days, my self-care is getting a break from my kids but other days, I use this time to do self-care with my kids.
Self-care ideas with kids:
- Draw or color
- Paint toenails
- Dance Party
- Go on a Hike
- Snuggle up with a good book
- Listen to an audio book together
Not only are you building memories, but also you are getting to know your child in ways that you can’t get in the everyday busyness. If possible, try to make this one-on-one time so you don’t have to deal with sibling rivalry.
While you probably already get a lot of exercise by picking up the house and chasing kids, it isn’t the same as getting a sweat on.
When I am pressed for time, my go-to is a YouTube class. I really like short Zumba or dance cardio classes. It is such a pick me up and they don’t need to be long. Honestly, a 10–15-minute video will get my heart pumping and my mood soaring.
One of my favorite self-care activities to do with my kids is a dance party. No one knows how to dance like no one is watching like a kid. Kids dance with soul. We will turn the music up and 10 minutes later not only do I feel better, but so do my kids.
Workout with a friend to get your social fill
If you find a type of workout you really like, then see if they offer classes at a nearby gym. Now convince a friend to do it with you. Not only will you greatly benefit from the exercise, both mentally and physically, but also the social connection with your friend is so important.
Your friend also serves as a way to make sure you stick with it. I skip workouts so much when I am not held accountable. Workout accountability is one of my favorite weight loss tips.
Read Time Management for Mortals
I think I have finally realized that productivity is the opposite of self-care. I think moms tend to overdo productivity and never spend enough time on self-care.
I honestly didn’t even realize just how bad my obsession with productivity was until I read the book, Time Management for Mortals. I showed me that I was trying to do something that was not achievable and was at the root of making me miserable.
More importantly, it pointed out how much of life I was missing out on by trying to be extra productive. It helped me a lot on changing and I feel so much more balanced now.
By routine I mean sticking to the same schedule as much as you can. You have allocated how you spend your day and when things get done.
This helps your brain so much! When you tackle things in the same rhythm each day, you spend less brain power on trying to figure out what to do and when. Leaving you feeling less drained and exhausted! It also allows you to ensure you are leaving time and space for the fun things in life.
Have hard stops
Since life as a mom is so hectic and busy, I am constantly thinking or stressing out about things I need to get done, which means that even when I am trying to enjoy time with my family, I am in work mode in my head.
I needed to have a strong separation between my activities, so I have hard stops. Once I start family time, I don’t finish a few little things here and there or answer emails.
While I know this doesn’t work for everyone depending on your job, it helped me so much mentally.
Plan a camping trip
I am not one for sleeping in a tent but honestly, it really has some major self-care benefits in today’s world. It is the only way our whole family unplugs from screens, social media, email, etc.
Now, we always plan a few camping trips in the summer and sometimes we go with friends, which is a great way to go if it is your first-time camping. It is seriously medicine for the soul.
Use a “little things” list.
I keep a pad of paper in the kitchen and add all the little things (appointments to make, bills to pay, random items to buy off amazon anything that comes up during the day) and then I tackle it all in one sitting.
Before, I used to do them when they came up or I remembered. These tasks became little disruptions to the larger more difficult tasks that needed to get done. The more time I stopped to do these little tasks throughout the day, the more stressful my day would be.
A spa shower
It will probably be a while before I have the time and the money to spend on a day at the spa.
What I can do is make my shower extra luxurious. I use shower steamers which are similar to bath bombs and diffuse in the shower. I upgraded the shower head to a rain shower head. I also spend some extra time to do a body scrub to make my skin feel amazing. I end with applying my favorite lotion in the shower after I turn off the water as that is the best time to apply lotion.
I leave feeling pampered from head to toe.
Get salon gorgeous nails for under 10 bucks
Most days, I look very disheveled. I will never look like I did before kids but one thing that makes me very happy is having my nails done. However, regular salon nails are a big commitment.
One of my very good mom friends got me Dashing Diva Nails (and some wine), which is an amazing self-care gift for mom. They cost less than $10 and are super quick to apply. The absolute ridiculous part is they last longer than any other fake nail or polish I have tried.
They are like a “sticker” but look so legit. They don’t fall off or crack. The only reason I switched them after three weeks was because of grow out.
Find your go-to 5-minute break
Hot chocolates and fuzzy slippers are great, but they aren’t realistic most of the time. What I did need was something that would allow me to mentally reset throughout the day.
My go-to was taking my breaks on my phone and social media, which wasn’t doing anything for my mental health. It was a really hard habit to break but now I try to make my 5-10 minute breaks focused on getting outside and walking around.
The level of carbon dioxide builds up in indoor spaces and gives you brain fog affecting your ability to think clearly. Therefore, find reasons to go outside more. Even for 5 to 10-minute walks. If that isn’t possible, try to crack your window.
A lot of people use the headspace app or meditate. That has never worked for me but if you think that might be your thing, give it a go!
Break when you are stressed, not overwhelmed
Another way I have improved my mental health is to take a 5-minute breather when I am stressed and BEFORE I get too overwhelmed. This preventative step really helps me manage my emotions so much better throughout the day.
