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Do you have those friends who read three books a week, do yoga before work, take long evening walks with their partner, and can't stop talking about how great meditation is for your mental health? Yes, me too...and they don't have children.

As a mother of a 5 year old and a toddler, I have this conversation with most of my friends a lot.

Yes, I should be practicing self-care...but when on earth would I?

We all KNOW as parents how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we can stay connected to our own well-being, it overflows onto our children and we're more patient, loving, joyful parents. However, knowing and doing are completely different things.

Between drop-off, and work, and pick-up, and soccer, and dinner, and bedtime, and sleep (well, we'll call it sleep), when on earth do we find the time or energy to run...or bike...or stretch...or meditate...or really do anything for ourselves? I personally get caught in a constant cycle of I should, I will, and I didn't today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on Sunday. Maybe next Sunday.

The reality is that the struggle is real. It's hard. But, at the end of the day you are better for it, and your kids will be better for it too.

To get you started, here are 45 self-care ideas that can help you unwind in under an hour. Some are big, some are small, but all of them are doable.

1. Take time to dream about you.

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Taking time to think about yourself will boost your self-confidence and trust in your own abilities. This is a must when doing the hardest job in the world — being a parent. So, set some time aside and settle into the idea that you are amazing!

2. Get a massage

Who is going to argue with this one? The benefits of massage are overwhelming, and research shows regular massage will reduce stress and anxiety AND help you sleep — umm, sleep? No one should have to tell a tired mom that statistic more than once. If you need more reason that that, check out 9 Healthy Reasons to Make an Appointment Today.

3. Go to yoga

Yes, we love to hang out in our yoga pants whenever we can, but actually DOING yoga is great for you too! Yoga is a wonderful way to get in your "me time" while also reaping benefits for your body and mind. Need some ideas on where to get started? Seek out local Yoga studios, or start at home with a few beneficial poses like these: 5 Great Yoga Poses for New Moms.

4. Meditate

Meditation can have an impact on many areas of your life including helping to decrease stress, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids.The bonus? Teaching your kids a skill like meditation early in their lives will have major benefits for them later in life too. Although finding time for daily practice may see overwhelming, it's so worth the time. Find a meditation practice that fits your schedule and vibe—there are many free online options and apps to help you get started.

5. Declutter something

Clutter can have a psychological impact on parents, which in turn can adversely affect their kids. Who needs more things sucking our brain power and energy, when we already have tiny humans working their hardest to do that? This doesn't mean you have to get rid of everything, but streamlining and getting rid of junk can drastically reduce stress and even take some checkboxes off of your to-do list. Get inspired by reading 'How getting rid of 'stuff' saved my motherhood.'

6. Unplug

Let's face it, we are way too attached to our devices. Don't miss out on life! Find out why it's important to unplug, and the benefits it can have in your life.

7. Take deep breaths at a stop light

This is a way to sneak in meditation with no excuses for lack of time. Don't check Facebook — take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. Check in with yourself in the nooks and crannies of your day, and you will feel better for it!

8. Get a manicure or pedicure

Self-care with instant results! There is no denying that a little pampering will make you feel good.

9. Stretch

Another opportunity to be still, reflect, and take care of your body. Carrying your little one around too much? Stretching loosens your muscles which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. Need more proof? Here are 7 Incredible Results You Can Get From Stretching Every Day.

10. Choose a healthy snack

Eating healthy has a wealth of benefits, but don't feel bad for that drive-through meal from last night when you were exhausted. Start fresh and reap the benefits today by choosing something with whole grains or healthy fats. Nutritious snacks can help with weight and improve your overall health.

11. Go for a walk or run

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Self-care requires that we take a daily preventative approach to the care of our bodies. What does that more than exercise? Bonus? More time to yourself. Stuck in the house during nap time? Check out this Easy 10 Minute Workout for Busy Moms.

12. Just be still

It only takes a minute. Look around and notice your surroundings. Take a breath — and there you go. Yes, we're sneaking meditation practice into your busy day again...you won't regret it.

13. Find the sun and warm up in it

Not only does this feel amazing, it has benefits such as soaking up essential vitamin D. Scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have created a calculator to tell you how much time you need to get the right amounts of vitamin D — but feel free to splurge!

