As I write this, I’m almost 37 weeks pregnant. All I really want to do is go to sleep. The next few weeks will move both crazy fast…and super slow. And frankly, I’ve learned, if I don’t take care of myself…I won’t make it.
Moms need to learn this idea in general. It’s so important to take care of yourself! You are the center of the home, the one who sets the tone, and the one who cares for everyone else. You are important. You are worthy of care and respite. And no, you don’t have to “escape” your family to do it.
With that in mind, let’s look at some tips for taking care of yourself.
1) Move Slowly and Deliberately
Moms do not win awards because they checked off all the items on a long to-do list. They do not get extra praises for falling into bed at the end of the day completely exhausted and keyed up, but their home is spotless.
Rather than trying to push yourself all the time, move more slowly. Give yourself time to wake up in the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, talk to your children, pray together, and get ready slowly. Take breaks to just sit with the kids or put your feet up. Read stories, or enjoy your own book if they are occupied. Take time at the end of the day to unwind alone or with your husband. You will ultimately get more done anyway if you are slow and steady about it.
It may help you to keep a daily or weekly “must do” list, and another list of “like to do.” If, over a few days’ time, you can get the “must do” stuff checked off, and maybe even a couple “like to do” then you are a success. But you don’t win awards for projects completed so keep your lists realistic! (Not to mention the day is more pleasant if you’ve built in time to sit, time to wait on a toddler to pick the “right” socks, and so on!)
2) Choose Small Things That Make You Happy
Do you love starting or ending your day with a hot cup of tea? Having a small bite of dark chocolate mid-afternoon? Reading a book? Whatever it is that you love — something small, that easily fits into your day, like the examples here — make time for it. Keep a small stash of dark chocolate. Take a walk with the kids everyday after lunch. Spend a few minutes just watching the sunset. Do these little things as a reminder to have joy and feel calm.
3) Teach Kids to Help
My oldest is now 5. She’s capable of a lot more than she used to be, and she’s eager to help. (She likes to jump ahead and “do” whether I’m ready or not!) I’ve taught the kids since they were a year or so to help clean their playroom. I’m teaching my 5-year-old to cook now. All the kids can bend, reach, and “fetch” items for me. My 18-month-old can get me a towel, wipe up water on the floor, or hand me his plate when he is done eating.
The more eager they are to help, and the more able, the more I rely on them, especially if I’m having a rough day. They are happy to step up, and the time I’ve spent teaching them how has paid off. Teach your kids to help, so that when you really need even a five-minute break, they can find their own snack or even just entertain themselves while you have a few minutes to breathe.
Take a deep breath as you’re teaching and ask your kids gently and with a smile. I have learned the hard way that taking a strict “You need to do this right now” stance (even if I am not yelling) results in absolute refusal and a power struggle. “Hey buddy, can you pick that up for me? Good job, can you help more?” goes really well. We all feel more cooperative when someone smiles and asks us nicely and shows appreciation for what we’ve done! And it does take time to learn as well, so have patience!
4) Tend to Your Health
What do you really need to be healthy? I know that I tend to skip meals or simply not eat enough because I’m focusing on feeding the kids. I need to eat more! I also enjoy getting regular massages (therapeutic, not always relaxing!), chiropractic care, enough sleep, etc. These needs are important!
If you’re tired, put everyone down for a nap or “quiet time” and go take a nap yourself. If you’re hungry, eat. If you know that taking certain supplements or doing certain exercises help you feel better, make time for those. When you feel strong and healthy, you have a lot more to give your family.
5) Get Together with Friends
A lot of moms struggle because they feel isolated. They’re home alone with kids a lot and feel like they “need” to be (in order to cook, clean, homeschool, etc. — all that “stuff” that has to be done). They can feel a bit unhappy, angry, depressed, and like they are the only mom who yells at their kids or can’t keep up with the chores. Many of us have begun to cling to the TV or, more commonly, the internet — an outlet so that we can at least talk to other moms! Instead, plan play dates. Plan a mom’s night. Get together with your real-life friends, even if your house is messy, even if your kids are wild. Talk to the other moms and realize you’re not the only one and it’s okay to struggle. This camaraderie can really help moms to feel less anxious or unhappy, and it is so worth it.
