Making time to take care of yourself: 8 everyday self-care tips for busy parents

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Many parents have children experiencing anxiety, and they feel they don’t have a moment to take care of their own needs.


If this is how you feel, try one of these 8 tips to start taking care of yourself again.

1. Change how you prioritize your list

There’s a reason why this is first on our list. Where do the things that are solely for you rank on your to-do list? You’ve probably got one a mile long, and if there’s something on that list that’s ‘just for you’ then it’s time to re-prioritize. Self-care isn’t just for taking care of yourself in the bits and pieces of the day that are left over. It’s something that needs to come first so that you’re able to put your best self forward throughout the rest of your day.

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Have you been meaning to get a massage but just haven’t found the time? No, a massage won’t take out the trash, get dinner on the table or help get the homework done. But you’ll be doing those things, and getting to have that massage helps you, so in a very real sense, it does help with all of the things you need to do, and those types of things need to go on the top of your list.

2. Celebrate the mistakes that are part of success

You already know that nobody is perfect and life will throw curve balls. But when you’re running late and there’s a flat tire and you’re just not going to make that important doctor’s appointment no matter what you do—you have a choice. Neither cursing nor trying to hold it together by sheer willpower is going to transport you to where you need to be.

Instead, take a moment to accept where you are and appreciate that you will get through this moment—that in the scheme of things, even though it was an important appointment, you’ll figure it out later after you figure out the moment at hand. You’ll be building coping techniques that can serve as a model for your child. Sometimes the bad thing happens, and when it does, it’s never the end of the world. And that’s a beautiful thing.

3. Instead of perfection, make balance your goal

There are a lot of resources out there and there are so many activities and projects that would be great for you and your family. But if you try to over commit, the benefits are going to be lost. Even if all of the choices for treatments and activities are great ones, sometimes less is more. It’s important to be discerning and choose which things are most important to you and your family and pursue those while letting the other ones go.

4. Laugh

Yes, just laugh. Are you thinking easier said than done? You probably know what’s most likely to make you chuckle. Whether it’s old stand up routines of Eddie Murphy, videos of cats and dogs on the internet or lists of text messages gone awry, carve out some time throughout your week to spend time with what you find funny. And enjoy it!

5. Combine exercise with what brings you joy

Yes, every list will tell you exercise is a vital part of self-care. And there truly is nothing that has such an immediate positive impact on mood, with the added side effect of providing integral health benefits. But exercise won’t do you any good if you don’t actually do it, and unlike watching your favorite video, it’s not just about finding the time, it’s also about finding the motivation.

Find a way to combine things that truly bring you joy with your exercise routine. Maybe there’s a workout outfit that you know you’d love to put on every day, but feels like a splurge. If it gets you moving, it’s worth a lot more. Or perhaps there’s a class across town that you’ve been wanting to take, but it’s hard to justify when you’ve got a perfectly good treadmill in the basement. Make it work. It will mean a healthier, happier you, which also means a healthier, happier family.

6. Make space for your own ‘bad’ emotions.

When you’re raising a child who has anxiety, it can oftentimes feel like you’re not allowed to have those kinds of emotions, and are certainly not supposed to express them. But just as you give your child the space to express her own emotions without letting them overpower her, it’s important to give yourself the same treatment, and allow yourself to feel anxious, sad and angry. You do need to have the coping skills in place to make choices that are not ruled by those emotions, but not letting yourself acknowledge that you feel these natural things is just going to lead to a build up. Treat yourself with same loving kindness with which you treat your child.

7. Have a space that is yours alone

For different families, this will mean different things. You may not have the option to have an entire room that is solely yours all the time, but it is important that you have space in your own home that is fully your own, and that you let your family know that sometimes you need privacy in that space to do whatever you want, whether it be read a book, think quietly or watch those funny cat videos.

8. Help is on the way

It can be hard to ask for help and it’s true—there are plenty of fair weather friends out there who won’t necessarily come through when you’re in a jam. But asking for help is a skill and as you practice it you will learn that there are plenty of friends, family and community members who are only too happy to help if they just knew what to do.

These people are your support network, waiting to be built, and when you do ask for help, not only will it feel more comfortable, but it will be easier because you’ll already know the people you can count on and trust.

When you make self-care a central part of your life you’ll find that the kindness you show to yourself infuses your own life and the life of your family with positivity. It will provide a model for your child and make a path to reach your goals and those of your family so much smoother.


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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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If you've scrolled through Instagram anytime in the last year, you're probably familiar with the famous Amazon coat. You know the one that doesn't really have a shape, but is essentially the love child of a parka and a puffer—made to help you look effortlessly chic but oh-so-warm in the grueling cold.