14. Laugh

It's TRUE, laughter is the best medicine.

15. Call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile

Self-care is about connection with yourself, but don't forget that connecting with others is good for your soul too!

16. Write in a journal

Writing requires mindfulness. Journaling helps balance emotions, and requires you to set time aside to think and dream. Believe it or not, it has many health benefits, and bonus — you can write down all of those amazing things your little ones say that you never want to forget (and you will.) Grab a journal like this one and get writing.

17. Help someone

Donate to the food bank, help an elderly friend with their groceries, mow your neighbor's lawn. Believe it or not, helping others has been shown to make people happier, and let's be honest—it feels great. Plus, generosity is contagious — so just a little goes a long way!

18. Make a connection with someone you don't know

Connections open up a world of possibilities. What better gift can you give yourself than the opportunity for something great? Maybe it's a career shift, maybe a new mom friend (we know how hard those are to find). So take a leap and put yourself first by stepping outside of your comfort zone and making a new connection.

19. Plan a vacation

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You may not be basking in the sun or getting couples massage yet—but you can think about it, and science says that may give you the boost you need until it's time to hit the beach—or slopes, or mountains. According to an article in the New York Times, a study showed that a large boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.

20. Watch the sunset

Nature is beautiful—soak it in. Take time to think about the passing day, and practice gratitude for what you have encountered in your journey today.

21. Watch the sunrise

Set your intentions for the day. Do you want to be more patient today? Do you want to try something new? Setting intentions requires time for inner reflection, and a chance to start new daily, despite what happened yesterday. Not sure of your intentions today? Here are 30 Intention Setting Prompts to get you started.

22. Read

Whether you want to learn something new, or just be taken away for awhile, reading helps reduce stress and brain fog. So, work that most important muscle in your body! Can't find time? Here are a few ideas to sneak in reading time for busy moms.

23. Cook your favorite meal

Okay, this might just sound like more work, and, maybe it is — but do it for you! Scrap the family orders and make something that you love. Take time to soak in the aromas, enjoy the quiet time chopping and prepping, and reap the benefits of a healthy, delicious meal.

24. Listen to your favorite song (or album)

According to Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin's research, music can positively alter brain chemistry, and boost chemicals in our brain that support things like immunity. Plus, how do you not get happy when you hear your favorite song?

25. Practice gratitude

The benefits are endless. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction. Really, there is science behind it!

26. Get rid of clothes that are old or don't fit

Believe it or not, your wardrobe could be dragging you down. A study in Fashion Theory Journal found that 85% of women keep things in their closets that don't fit. Take some lessons from the KonMari Decluttering Method, and get rid of old items that you haven't worn in years.

27. Just breathe

Are you catching on to a theme? In case you aren't convinced, here is some scientific information on why your brain needs more downtime.

28. Paint or color

Jump in with your little, or get your own coloring book — coloring is trendy and it's great for you! Plus, it's a great time to bond with your child. Feeling childish? Find out why coloring is so great for your mental health.

29. Drink water

60% to 70% of your total body weight is made up of water, so it's not hard to understand why this is good for your health. Pregnant? Are you breastfeeding? Now your water consumption has an impact on your little one too. Drinking water can also help with your skin, fight fatigue, protect your muscles, help with achy joints, and more!

30. Hire a sitter and do whatever you want

I'm not going to elaborate on this one, you know "me" time is good for you. Schedule time just for you to do whatever you want, and don't get caught running for groceries or catching up on housework. If you're feeling lost, take this time to do a few items on this list!

31. Re-Prioritize

Motherhood mode can take over and make you feel in a constant spin to keep up. Slow down, trust yourself, and take time to align your highest priorities and your to-do list. Take time to consider what must be done, what should be done, and what can wait...and focus on the things that matter most!

32. Ask for help

You've seen it, you may even be one—moms don't ask for help. But asking for help doesn't make you anything less than a superhero. And, the truth is, we generally are least likely to ask for help when we need it the most.

33. Plant flowers

Gardening can reduce stress, clear your mind, and help you sleep better. Add in the benefits of getting extra vitamin D from above, and you have a great cocktail for a happy mommy.

