Why is self-care important for parents? What are some of the types of self-care you can practice? Different stages of parenting bring different stresses, so practicing self-care becomes of paramount importance. Why? Because as parents, we’re often expected to do our absolute best for our children and put their needs above our own. Think about it, when was the last time you did something just for yourself? What if we told you that including and practicing self-care in your day-to-day life was good for your kids too?
When it comes to practicing self-care as a parent, where do you start? As a mom of two under five with a full-time job and a side business, I hear ya. Regularly carving out time for myself feels at times like my personal Mount Everest.
We must shift perspectives to make it easier for us to regularly take time out for ourselves, practicing self-care. And we can start by doing the following:
Own Your Worth
We first need to believe that we’re worthy of taking time out to tend to our needs and wants. Until then, it doesn’t matter what we do, it’ll never stick because something more important will always pop up. If you struggle with this, you’re not alone. I still do.
One reason we don’t feel worthy is that we’re systematically fed contradicting ideas of what a “good mother” and a “successful woman” should be. We’re expected as mothers to fully dedicate ourselves to our kids, putting their needs and wants over our own. On the flip side, we’re also told to lean into our careers with equal dedication and ambition. And we must do it all with a smile.
These unrealistic expectations are keeping us stuck feeling like we’re always falling short. Whether we work or stay at home, we’re always trying to do more because it’s never enough. It’s no wonder we feel selfish taking time off for ourselves.
What’s important to understand is that it’s not our fault we’re always needing to push harder. It’s because of these impossible standards we’re trying to live up to.
We need to change this story. And it begins by rewriting what a good mother and successful woman are mean to us.
First, write out everything you think you must do to be a good mother and a successful woman. You’ll be surprised how contradicting your beliefs will be. Then put to paper what you believe would be a better meaning of a good mother and successful woman. Chances are your new definitions will be more based on the quality of presence than on the number of things you do. This is the first step to giving yourself permission to own your worth and free up time for yourself.
Ditch the “All or Nothing” Approach to Self-Care
Another key shift we need to make is to ditch the “all or nothing” approach to self-care. Let go of the idea that “real” self-care requires a weekend retreat, a full spa day, or a daily one-hour morning ritual kids-free.
Many of us feel that if we don’t do it all, then it’s not even worth doing it at all. But guess what? 80% is better than nothing. Even 10% is better than nothing. The truth is you’ll need to squeeze in time for yourself whenever you see an opening throughout your day.
Check your expectations. A full workout doesn’t need to be one hour long. A meditation practice doesn’t need to be 20 minutes daily. A bath is not the only way to relax. You do what you can do. The more you accept this, the more compassionate you’ll be with yourself as to how much you can get done. And the more self-compassion you build, the more self-care you’ll do.
Claim Your Time
Now let’s get a bit more practical. How exactly do you go about carving out time for yourself?
Begin by doing a quick time audit of your week. Look at how you’re spending your time and identify those moments that you could free up and use for yourself. Start small. Maybe it’s taking a long shower. Maybe it’s while the kids nap or while they’re playing. Maybe your partner can take them out for a walk once or twice a week.
Once you’ve identified these moments, you then need to actually claim them. No one will give them to you. In the beginning, you may have to put up a bit of a fight to have this time respected. You may need to leave the house, lock a door, or leave behind a mess. But that’s ok.
Remember, you only need a couple of minutes a day to do anything that makes you feel happy and more connected to your soul. Yes, you’ll feel guilty and selfish. More on that later! But nobody will give you space and time you crave unless you take it. Kids (and partners) eventually learn to respect it. Start small. Soon you’ll get more creative in carving out bigger chunks of time for yourself.
Reframe Your Guilt
Now, we know that mom guilt will eventually stick up its ugly head. You’ll feel guilty for craving time alone and then for taking it!
Feeling guilty can really eat you up. I’ve had to personally work really hard on this. My days used to fly by without me enjoying anything for myself because I felt so guilty not doing what I thought I should be doing. If left unchecked, guilt can turn into resentment, and to move out of resentment is much harder to do than from guilt.
What has really worked for me is to reframe how I view mom’s guilt. Instead of taking it as a sign that I’m doing something wrong, I like to think of it as a sign that I’m out of tune with what I actually want to do.
When I start feeling guilty, I take a pause. I tell myself that there’s nothing wrong with wanting more than what I’ve got. That I’m worthy of more. I take a deep breath and then I ask myself what I really want to do. And then I go do it.
Viewing your guilt as a signal to change directions can help you block time for yourself by preventing you from getting stuck in murky guiltville with no exit in sight.
Carving out time regularly for yourself as a mom is no easy task. But if you make these four mental shifts, you’ll find it easier to do so. Regardless of how you’ve done in the past or how disconnected and scattered you feel today, you can begin to carve out time for yourself. Be gentle and start small. Remember beautiful mama, you’re worthy.