Remember, though: skip hanging out with the moms who only want to pretend they are perfect and “one up” you. There are a few out there who feel the need to put on this “shield.” Forget about that and be real — we all have struggles and sharing them makes us human and makes us better. Pretending we’re perfect doesn’t help anyone.
6) Go for Easy Food
Fill your freezer with a double or triple batch of dinner or whatever you’re baking, then pull it out when you don’t know what else to make. Buy a few “snack” foods even if they are compromise items (think about dried or fresh fruits, cheese, nuts, etc. — and maybe the occasional bag of veggie chips!). Basically, have options on hand that are simple, so that when you or the kids are hungry you don’t have to prepare anything.
This also works if you make several quarts of yogurt at once, or milk kefir, or chocolate milk (my kids love this — raw milk, cocoa powder, raw honey — and my 5-year-old can make it herself now). If you can do nuts, make nut butters and keep veggies around. My kids are always going for peppers, celery, carrots, mushrooms, etc. straight out of the fridge. I let them munch on cheese, fruits, and veggies if I don’t feel like cooking. They always want to eat the very second they wake up, but I’d rather sit for 10 or 15 minutes and wake up and move more slowly (see point #1), so if I have these items around, everyone’s happy.
7) Enjoy The Blessings
It can be easy to look around and think “WHY can’t they remember to close the door/put shoes in the closet/pick up their clothes?! Am I the only one around here who does anything?” Or, to focus on the fighting and the frustration, or any other negative aspect of kids. Instead, remember first that you do these things too! I don’t always put my shoes away, or take my dishes to the counter right when I’m done eating, or put my clothes directly into the laundry baskets. I forget. (And yes, I’m the one who *eventually* does it, which makes it easy to rationalize that I can “break the rules” since I ultimately do clean up after myself — but this isn’t helpful.)
Don’t look at the bad stuff, though. People aren’t perfect and this stuff will never go away. Instead, think about:
- How quickly your kids are growing up and how soon these days will be gone
- The adorable things they’ve said recently
- How nicely they share and play together sometimes
- How much they love you — and tell you so, often
- How your husband steps up to help even when he’s tired too
- How lucky you are to get to know these awesome little people
Children and family are blessings. There are hard days and crazy moments but overall they are blessings. If you see it instead as a burden with a few shining moments, you will always be unhappy. See it as a blessing with occasional hard times and you will know that you can get through those hard times because of the blessings to come on the other side. And don’t be afraid, in those hard moments, to call a rest time and just sit down and snuggle in front of the TV or with some music on. Hold them, enjoy the peace, and who cares if you aren’t the “perfect” mom who “never” lets her kids watch TV! You’re a realist who just turned crazy into calm, and showed her kids love instead of anger. 🙂
Take care of yourself, moms. Life isn’t perfect but it is a whole lot better if you feel happy and blessed!
Kate, thanks for this post! I needed to read this today. My hubby us deployed right now and I have put so much pressure on myself to get it “all” done because I am responsible for everything right now. But so much does not get accomplished and many days end in tears of frustration or with harsh words to my sweet kids. I take breaks throughout the day, but have felt guilty or lazy for doing so. This post helps me to see that breaks are beneficial!
This so resonates! As I write this, I have my 4 month old boy sleeping (finally) on my chest in the Bjorn. My 22 month old just sat (so rare!) to watch a cartoon, my 12 year old is doing math and I just ground up some dark roast coffee beans for a fresh cup of java :). I am so all about seizing the small moments, the little pockets of joy during crazy intense days @ home. 🙂
Thanks for this, I badly needed a wake up call! I am the type of wife and mother who has a major checklist and goes to bed exhausted with a clean house and all the laundry done. I’m 17 weeks pregnant, and need to take better care. Thanks for pointing it out to me 🙂
I cleaned my house today. it doesn’t look any different lol. did that magnesium lotion really prevent your morning sickness?