34. Go to bed early

Moms are notorious for not getting enough sleep. This can have an incredibly negative impact on your health and well-being. Can't get to bed on time? Here are a few additional tips on how to combat new mom sleep deprivation.

35. Create a quiet space and go there

In today's constantly connected world, finding time along has become a lost art. But, creating some time for solitude can have major benefits for your health.

36. Take a long shower or bath

More time for yourself is good for all of the reasons above. Put the kids to bed and take a minute (or twenty) to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate for the day ahead. Solitude can change your brain in amazing ways.

37. Shop for yourself (no kid clothes allowed)

When is the last time you actually did this? And no, I don't mean a last minute ad- on to the Amazon Prime diaper order you placed last week. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be for you.

38. Get a beauty treatment

As moms we take care of everyone else before ourselves. Sometimes that means forgetting to shave, or letting your eyebrows grow uncontrollably across your face. So get a wax treatment (if that's your thing), book a quick facial or get your hair done. Your children think you are beautiful no matter what, but sometimes the littlest things can make us feel beautiful again.

39. Listen to an energizing podcast

Podcasts are a great way to stay connected, learn something new, or just be entertained. Listen during the mundane tasks of your day. Here are a few ideas for parenting podcasts to get you started. Or, want to build on your self-care practice, here are a few podcasts on becoming your best self.

40. Visit your favorite museum

Museums are a great way to learn something new, get inspired, and to share something you love with your children. Stimulate your own mental juices, and be an awesome mom at the same time by hitting a local museum on a rainy afternoon.

41. Take a community education class

Take time to nurture your mind by learning a new skill or taking on a hobby. Often moms feel guilty for taking time out of the day to do something on their own, but stepping out of toddler talk to time with adults can keep us sane. We promise, it's not selfish to take care of yourself!

42. Sing

In the shower, in the car, on a kid-made stage in your living room—singing has a ton of benefits like reducing stress and releasing muscle tension. It's a fun and energizing way to improve your well-being. Add in a little air guitar and your kids will think you are awesome.

43. Have coffee with a good friend

It's easy to feel isolated in this incredible journey of motherhood. Your friendships are so essential to your spirit during this time in life when you will be stretched to your limits. Take time to nurture your friendships by getting together with a good friend sans kids, and focus on your friendships that will get you through this crazy life!

44. Acknowledge and release your stress

Another short meditation practice that you can do anywhere, any time, and even in the heat of the moment. It will help you be a more present person, and a more mindful parent. See crazy coming? Stop, identify, and release! Find more tips on reducing stress in just two minutes a day.

45. Revel in the absolute joy of being a parent

Kiss your babies, smell their heads, dance with them to crazy music Because it's the most amazing, important, impactful thing you will ever do, and you are awesome at it!

My message to you, new parents and pros... make time. You are important. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! Do little things every day that take care of you. Maybe just start by doing one a day, maybe you do as many as you can. It's called practice for a reason and it doesn't have to be perfect. Start today, and make yourself a priority now and every day after.


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So far 2020 has been a year of big changes for Meghan Markle and her husband, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Earlier this month the royal couple announced plans step back and senior members of the royal family. Initially, the plan was for the couples to retain their royal tiles and raise their "son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born" while also give themselves the space to work and live in North America.

But sometimes, young parents have to make tough choices to do what's best for their new family and that can mean making changes that impact your family of origin.

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This weekend the Queen announced that her family has found a way for Harry and Meghan to move forward, and it means they're not only not senior royals anymore, they do not have HRH titles (His Royal Highness or Her Royal Highness) anymore and "are no longer working members of the Royal Family."

The statement from the Queen reads, in part: "Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family.

"I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.

"I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.

"It is my whole family's hope that today's agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life."

The Queen's statement explains that Harry and Meghan have "shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home."

Basically, they're serious about being financially independent and they're going to pay rent on the cottage.

Untangling family issues can be hard, and it is hard for anyone to imagine what it must be like to live this out on the world's stage. In her statement, the Queen said she understands the role the intense press scrutiny has played in the couple's decision to forge a new path, and that they will always be her family.

Whether you're leaving the royal family to move to Canada, or just trying to explain to your parents that your own family needs to move to another state, this stuff is hard.

Here's to a new chapter in 2020, for Harry and Meghan and all the other new parents who are writing their own stories.