It's technically made by Orolay, but the internet went crazy when influencers kept sharing pics in the down ensemble last year because the price point is so good. And the reviews racked up on Amazon—it's even a favorite of Oprah. Editors on our team truly love the coat and swear that it keeps them cozy, even through Northeastern winters.

Well, we've got great news: It comes in a kids version, mama.

Orolay children hooded down coat

kids amazon coat

The Orolay Children Hooded Down Coat is practically the exact same coat, but in a cuter, mini version. Coming in three colors, (black, green and red) it has the same fleece-lined hood that littles will love to wear and a loose style so they can wear as many layers as needed underneath. Plus, it has plenty of zippers to adjust the fit and keep items dry.

Other features we love? It's windproof, water-resistant and machine-washable (just be sure to remove to faux fur before tossing in the wash).

The sizing and shape of it is ideal for kids since they grow out of clothing so quickly. Right now, the sizes range from 6-12 years old but the roomy fit could fit littles of all sizes. It's been marked down (and will likely be on Black Friday, too) so a few sizes are already selling out.

Now the question is...what color should we get?

$129.99

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While we get our kids ready for bed, my son climbs onto his top bunk. He doesn't sleep there yet but loves the somewhat "off-limits" idea of it. My daughter looks up at her brother and immediately points to him and says, "Up!" My husband gently lifts her onto the bunk and she starts running from one end of the mattress to the other.

My stomach starts doing flip-flops as I envision her falling headfirst onto the floor. "Sweetie, no running. Crawl."

She looks down at us, "Huh?" as she tilts her head to the side, using both hands to brush the hair from her face.

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My son looks down at his dad with a big smile and says, "You come up here, too?" My husband agrees and starts to climb the ladder.

I stand down on the floor, arms crossed, secretly counting the minutes until the kids are asleep and I can get back to my book. But eventually, I give in to their cries for me to "come up here!"

Truthfully, my heart swelled knowing they want me to join them. All too often I choose to sit on the sidelines, letting these moments pass by, worn out by the demands of motherhood and mentally clocking out before they are asleep.

My husband and I sit on either end of the bunk to act as a buffer to the floor. We quietly watch them run back and forth, their eyes and smiles showing they are clearly in delight of this forbidden activity.

"They're only two and four once," my husband says as he reaches out for my hand. I nod my head and smile, my fingers entwining with his across the bed.

Earlier that day, our son asked to see the framed photo on my dresser, one I have seen hundreds of times, but never tire of looking at. It's me, pregnant with him, our first child. I reached out to pick up the frame and lowered it to his eye level. I knelt down in front of him and my voice dropped to a whisper, "That was when I was pregnant with you."

My hand instinctively fell to my now empty womb. "You were in my belly in this picture."

He looked at me with slight confusion, but I also noticed a bit of a sparkle in his eyes, "Me? Where's my sister?"

He grabbed the frame and pointed to his dad, "Was she in Dad's belly?" I smiled and tousled his hair, which has long lost its newborn scent.

"No, you were in my belly before she was. This was before she was born."

Those final weeks of pregnancy felt more like months. My son is 4 years old now and I realize just how fleeting that time was. It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that neither of my babies are actually babies anymore. My pregnancy with him was years ago. I am grateful I have this photo when he was only mine to hold; my body growing his.

It feels like I am so quick to want to move onto the next thing. I wanted my pregnancies to be over so I could meet my babies. I want them to be a little older because I think (hope) it will be a little easier. I rush through bedtime to get a few minutes to myself. Parenthood is a constant push and pull of emotions, and at times it can feel nearly impossible to enjoy the here and now.

Back in the bedroom, the kids stop running and start jumping up and down, their feet tucked in their footie pajamas. I watch our daughter jump up and down, her hair floating into her eyes—her smile from ear to ear. Our son is laughing, loving that we are all on his bed.

Have you ever had a moment where it feels like time has actually stopped? You aren't looking at the clock. You are truly looking at your children and soaking them all in. We will never be able to come back to this moment. This age. This night.

After the kids are tucked into bed, I walk down the hall toward the living room. I glance at the clock, realizing it is almost an hour past their bedtime. But the kids went to bed with smiles on their faces.

As I pick up my book, I think back to the photo of me pregnant with our son, and remember how surprised I was when the doctor announced, "It's a boy!"

At four, he has nearly outgrown his chubby cheeks. I know I'll miss picking him up from preschool, where he always greets me with a "Moooommmm!" as he slams his whole body into my legs. I dread the day when our daughter stops using both her hands to cup my face as she plants a wet kiss on my lips. I know someday I won't be her favorite person in the whole world, and she might not say every day, "Mom, you're my best friend."