[…] MAM – 7 Tips On Why (And How!) Moms Need To Take Care Of Themselves […]
thank you for this – I am in a season of realizing the importance of taking care of myself for the benefit of the family – had drawn a lot of similar conclusions already, but it is so helpful to hear it from someone else and to be reassured we are not alone in this amazing journey!
Blessings on you!
Thank you so much for the reminders I really enjoyed reading it. I have three children a 21 year old, 2yr old and 3month and this is the first time that I’ve had two children at home at the same time so I really needed this.
[…] I could forgo showers, getting to eat, resting for myself. Certainly there are enough demands around here. But I don’t. If I want a shower, I set the kids up with a snack and a game or a TV show (gasp! the TV!) and go take a shower. It’s only 20 minutes and then I’m ready for them. Or, I sit down to eat and I let them play or, simply, wait until I am finished! (I try to take care of needs before I sit down, of course, and I get up if it’s important.) If I didn’t carve out little bits of time to take care of myself, I’d never “find” the time. And I’d be an irritable, hungry, tired mama who was no good to anyone. Take the time. […]
Yes, yes, yes, “me time” is essential for us mommies to survive!! I work full time every Fri-Sat-Sun night and spend Mondays recovering from a 40 hour week in 3 days and getting my trashed house back into shape. I am a person who is go-go-go during the day, so I like to read before I go to bed, it helps my brain decompress and relaxes me so I can go to sleep easier (I sometimes have trouble turning off my brain if I don’t read). I also have a “mom’s night out” once a month at book club… about 10 ladies, we get together to chat, enjoy appetizers and desserts, drink wine, and discuss our book of the month. During the summer I get pedicures every 6-8 weeks. I also go to scrapbook crops 3-4 times a year. For the longest time, my husband had trouble understanding that going to work, meetings, or classes was NOT “me time”. He understands now and is very supportive of how important it is that we BOTH get time for ourselves away from work, kids, etc. I am soooo much less stressed when I have time to decompress by myself 🙂 I have also learned how to say “no” and am very selective when I volunteer for the kids’ school and extracurricular activities. Good article!!
I love this! I just stubbled across this article and it spoke to me completely. I work and sometimes feel the pressure to be the “good mom and wife” on my off hours.
I am writing from Australia, Sydney to be exact.
I read our article and thought everything made sense, as I have actually lived through taking care of myself. My fiance works many hours during the day and night, and so today I thought I would catch up on my self-care and spent most of the day in bed with my 5 year old daughter who was playing games on the tablet. I read a book on my kindle and felt that it was definitely worthwhile as on sat (tommorow) and sunday I will be the proud mum who can say to herself that even though the house is not clean this weekend, she tries spend quality time with the children, not worrying about the cleanliness as I always have done so in the past.
Thankyou for an informative blog post.
Hello! I absolutely love these great words of wisdom! Thanks for sharing them and writing them in such an accessible, doable way. It’s so important and so easy to not take care of ourselves. On paper it seems ridiculous to even think that, how can someone not take care of themselves?? But in real life it’s so common. Just today, I had an incident with this, I was going for a girls night out, but my husband planned something, the kids were sick, I couldn’t get a sitter and yeah…I put myself last, Thinking this had to change. It’s hard to put myself first sometimes but I know it’s so important to the welfare of my whole family! Cause if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right? Thanks again!
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[…] I could forgo showers, getting to eat, rest for myself. Certainly, there are enough demands around here. But I don’t. If I want a shower, I set the kids up with a snack and a game or a TV show (gasp! the TV!) and go take a shower. It’s only 20 minutes and then I’m ready for them. Or, I sit down to eat and I let them play or, simply, wait until I am finished! (I try to take care of needs before I sit down, of course, and I get up if it’s important.) If I didn’t carve out little bits of time to take care of myself, I’d never “find” the time. And I’d be an irritable, hungry, tired mama who was no good to anyone. Take the time. […]