News

Motherhood is a juggling act. Whether you have one child or many, work outside the home or don't, have a partner or are doing this whole thing solo, you are always juggling something. So how on earth do we keep up the act? How do we ensure no ball gets dropped?

We don't.

All of us, every single one, lets something slip through our fingers on some occasion or another. And that's totally okay.

A friend from college recently commented on Instagram how peaceful and sweet my children seemed. I laughed out loud, and not an endearing chuckle, a wholehearted cackle. What a glorious and erroneous idea that my children are peaceful and sweet. I have three of these beautiful monsters, ages 12, 5 and 4 months. Our house sounds more like a child run circus than a zen meditation retreat.

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It is true that my children are sweet at times. And I will admit I try very hard to create a peaceful life and home, but those are not the two words I would ever use to describe our family. I might choose words like rambunctious, spirited, passionate and intense.

What I realized as I simultaneously smiled and snorted in laughter, was that I put a lot of work into creating a life on social media that looks just like that. Peaceful and sweet. I choose my words carefully, I edit my photos and of course choose only the best ones, the ones where everyone is smiling and we appear to love each other. The pictures of my children pulling each other's hair, stealing snacks and shouting that they hate each other don't get quite as many likes.

Don't get me wrong—my children often smile and we do love each other very much. But by carefully curating the life I post on social media I have unintentionally created something laughable. What a jolt to realize the very thing I'm striving for makes me laugh out loud when someone names it. Is there anything more inauthentic than that?

I am working to strive for authenticity and perfect imperfection.

I make mistakes, hurt those I love, burn dinner and that is what makes me human.

I drop the ball every single day in some large or small way—and that's okay. It is to be expected really.

It's what can give us the gift of connection. We can connect with one another via our faults and our vulnerabilities. We starve ourselves of this by pretending to be perfect.

As I write this I'm sitting in the front seat of my car in the parking lot of our local skate park, my youngest is napping in his car seat, my oldest is wearing a helmet and pads and is driving his new BMX bike as fast as he can up and down hills and ramps set at odd angles with weird curves among them.

This moment feels ideal t. The breeze blows through my open windows as my oldest is getting a great workout and my youngest slowly wakes up cooing.

We can only enjoy the moment if we are present within it. When I live my life constantly in a state of distraction, constantly keeping my eyes on all the balls I'm juggling, I'm not enjoying any of it.

I am not a master juggler at this moment in life. I don't think what I'm doing even looks like juggling. I do not have my eyes on all the balls, I am not even attempting to catch or toss them all in that perfect arc that looks so magical.

I prefer to relish these kinds of moments, soak up their joy, their peace, their sweetness and to do that I have to let go of the charade, I have to accept imperfection in the form of letting some balls drop.

I want to live a life full of authenticity and joy in the simple moments.

I want to live without the pressure of doing it all.

I want to give myself the gift of not doing everything the way it should be done by the imagined deadlines that cannot be met.

I want to enjoy my rambunctious, passionate children.

So I let the ball drop—and I'm okay with that.

Life

Feeding your new baby can be a beautiful experience, but it can also be really hard. We at Motherly have talked about it. Amy Schumer has talked about it. And now Kate Upton is talking about it, too.

Upton and her husband Justin Verlander became parents when their daughter Genevieve was born in November 2018, and in a new interview with Editorialist, Upton explains that while she loves motherhood she didn't always love breastfeeding.

"Having VeVe has changed my life in such a wonderful way," she explains, adding that in the early days of motherhood she felt "so much pressure"..."to be doing all these things, like breastfeeding on the go—when the reality, for me, was that breastfeeding was sucking the energy away from me. I realized I needed to calm down, to allow my body to recover."

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Breastfeeding can take up a lot of a mama's time and energy in those early weeks and months, and while Upton doesn't explicitly say whether she switched to formula, combo fed, pumped or what, it's clear that she did give herself some grace when it came to breastfeeding and found the right parenting pace by taking the pressure off of herself.

Upton took the pressure off herself when it came to her demanding breastfeeding schedule, and she's also resisting the pressure to keep up with a social media posting schedule.

