A Therapist’s Guide to Self-Care for Busy Moms

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You already know that self-care is important, and in fact, a necessary part of a healthy and balanced life. And especially in your role as “mom”, you’re clearly aware that your self-care needs are the first to drop off the priority list when lift gets hectic … which is probably all the time.

Now, when I talk about self-care I’m not referring to mani-pedis and facials.

Self-care is not extravagant. It’s not frilly or luxurious. It’s not even expensive. Well, it doesn’t have to be at least. And even though it’s often thought of as an “extra” or “if I have time I’ll get to it”, self-care is actually the most important thing you can do as a mom to keep balance… and your sanity.

Reset the Meaning of Self-Care

So first of all, can we all reset our understanding of what self-care really is? Just ask yourself the simple question: what do I need in order to feel cared for and comforted, and how can I do this for myself? 

For moms, this often comes down to the most basic needs, like eating nutritious food, moving your body, sleeping well, stimulating your mind, processing emotions, and finding some quality interpersonal connections that aren’t your kids!.

Self-care is about tending to all parts of you, including your mind, body, spirit, and relationships.

It’s about checking in with yourself on each of those levels, understanding which areas need more energy, and how to actually meet those needs. It’s unique to YOU.

The Reality You Know All Too Well

But here’s the challenge: especially during those early years with your kids, your needs take the back seat.

And honestly, I think this is natural and not necessarily a bad thing.

Your life feels out of balance because it is out of balance. Never in your life will another little human need you to the extent that young kiddos do!

But just remember… it’s temporary.

Now as a mom (and therapist) who get’s how hard this is, I certainly won’t tell you flippantly that you need to focus more energy on you. To be honest, I’m not sure that if a therapist told me to “do more self-care” I would have given it much thought… it never seemed realistic.

In my mind, there was absolutely no way there was time in the day to do anything for myself.

Self-Care As An Item On The To-Do List

You see, I used to view self care as another item on the to-do list that I just didn’t have time for, likely because I always failed at it.

Somehow I had this idea that I could make self-care a central part of my life virtually overnight, but all this did was brought me more stress knowing how brutally I was taking care of myself.

Why can’t I just take these vitamins?

How hard is 30 minutes of exercise a day?

Why do I keep staying up so late?

Why do I drink so much coffee? What’s wrong with me?  

We often set the bar too high, expecting monumental change to happen almost overnight and then loathe ourselves when we fail “yet again.”

And if we equate self-care to another chore on the to-do list (like I had been doing) then it’s unlikely to get done. We might even actively avoid it just like that laundry pile in the corner.

Are chores motivating? Exciting? Calming and fulfilling?

Do they let you recharge your energy, calm your system, and feel better? Maybe… but probably not.

Aim Low . Like Really Low

So here’s my first suggestions to help you make self-care part of your everyday life: stop setting such lofty goals that make you feel badly about yourself! 

Now this might be strange to read and certainly counter to what you’ve probably learned, but what if you lowered your standards? Could you consider creating small and do-able goals rather than shooting so high and ultimately setting yourself up for disappointment?

Not only will you avoid feeling so terribly about yourself, you’re also more likely to create a habit when you smart small (it’s science, apparently).

Reduce coffee instead of cutting it out …

Workout twice a week rather than think somehow 6 days a week is realistic …

Write for just a few minutes in your journal each day.

Eat something, anything, green every day.

Ask yourself, “What is simple and doable?”

Double Dip With Your Time

The other key to easily weave self-care into your life as a busy mom is to double dip with your time rather than add more to your plate.

If we are so damn good at multitasking (cuz we are, right?), then multi-task the heck out of self-care. Can you do something for yourself while you are going about your normal day?

For example, maybe you put on your favourite music when cooking dinner and give your ears a break from the kid-tunes you’ve so kindly rocked all day for your little ones.

Let’s say you’ve been wanting to start a gratitude journal. What if you got into the habit of writing a few things down every morning at the breakfast table while you sit with the kids? You could even make gratitude more of a family practice or ritual during dinner time.

What if you learned a simple visualization that you could do every day in the shower? Here’s an idea: My favourite is to imagine the water rinsing off everything that I don’t want or need to be carrying around with me that day. It might be frustration, self-judgement, worry, regret … just imagine the water taking it all away. Then, focusing on what you want to carry with you throughout the day (like ease, calm, positivity) washing over every inch of you. Ahhh, so good 😉

And my personal favourite for moms of younger kiddos: hang on to naps or quiet time as long as you can. Teaching your kids the value of resting the body and mind for an hour in the afternoon is a beautiful lesson, and then see if you can take that time to dive into a book or do something just for you.

Oh, and also. If you want to escape on Instagram, that’s okay. That’s self-care (to a degree) in my books as long as it feels like rest/entertainment/enjoyable.

Make Self-Care So Easy

What I want to illustrate is that self-care doesn’t have to be a huge monumental gesture of self-love, and it doesn’t have to cause stress or take up time that you certainly don’t have.

I encourage you to be creative and find ways that you can sneak self-care into to you daily family routine so that it doesn’t cost you even more time and energy.

Re-learning how to prioritize yourself takes practice. By becoming a parent, you shifted your focus and finite energy to your children and this inevitably leaves less for you.

Your job now is to renegotiate how you fit into the equation. Start right now by thinking of just one small way to send yourself some of the love you so rightfully deserve.

In Canada? We have a team of perinatal mental health therapists who are trained to support moms as they navigate the challenges of motherhood. We also offer support for couples who are experiencing challenges in the relationship due to their growing family and changing roles. You can learn about our team here, and book a session.

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About The perinatal collective

Welcome! So glad you're here. 

We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.