Self-care and motherhood seemingly just don’t work well together. It can seem impossible to manage both raising child and still finding time to take a step back and focus on yourself. How is a woman supposed to focus on what she wants and needs and somehow still maintain the role of mom?
It’s a delicate balance for sure, but possible, with a little bit of intention and commitment. Try out these five steps to help to take self-care from a wisp of longing to actually happening!
Step one: Divide and conquer.
One of the hardest things for moms to overcome is the feeling that they need to do everything themselves, and do it 100% perfect. Not only does this put an enormous amount of pressure on mom but it also pretty much eliminates any possible free time we’d typically have for self-care. So shorten down your “must do” list.
Sit down and think about everything that you do on a regular basis yourself that stress you out or take a huge amount of energy/time from you, then list them out into categories that you can either delegate, simplify, or just cross off your list.
Delegate the things that someone else can help you with every once in awhile, simplify the things that you’d like to do but know you have some wiggle room with, and cross off the things that don’t really need to be done or that you’re not passionate about anymore.
Take a good hard look at that list and then go over it again, because I guarantee you the first time you’ll probably only have a few things listed under delegate and eliminate. After your 2nd (possibly 3rd) time through the list, take note of all the things you couldn’t find a place for.
All the things that you couldn’t fit into those three categories are things that you’ll reserve for yourself (hint, this list should be the smallest). The reason why you do the first three categories first, is because you run the risk of listing everything into the “mom must do” category by default instead of giving up the reins, so do that this last.
An example list would be:
- Bedtime routine
- Weekly PO box check
- Yard work
- Volunteering at the neighborhood library
- Meal prep
In this example, the dishes, PO box check, and yard work can be delegated (or at least shared), the bedtime routine is an important bonding time but could be simplified, and volunteering at the library might have lost its spark so that can be crossed out altogether (or reduced). What’s left is just the meal prep, which is now moved to the mom’s list of things exclusively for her to do.
I’d bet most mothers have a list that is triple the amount of this example but you get the idea Having a visual representation of all the things you have on your plate is a great reminder that you might be taking on too much of a load, leaving no time for yourself at all.
Step two: Have a go-to self-care routine.
Sometimes we think we don’t have time, and the truth ends up being we just simply refuse to actually utilize the time we have. When moms find themselves with free time, their first thought is usually “I could probably finish up the dishes then” or we end up mindlessly scrolling through Pinterest (I love Pinterest!).
While the occasional mindless social media scroll can be helpful, it’s important to make sure we’re using free time doing something that will actually help us feel more rested/peaceful/centered/connected. It’s rare that we hop off of Facebook saying “boy, I sure do feel more connected with myself!”
This is where having an actual self-care routine comes into play. When you have a dedicated list of ideas and activities that you enjoy doing, when you find yourself with downtime you’ll be able to peek at your list and choose something that will benefit you.
As you become more familiar with your needs and what you enjoy, soon you’ll find that the time you spend contemplating what to do is shortened. You’ll have a deeper understanding and know if you want a quick 10-minute yoga routine or a creative outlet like painting instead. The more you actually practice self-care, the easier it fits into your life. Practice makes…well nothing is ever perfect, but it certainly makes it better.
Step three: Create a vision and set some intentions.
Having a purpose and vision for your actions is a great way to beat back guilt when it comes to self-care. When you’re clear about the why you become much more inclined and intentional about the how and then you can use this to help kick mom guilt to the curb.
Take some time to figure out what kind of life you’d like and what you want the “vibe” in your household to be. Try adjectives like peaceful, fun, supportive, joyful, etc. Then figure out if your actions are more frequently in line with your vision than not.
While you can’t control the actions of others, you certainly can control how your actions contribute to the vision you have. Many mothers find that when they’re not taking care of themselves, their actions don’t quite line up to their vision anymore and start feeling the strain and stress in their life. In a vicious cycle, they then end up feeling guilty for taking time for themselves when they feel like they should be cleaning up the chaos.
So instead of thinking “What a bad time to sit down when I need to be folding laundry” remember instead “I’m taking care of myself right now to create a more peaceful home for my family”
A vision board is an excellent way of making your vision and intentions tangible. Find pictures that really resonate with you and the direction you’d like to take. While a vision board can be whatever you want to make it, I’d suggest being very purposeful about what pictures you put up there and taking the time to make it visually appealing. You want it to be a reminder, something you actually enjoy looking at, and not just a collage of cut up magazine pictures.
Step Four: Schedule it out. Literally.
Literally, block out time in your day for yourself and make it non-negotiable, much the same way you would for your child’s doctor appointment or a school performance. When it’s on the calendar, it’s much easier to resist the temptation to schedule something else in its place, especially if the idea of self-care in still new.
You can even integrate it into a routine that you already have in place. For example, during your morning routine include listening to your favorite podcasts while putting on makeup to start your day off on a positive note, or add in meditation during your evening shower.
Even though I’m a huge fan of remaining flexible and adapting your schedule, I will say try to avoid changing routines that will push your self-care time off your schedule. For example, if you plan for a quiet “me” time evening, try to make sure the little ones keep a consistent bedtime so you don’t end up spending your self-care time wrangling them into bed and then end up too sleepy to do anything else.
And Five: Understand that it’s a priority!
It’s easy to dismiss the importance of self-care when you’ve gone without it for so long, but once you make it a regular part of your routine, you’ll begin to see the difference it has on your life and your experience of motherhood. The difference is hard to miss when you start taking care of yourself on a regular basis!
Try out these five steps to help begin balancing motherhood and self-care and find your happy medium between the two!