"I want to be enjoying my life, enjoying my family, not constantly trying to take the perfect picture," she says. "I think my husband wants me to throw my phone away. We talk about it in the house all the time: 'Let's have a phone-free dinner.' We don't want [our daughter] thinking being on the phone is all that life is."

Whether the pressure to be perfect is coming from your phone or from society's conflicting exceptions of mothers it's a force worth rejecting. Upton is loving life at her own pace, imperfect as reallife can be.

News

After the treat-filled sugar rush of holidays and birthdays, it can be hard to get back on track with eating healthy as a family. (What can I say, I love cake—and my kids do, too.) It's totally okay to hold your boundary for sugar in your kid's diet, no matter what that boundary is. And you can do it without being the bad guy.

Putting a positive spin on "the sugar issue" (letting kids know that they can have treats sometimes, but not all. the. time.) will help prevent sugar becoming an ongoing power struggle, which nobody wants.

Here are a few phrases that can help your kids eat less sugar, without creating a power struggle over treats:

1. "Holiday and birthday treats are so fun, but they're not for every day."

Acknowledge that all of the extra treats were fun (they were!). You can talk about how some foods are for special occasions and others are the ones we eat every day to have strong bodies and feel good.

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2. "I feel so much better when I eat lots of fruits and vegetables."

Instead of putting the emphasis on why sugar is bad, try focusing on all the good reasons to eat healthy foods. You can talk about how eating carrots gives us strong eyes, eating oranges keeps us from getting sniffles, or eating kale helps us feel good and have lots of energy for playing.

3. "Which fruit would you like to have with your lunch?"

Keep it fun by letting your child choose which healthy foods to eat. Two or three choices are fine. You can let them help pick at the grocery store or let them pick from the options you've selected—the important thing is to offer choice.

4. "Let's see if we can make a rainbow on your plate!"

Who doesn't love rainbows, especially among the under-six crowd? Use their universal appeal to your advantage and encourage kiddos to make their own edible rainbows.

Make it extra fun by writing a checklist with colored pencils, one checkbox for every rainbow color, and bringing it with you to the grocery store. Let your child choose one item from the produce section for every color.

5. "You can choose one treat with dinner, but candy isn't a choice for snack today."

Make sure kids know that they will still be able to enjoy treats sometimes. Instead of saying "candy makes you crazy," or "sugar rots your teeth," just let them know when you're okay with them having a treat. It may be every night after dinner, only on Friday nights, or it may not be until Valentine's Day, but having a clear boundary will help reduce the constant pleas for sweet treats.

6. "I think treats feel more special when we don't have them every day."

Talk to your child about how part of the fun of holiday treats is that they're out of the ordinary. They are special traditions we get to enjoy each year and they help make the holidays feel magical. Just as it wouldn't be as fun if we had a Christmas tree up all year or wore a Halloween costume every day, treats aren't as fun if we eat them nonstop.

7. "I hear that you really want candy. I can't let you have it right now, but it's okay to be disappointed."

Let your child know that you empathize with their feelings about not being able to eat what they want all of the time.

Sometimes children just need to be heard. It might be more important to them to know that you understand their feelings about treats than to actually get a treat.

8. "Let's think of a healthy treat we could get at the grocery store next week."

Brainstorm with your child and come up with a list of healthy treats you could bring home from your next grocery shopping trip. This might be a kind of fruit they haven't had in a while, a granola bar you don't usually buy, or the makings of a fun trail mix.

Part of the fun of treats is the ritual—you can still enjoy the sweetness without the extra sugar.

9. "Would you like to bake with me?"

Carry those fond memories of making Christmas cookies together into the new year to help wean kids off the holiday high of constant treats. Just find something you're okay with your child eating regularly, like a healthy muffin recipe, baked oatmeal, or energy bites—whatever meets your own nutritional guidelines for your family!

10. "I noticed you didn't sleep well when you ate those treats before nap time. Let's think of a better time for treats together."

You can explain the effects of sugar on the body without vilifying it. Sometimes just saying sugar is bad makes it all the more desirable or pits you against your child. But that doesn't mean you can't give them the facts. Just tell them plainly that sugar makes it harder for them to sleep well, makes it harder for them to concentrate, or whatever other effects you've seen.

Here's to a healthy 2020—you've got this, mama!

Learn + Play
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