Some day when we take the bunk bed down, I imagine I'll look up at the top bunk and remember when they were only two and four.

But for now, when most evenings bedtime feels like a finish line I can't wait to cross, I hope to remember how I felt when I joined them on the bunk bed. How those extra minutes in their world made me feel. I'm reminded that the time from when they were in my belly to jumping on the bunk bed went by in a flash. I want to embrace the here and now—knowing tomorrow they will wake up one day older and one step further from needing me.

Life

The older kids get, the harder it can be to find them holiday gifts that make their eyes sparkle. But fear not. While they may have us bested when it comes to celebrity YouTube star knowledge, you have an advantage: #TeamMotherly. Our editors have combed through the internet looking for THE BEST recommendations for toys and gifts, which ensures you get to hang on to #coolmom status.

Here are the best gifts for the older cool kids in your life.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 instant camera

fujiilm_instax

With the nostalgia of the Instant camera's from our childhoods and the modern updates like a selfie mirror, the FujiFilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera is sure to be a hit with your big kid (that you'll have fun playing with too).

$49.85

Umbra Hangit photo display

umbra_hangit_display

The perfect gift to pair with the camera. Give them a place to (neatly) display all of the photos they take and add instant fun to any space.

$18.03

Love Bubby tee-shirt

love_bubby

I'm only a little jealous that I got this for my daughter and not myself. The Love Bubby shirts are super high-quality, unique, and I love that they encourage my daughter to stand up for what she believes in.

$28

GoldieBlox scratch art projector

goldiblox_joann

The STEM pioneers at GoldiBlox have created the ultimate kits for your artistic scientist. Motherly's co-founder and CEO Jill Koziol got to try one out with her kiddos. The verdict? "Super fun, easy, with a great mix of science and crafts with fun." There are lots of kits to choose from, though we are particularly excited about the GoldieBlox Scratch Art Projector.

$24.99

Ravensburger Gravitrax starter set marble run + STEM toy

gravitrax

Speaking of STEM, this interactive track system that allows your curious and inventive kid to design and build their own race tracks. They'll learn about gravity, magnetism and kinetics, and have a blast doing it.

$59.95

Tea Collection dress

tea collection dress

If your child loves to twirl around or needs a more dressy outfit in their wardrobe, we adore the dresses at Tea Collection. They're high-quality, machine-washable and the brand gives back 10% of profits to The Global Fund for Children—win-win.

$49.50

Amazing Origami

amazing_origami

Amazing Origami: Traditional Japanese Folding Papers and Projects comes with everything your artist needs to get started on the ancient tradition of origami, no matter what their previous experience is. They'll get instructions and project guides, and tons of gorgeous paper so they can start folding immediately.

$16.86

Watercolor United States of America scratch off map

scratch_off_map

Are you a road-tripping family? Let your child keep track of all the adventures with this map. Can you get all 50?

$19.99

LEGO Friends Heartlake City Amusement Pier

amusement_pier_lego

The LEGO Friends Heartlake City Amusement Pier is one of 2019's hottest toys, and we can see why. Your child will spend hours constructing its ghost ship, swing carousel, ticket kiosk and snack stall, and then many more playing with the final product.

$129.95

African elephant adoption kit

elephant_adoption_kit

Inspire your little change-maker by gifting them an African Elephant Adoption Kit. They'll get a Soft plush animal, formal adoption certificate, full-color photo of the species, fascinating information about the animal, and best of all, the knowledge that they've contributed to a cause they can be proud of.

$55

Monopoly 'Stranger Things' edition

stranger_things_monopoly

If Stranger Things has taken over your home, this will be a huge hit (and is another gift that you'll enjoy playing with, too).

$19.99

L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Crystal Star fashion doll

omg_doll

L.O.L dolls have a new cool big sister. The one is fun, pretty and trending hard, so grab one before they fly off the shelves!

$49.88

Little Free Library kit

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We've been seeing these popping up all over our town, and we could not be more on board. The Little Free Library Kit is a DIY book-sharing movement that allows your child to construct a book-hut, and then share and receive free books from friends and neighbors. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

$329

Darice 120-Piece deluxe art set

art_set

The set is huge and has everything you little artist needs to create masterpieces all day long: markers, crayons, color pencils, oil pastels, watercolor paints, and so much more.

$10.85

Lynx faux fur bean bag chair

bean_bag_chair

As stylish as it is comfortable, you'll love that its cover is machine-washable, and they'll love sitting in it reading for hours.