When I am stressed, I try to get outside. The fresh air clears my head and just walking improves my mood. I then go through a 3-step process where I identify my emotion, determine what is causing the emotion and then put it into perspective. In 20 years will this matter? No, what will matter in 20 years?
Melatonin Supplement to Catch up on sleep
If I am really behind on sleep, it doesn’t always mean I can fall asleep earlier. Sleeping in, especially during the week, isn’t always possible so one thing I have started doing is using melatonin to help me fall asleep way earlier than my bedtime.
Other ways to improve your sleeping environment:
- Leave doors open to decrease carbon dioxide buildup.
- Lower the temperature.
- Splurge on your sheets and comforter. We recently bought cooling bamboo sheets and cozy comforters for everyone.
- Try an audiobook if you can’t turn your mind off at night.
Take a parenting course
I know what you are thinking! How could taking a parenting course be self-care. You already parent 24-7 so the last thing you want to spend your precious time on is a parenting course but hear me out.
I have found that taking a quality parenting course immensely helped me with my emotional health. It not only confirmed my children’s behavior was normal, which reduced my anxiety, but also helped me build my parenting toolset. Instead of feeling out of control when behavior issues arose, I felt more confident.
On that note, I have taken a lot of parenting courses that are not really great, but I found this one to be really legit. You can try the free course here.
Use friend time for laughs not complaining
I find that often when I hang out with my girlfriends, we spend a lot of the time complaining about kids or complaining about mom life.
While I think it is beyond important to have a way to vent, it never makes me feel rejuvenated. In fact, I feel sometimes worse after. I also find that most of my “social” time with other moms is while we are also simultaneously watching kids.
It wasn’t until I started hanging out again with my friends and structuring it around an activity did I realize just how much I needed that. I was able to just have fun and regain the part of me that isn’t mom.
Try to make it a priority once a month or at least every other month to do something fun with your friends. It could be as simple as going out for coffee with an old friend or as big as going to a concert.
Other ideas include:
- A night out for a drink, where you can’t mention kids or you drink
- A game night
- Go to a paint and wine bar
- Go to a theater show
- Try a comedy show
- Visit a place with a local band playing
- Go to a sports game
- A trip to a local spa
Try a clothing Subscription Box
I also have a bad habit of just buying the same outfits if I go shopping (I have so many V-neck t-shirts lol). The boxes have helped me have a better wardrobe, which in turn makes me feel so much more put together. You can see my latest Stitch Fix box here.
Laundry while watching TV might feel smart but really you are losing out on relaxation time!
Additionally, your brain can’t actually multitask. If you do the laundry during the show, you are either not really watching the show or you are doing the laundry very slowly. It is also exhausting to your brain when you do both at once so you didn’t get that relaxing time to veg out.
Try to stick to one task at a time!
Keep your project list to 5 things
My list of things I should get done and want to get done is never-ending. I find myself starting a lot of projects but finishing very few. I also find that the few I get done had to get done. I find this really affects me negatively because I am not able to find the time to get the rewarding projects I do enjoy done.
Based on advice from a book, I have created two project lists. The active project list has 5 or fewer projects. All other projects sit on the other list until a space opens up. Since switching to this system, I have found that I do actually complete more projects and less end up in the 90% complete phase for months on end.
I try to have 1 to 2 items that are long term projects and the other 3 change out often. I always ensure that 1 to 2 spots are always something I want to do. For instance, make photobook for kids or plan our next family trip.
I think for me the toughest part of self-care is finding enough time for it. Therefore, to make time for self-care, you must find ways for other things to take up less time. One popular phrase right now in the mom world is “buying” time. In other words, how can you make jobs on your to-do list take less time or can you outsource them?
For instance, can you grocery shop online and have it delivered for free to your house? Does that save you time? If so, then switch to it unless grocery shopping brings you joy. If you can hire a cleaner to come once a week or once a month, then do it. These are all versions of self-care.
We do the Green Chef subscription boxes for food. They are healthy and I hate coming up with new recipes and shopping for random items. They save me time and sanity. They are also cheaper than take-out (and better). Some of my other friends do freezer meals.
Pick a night of the week as home date night
As a mom, it is hard to find time to spend with your significant other but important for your well-being! It is also hard to always be planning new and exciting dates. What I have found that has helped us is to have a cozy night in every week.
With little kids, it is great, we make our meal subscription box after they go to bed with wine and then have a stress-free fancy meal at home together.
Additionally, people are creatures of habit so by always picking the same evening, it is more likely to become a habit and happen!
Pursue Self-Care Ideas for Moms Today
Being a mom is extremely rewarding but also extremely demanding.
I hope by the end of my post on self-care ideas for moms, you have found a few tips that you can apply to your own life. Self-care should be personalized so find what works for you!
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I am a wife, teacher, and mother to two awesome girls. I write about what I am passionate, which is sharing my experiences, failures, and successes on everything from family, marriage and motherhood to home improvement, DIY house projects and home making. I also always enjoy sharing with my readers tips I learn about selfcare, beauty and skin care for women. Let this space be a resource for you to pursue your very best day.