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When self-care is just one more thing on your to-do list

The world sees self-care, but I see another thing for my to-do list. Another thing I’m failing at. Another thing I feel guilty over.

When self-care is just one more thing on your to-do list

I know what it’s like.

You’re tired—right to your bones.


The kind of tired you don’t think even a week of slumber on a desert island would cure.

You’re a bit fuzzy about the pile of paperwork that’s mounting on the corner of the kitchen table, but you know you’ve paid the electricity bill so everything else can wait.

You arrived at the school drop-off this morning perfectly on time with children fed, dressed, lunches in backpacks and ready for the day, but realized as you waved to another parent that you hadn’t looked in the mirror before you left home (or for several days, actually), and there’s every likelihood you have toast in your teeth and spit-up in your hair, and you’re definitely wearing the same workout clothes you had on yesterday—because you had every intention of working out but the day got in the way.

You feel 10 years older than you are because your greys are showing and the thought of sitting for hours in a salon with a toddler wriggling on your lap or emptying the trolley of clips and curlers is putting you off making an appointment.

You forget to eat lunch and then are so hungry you inhale the kids’ leftover fish fingers, and hate yourself when your jeans dig uncomfortably into what used to be your waistline.

I’m a mama too, so I know what all these things feel like. I know they’re so much a part of your day you don’t even think about them.

I know that 10 years ago this wasn’t the way you pictured yourself, and I also know that—right now—you’re just too tired to care.

Self-care. Did you know there’s an Instagram hashtag for #selfcare? Of course there is; there’s a hashtag for everything. But when I scroll through the perfect little square pictures of colorful, nutritious-looking salads and selfies from the nail salon or the yoga retreat, I do not see my life.

I see another thing for my to-do list. Another thing I’m failing at. Another thing I feel guilty for letting go of when I got on this crazy train called motherhood.

Do I really need to find time for myself in each day? How? In between everything else I have on my plate? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

The truth is that “self-care” means different things to different people, but it also means different things in different seasons of life.

I know I can’t give from a cup that’s empty.

I know I need to fit my own metaphorical oxygen mask before I assist others with theirs.

I know taking care of myself is vital if I’m going to be able to do my job as a mother.

I know that self-care and selfish are not the same thing. But putting it into practice is another matter.

The notion of self-care can be overwhelming and unnatural. Motherhood changed me forever, and now my version of self-care is different from what it was B.C. (before children). It’s a case of finding out what my altered self needs, and looking for ways to give it to her.

So I’m learning to give myself grace in the seasons.

In the heady, newborn days where time disappeared into a vortex and the days blurred into the nights, self-care meant survival. It meant giving love every hour of every day, and sleeping whenever the opportunity presented itself.

In the toddler years self-care was about asking for help—just for an hour at a time—so I could take a rest from the hyper-vigilance required to keep my daughters alive when there were plug sockets and flights of stairs to thwart my efforts.

And as my children get a tiny bit older, self-care is about finding certain things I want to prioritize over others. The weekly manicures of my twenties no longer seem like a necessity, but being fit and strong enough to keep up with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old does.

Nights out on the town with girlfriends can now be a quarterly event (we see each other in the playground most days anyway), but a quiet dinner alone with my husband to catch up with each other and align our frequencies is something much more pressing.

I like to run, so now I get up an hour earlier each morning to go and do that thing which brings me pleasure. I steal an extra hour and it makes me feel better about myself all day long —and that must be a good barometer for self-care.

I’ve discovered a great hair spray that temporarily covers greys so I don’t have to spend valuable hours in the salon to avoid feeling older than I am. I’ve found two reliable babysitters who my children adore, so I can plan date nights with my husband and accept weekend dinner party invitations without guilt.

I wash my face and apply moisturizer every night before I crawl gratefully towards my pillow. I write a gratitude journal and read a book for five minutes at night before I close my eyes. These are small things I can do, things I don’t feel intimidated by. Things I believe make me better at my day job—being mom.

But mostly, I accept that self-care means something very different to me in this season, and I choose to find the things that make me happy in the moments I share with my girls.

We dance. In the kitchen. A lot. We laugh. We read books. I listen to the things they want to tell me and I let them teach me to play again. They give me energy as well as take it, and in their company I feel replenished.

I’ve given myself the grace to stop expecting things of myself that I don’t have the bandwidth to give in this season.

And I know that one day, my girls will be grown, and then I’ll have far more time than I could ever want to focus on myself again.

In This Article

    An expectant mama's to-do list can feel endless… but here's the good news: A lot of those tasks are actually really exciting. Planning your baby registry is especially thrilling: You get a say in what gifts friends and family members will buy for your new addition!

    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

    Here are 10 items we agree deserve a spot in the "need" category on your registry, mama.


    A crib to grow with your baby

    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.

    $269.99

    A safe + convenient car seat

    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

    The list of non-negotiable baby essentials is pretty short, but it definitely includes a car seat. In fact, most hospitals will not allow you to leave after delivery until a car seat check is performed. We recommend an infant seat, which can easily snap into a base in your car.

    $99.99

    A traveling nursery station

    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.

    $99.99

    A swing for some backup help

    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.

    $219.99

    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.

    $99.99

    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.

    $64.99

    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.

    $29.99

    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.

    $165.99

    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.

    $39.99

    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.

    $39.99

    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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


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