$268

Rebel gift box

If you haven't yet experienced the Rebel Girls Books, you are both in for a real treat. It shares 200 stories of marvelous women that are sure to leave everyone who reads them inspired and hopeful.

$65

The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

atlas_obscura

Give the gift of adventure, in book form! The atlas transports the reader to 100 of the most surprising, mysterious and weird-but-true places on earth with tons of facts and stunning images.

$13.27

Pick-A-Pom ribbed beanie

Leave it to Anthropologie to make your kid want to wear a winter hat. With interchangeable pom-poms that snap on to the top, your child can design something totally unique (that will keep them warm and toasty).

$38

Blank comic book

comic_book

Let their creativity blossom with the Blank Comic Book. It contains 100 plank pages ready to be filled with the hilarious and daring adventures of your child's next comic.

$5.99

JIMU Robot competitive Series: Champbot kit

champbot

Motherly CEO and Co-founder, Jill Koziol, tried this out with her daughter, and loved it! "The directions were interactive and helped her to problem solve. It was a great family activity and she was so proud of what she had built; and she loved operating the robot once it had charged. I love that there are different parts to it so there are wins along the way but also a requirement to keep with it, supporting a growth mindset and building resilience.

"This is fabulous for any budding engineers and especially Lego lovers that are ready to take it to the next level!"

$129.99

Heelys

Anyone who was a kid in the early 2000s just had to have Heelys, and guess what? They're back, mama. The roller skate and shoe in one is such a fun present for any kiddo who loves to zoom around to wherever they're going. But parents will love that they're a super high quality sneaker that will hold up to everything your kids put them through. We like this classic gray style, but they come in all sorts of colorways including these pink hi-tops and these Spiderman kicks.

$65


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I have the world's best mom. She's everything you could want in a mother: selfless, loving, gentle, humble, smart, kind, creative, patient, open-minded...The list goes on. When I reflect on my childhood, the memories are enveloped in feelings of security, bliss and contentment.

One of the stories I most loved hearing was how my mom was never a "kid person." She always knew she wanted them, but she waited until she was 30 years old to get pregnant and before that never felt a huge pull toward it.

Having my brother, sister and me changed her life, she said. We became her new reason for living. I loved imagining my mom undergoing this transformation. I loved knowing that she was one person before and, after us, completely changed. I felt like the most special person in the world, so very loved.

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Throughout my childhood and into my young adult years, I identified with my mom's pre-parenthood feelings on kids. I knew without question that I wanted them, but I certainly didn't classify myself as a kid person. I hated babysitting (though if any of the kids I babysat for are reading this, I loved you). I didn't go all gaga over little babies. Spending any more than 15 minutes with kids utterly exhausted me and I couldn't wait to escape. In my mid-20s, my now-husband and I talked about how we wanted kids one day but that it could definitely wait. Our life was great, and I was in no rush to change it.

Fast forward a few years, and I was pregnant with our daughter. I spent all 9 months daydreaming of our future as a family of three. I looked forward to the magical transformation that I would undergo the minute my daughter entered the world. I imagined every detail of new motherhood, from the snuggles in front of the Christmas tree to the surely devastating moment I'd leave her at daycare and return to work. I was so ready for the next chapter.

But when my daughter was born, that transformation never happened. And it hasn't happened in the 10 months since.

I love my daughter more than anything in the world and feel lucky beyond belief to have her, but that's where the similarities with my mom's experience of motherhood end. I've found being a new mom mostly terrifying. The days are challenging, the constant worry draining and the sleepless nights downright miserable.

When I headed back to work after three months, I felt mostly relief that she was in hands I deemed far more capable than my own. I've often felt like a fraud, spending more time than I care to admit missing my old self and wondering if I'll ever get her back. Every month my daughter gets older, I feel joy that we've made it this far, rather than sadness at how fast she's growing. These months are hard, and I look hopefully to the future.

I know many women like my own mom who are crushing it at this motherhood thing. They've flourished in their role, savoring the little moments and managing to juggle everything with what looks like complete ease. Though I suspect the truth isn't quite that straight-forward, I envy them regardless and spend a lot of time wishing I could be half the mother they are.

No, this is not how I pictured motherhood. Slowly but surely, though, I'm discovering who I am as a mom and learning to embrace her because she's the only mom I can be. I may not be the natural I expected to be, but I always come back to this: No one could love my daughter as much as I do. I'm not the best mom in the world, but I'm the best mom in the world for her.

I hope one day when I tell my daughter about my life before and after her birth, she'll see only how my heart grew exponentially with love. That she'll feel like the most special person in the world, so very loved. In the meantime, I'll continue trying to learn from the best.

Life
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