Being a mom can be the most fulfilling role you’ll ever have, and while you wouldn’t change it for the world, you still need balance in your life. Taking time for self-care is paramount to being a healthy mom for your child and your family.
Finding this elusive time to recharge your batteries is easier said than done, and self-care means different things to different people. Some moms might feel energized cramming in a workout at 5 a.m. before the kids wake up; others might prefer to use their alone time to read a good book. Whatever form of downtime appeals to you, here are ten ideas to help you create that space in your day.
Make chores a family affair.
While it may not be possible to involve your infant in cleaning duties (although baby wraps and carriers do work wonders), toddlers are at a magical age where they view chores as a way of practicing and demonstrating competence. Though youngsters can be prone to destruction, they can also appreciate that everything has its rightful place. For example, many toddlers love helping to sort laundry and bring it to the correct room.
While your kids are finishing up their meals, you might try sneaking in a load of dishes; have your kids bring you their plates when they’re done. Ask your kids to pick up their own toys before naptime and bedtime; putting their toys into a laundry basket or toy box can become a fun game for them while being helpful for you. When you finish, hugs and high-fives all around reinforce the importance of teamwork.
If you find yourself using all your downtime to scrub the tub and mop the floor, and it’s causing you significant stress, consider scaling back. What things can be left undone or done less frequently? Are you able to hire a cleaning company to help out, even once in a while? Not everyone is able to, but considering all options can help you prioritize and create more space for yourself. If you have a partner, sit down and discuss how you can divide and conquer the household chores so neither one of you is overwhelmed.
Adjust your sleep schedule.
Some kids seem to sense your waking patterns and instinctively rise when you do, but if you can manage it, taking an hour for yourself before your kids get up can be a good way to center yourself. If your children go to bed early in the evening, regularly schedule time for yourself then.
Of course, there are periods when babies go through night-waking, and any amount of alone time seems farfetched, but take heart: sleep struggles won’t last forever, and you’ll soon be able to carve out some time for yourself.
Find time-saving meal strategies.
In a perfect world, you’d have a month’s worth of menus plotted out with shopping lists made. But that takes time too, right? Time you don’t have. Busting out the slow cooker is a quick, easy way to have a hearty dinner ready with minimal prep. You can also try making double batches of meals and build up a freezer stash for those especially hectic days. If you have a partner at home, perhaps you can take turns meal-planning, grocery shopping, or cooking. Many stores have grocery delivery services available. Even if it’s not in your budget long-term, taking advantage of such services during particularly busy stretches can ease some of the burden.
Consider a career change.
This is a big game-changer that may or may not be possible given your situation, but if stress and lack of time are eating away at you day after day, it’s worth looking at this area of life to make adjustments.
Can you strike a better balance consulting freelance? Can part-time hours or a four-day workweek be viable options? Is it possible to open an Etsy shop or change your line of work for a better schedule? It may not be possible, but considering ways your career can balance better with your life is always helpful. Perhaps there are other changes you can make.
Start by talking to your boss and see if flexible hours or working from home occasionally is something he or she would agree to. If you manage a team, think of ways you might be able to get temporary help or redistribute responsibilities.
Indulge in nature.
There’s something about the sights and sounds of nature that inspire renewal and calm. You don’t have to live near the ocean or the mountains to find beauty in your own backyard. When the weather allows, try to take your kids outside for a while each day. You’re all likely to feel refreshed! If you live in a land of ice and snow in the winter, get a membership at a local botanical garden or zoo so you have a place to push the stroller and soak up the fresh air.
Finding time to exercise is certainly challenging for many moms. Getting outside is particularly helpful for making an exercise routine you can stick with—whether it’s cycling to the store, jogging with the stroller around the block, or doing pull-ups on the monkey bars and tricep dips off the playground bench.
Some kids enjoy “exercising” with their parents; exercise balls, resistance bands, and jump ropes can be lots of fun for kids. If your toddler loves to mimic and move, try dance workouts and aerobics. Swimming is another big hit with little ones. You won’t be able to go off and swim laps, but just playing in a pool together is sure to get you moving and meet some of your physical needs—while having fun at the same time!
Make a pact with other moms.
Play dates can be stressful affairs. It can be difficult to have conversations when you’re intervening in toy tug-o-wars and keeping an eye on tiny daredevils. So why not try making a pact with a trusted mom friend where you take turns watching one another’s children? This strategy can be especially helpful over the holidays when there is so much to do.
Don’t forget to schedule a playdate for yourself! Friend time can be as impactful as alone time. Have your partner or a babysitter watch the kids while you and your friend grab dinner. If this is something you really enjoy, commit to making it a regular affair so it doesn’t get put off.
Have a box of goodies ready.
"The Box" is a glorious trick—particularly if you’re breastfeeding a baby with a toddler in the house! Create a collection of toys your children love—activity books, Play-Doh, sensory craft supplies, books, blocks, play food sets—and bring it out when you need a few minutes to yourself. Rotate the items in the box periodically so your kids don’t get bored.
Plug in rather than tuning out.
There’s something to be said about stopping to smell the roses. If your kids are begging you to play with them, but you’re trying to make dinner, it’s okay to indulge their wishes every once in a while and order a pizza or make sandwiches instead. There are times when putting aside your to-do list to be with the kids is just the thing you need—and that’s okay! You’ll probably even find yourself better able to complete your tasks when you’re feeling connected.
Try taking five or ten minutes in the morning to tune in with your kids before the day gets started. Enjoy some snuggle time and talk about the day ahead. You’ll be amazed how much slowing down and connecting for a moment can help the morning go smoother. You can plug in other ways during the day, like pausing and allowing your kids to join you in your tasks. It might not be efficient to have your kids help with cooking or baking, but giving them age-appropriate jobs will allow them to take pride in all you do—and will create some special bonding moments for you too.
Know your triggers.
You can probably tell when you start to feel irritation building. Take a moment to stop, breathe deeply, and ask yourself: What do I need to stay balanced? It might be a glass of water, more sleep, something to eat, or a moment away from the action to just breathe. Note which times of day tend to be more challenging. You certainly don’t want to feel consistently overwhelmed by your kids, so come up with a plan to take charge of these troublesome times of day. Even if you’re not able to, say, go take a nap whenever you start feeling overwhelmed, recognizing your triggers will help you to manage your feelings better.
If you don’t have time for the break you need, try to find another way to ease your tension. If you have a strong support system, lean on others to help during these moments. Maybe you can call a close friend and chat for a few minutes while your kids play in the background. Taking a little time to connect to those who support you is a surefire way to lift your spirits and energy!
You are the perfect mom for your kids.
You’re doing your best, but some days you’re still exhausted. Your kids have no idea how spent you are. To them, you are the pinnacle of grace, confidence, and patience. Even if you have to “play dead” while they play doctor, your love knows no bounds—plus, it’s a chance to lie down! Give yourself some grace and realize what an amazing mom you are. Even when you feel depleted, you are exactly what your kids need, and your love for them will not go unnoticed. Enjoy these moments and know that it will get easier!
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