As a maternal wellness expert, my clients almost entirely consist of mothers, and I can tell you that the effects of self-care—or lack thereof—come up in almost every session or mom group I host. So few of us are proactively prioritizing ourselves to the extent that we have forgotten who we were before kids, how we even prioritized ourselves and what it felt like to invest in us. And when we do manage to take time for ourselves, the mom guilt sets in soon after.

What my clients struggle with the most is how to create new systems or mindsets that create real, sustainable change, so that they don’t slip right back into self-neglect. 

Of course, self-care isn’t the solution to our societal issues—the ones that don’t prioritize motherhood or working parenthood or the fact that we’re living without the villages we used to have. But that’s just what makes self-care all the more important in this moment. It’s OK to be selfish sometimes. It’s OK to say no to something else so that you can say yes to yourself. 

I also want to acknowledge that nothing is more frustrating than reading a list of self-care tips that rely on endless time and energy to execute—especially because these are resources that many, many moms don’t have. 

But maternal wellness is all about prioritizing and finding room for you, so that you can actually enjoy the life you work so hard for, even with all the challenges that parenting brings

Here are the realistic strategies and self-care tips I recommend to mothers for creating a higher quality of life, even when work and family demands feel all-consuming, and when mom guilt reigns supreme.

1. Make peace with mom guilt

Many moms tell me that they resist finding time for themselves because they automatically feel guilty for not being with their family. 

My advice is to practice working through that guilt by not being surprised when it shows up. In some ways, making peace or accepting those feelings will reduce their power. 

My favorite tool? Pretend you’re greeting Guilt like you would an unfriendly neighbor at the door—then walk them right out. Over time, you will disempower and hopefully reduce the mom guilt as you begin to see the benefits of the time and energy you put into yourself. 

2. Collect the data on yourself

There’s no simpler way to figure out how to have a good week than to figure out what it takes for you to have a good week. 

As you begin the next seven days, start keeping track of what makes a good day and week and then let those learnings inform future weeks. Look for trends in the areas that are most crucial to your personal wellness. 

Here are a few examples of what to focus on:

  1. Sleep: What does sleep look like on a week where you feel great? How can you purposefully create habits that promote great sleep?
  2. Stress: What tends to stress you out and how can you plan ahead to minimize as much stress as possible?
  3. Time management: What are some of your best practices in terms of time? Maybe it’s something like packing your work bag the night before, or setting out clothes for your kiddos. What starts and ends your day on the right foot?
  4. Family time/partner time: What are the best opportunities for connection with your family or partner during the work week? How can you plan ahead so that you are more likely to prioritize these times? Maybe you feel that in an ideal week you’re all home together for at least two dinners around the table. Are there small adjustments that you can make in your schedule that result in significant emotional benefits? 

3. Visualize moments of self-care 

Don’t underestimate the power of a little moment with yourself. When you’re having a hard week or day, try to visualize a realistic, tangible way you can treat yourself in the next day or so. Maybe you’re having a stressful morning; try to close your eyes and visualize the moment you put your kids to bed. How will you take care of yourself? Taking a long bath? Having a glass of wine? Breaking out a puzzle? Painting? Meditating? Whatever it is, make sure to follow through.

4. Invest in yourself

Parenting takes a huge financial toll, full stop. It’s very easy to justify cutting investments into your wellness, but you are still a human that is worth investing in. 

Especially if it is an investment that will energize and benefit your health and happiness in the long run, such as a workout class, a date night out or a therapy session—remember that you are modeling self-care for your kids. Your health and happiness matters more than ever. 

5. Date yourself

Maybe there is a trustworthy in-law, friend or relative who has offered to take your kids for a few hours, but you never take them up on it. Or maybe you have paid time off accruing at work that you’ve been resisting. 

Your homework? Take your in-laws up on their offer or use that PTO—and plan a date with yourself during that time. It can be a meal out, or a long nap with a good book, or even a slow stroll in your neighborhood with a podcast. 

Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to delegate support so that you can feel more present in your life—both with your kids and at work. 

Remember, how we spend our time is how we spend our life. Every small improvement in your week results in a larger quality-of-life improvement that you 100% deserve. Don’t be afraid to prioritize your happiness. Everyone will reap the benefits of a healthier, happier you.