Self Care Activities for the Mom Ready to Live Her Best Life
“I can’t be everything to everyone else if I am nothing to myself” - Alex Elle
If you need a form of self-care that goes beyond bubble baths and manicures, then keep reading - this blog is for you.
The reality is that self-care, in its truest form, should be life-giving and help you live your best life, even in a season where you constantly give of yourself to raising little ones.
Self-care isn’t supposed to be a temporary indulgence but a life-giving practice that helps you build a life you don’t have to regularly escape from. It’s a much bigger picture than the watered-down versions we’re used to hearing about.
No matter what your journey has looked like through motherhood, mothers shared a lived experience of losing a sense of self and belonging. Our culture expects it, painting a picture of moms as the afterthought, the neglected person in the family, in society. As a society, we have abandoned our mothers and contribute to the burn-out culture that so many women experience.
But what if we have it all backwards? What if the reason motherhood feels like survival is because we’ve put ourselves last on the to-do lists?
When we become a mother, nobody tells us that it will become our jobs to also mother and parent ourselves because the focus has shifted to what we need to be doing for our family. We are transformed as mothers the minute we are expected to set our own needs aside for the well-being of a child, and this can make us incredibly vulnerable as we grapple with the void of caring for our own needs. We have to shift this mentality to reclaim our joy in motherhood and to fully be the women and mothers we want to be.
As mothers who are often regularly experiencing transitions and life stressors, we need to prioritize self-care even more-so in order to be present for our loved ones and able to thrive rather than just trying to survive, one day to the next.
The reality is that mothers today are faced with multiple factors that create the perfect storm for burnout, exhaustion, and overwhelm.
The struggle is real, mama, and if you’re dealing with this, know that you’re not alone.
Research has found that parental burnout may potentially affect up to 14% of parents and can be characterized by 3 main aspects, including:
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Emotional distancing from one’s children
A sense of incompetency in one’s parenting role.
In today’s society, it’s not uncommon for moms to be juggling multiple responsibilities in addition to being the primary caretaker of their children. Mom’s are also faced with the information overload in our digital age, along with an arbitrary standard of being the “perfect mom”.
It’s no wonder mom’s today are feeling exhausted and burnt out. These experiences often perpetuate feelings of guilt, shame, and self-hate, which can make it even more difficult to treat yourself kindly or respectfully.
This starts with redefining what self-care means for YOU and being able intentionally prioritize regular routines that nurture you - physically, emotionally, intellectually, and in your relationships and community.
Redefining What Self-Care Means
When you think of “self-care”, what comes to mind? Self-care has become a trendy topic today. But what is self-care really? The practice of self-care has been reduced to bath bombs, manicures, and binge-watching Netflix, but in reality it should be about creating a life that we don’t need to regularly escape from.
What does this mean?
True self-care isn’t intended to be a quick fix or escape from life but a way to care for and parent ourselves, regardless of where we are in our journey. This often involves doing things that aren’t always easy or that don’t come naturally.
Why might this be so difficult to do?
There are many reasons that make it challenging to regularly engage in life-giving practices.
Many of the issues that make it difficult for moms to care for themselves stem from cultural and societal problems. Culturally, the dominant narrative about mothers is one that paints us a self-sacrificing martyrs. This shapes the expectations for a majority of mothers who often feel guilty for pursuing any interests outside of motherhood or to take time for themselves.
This cultural narrative often influences our mindset, where we believe we’re selfish when we take time to care for ourselves, especially if it involves time away from our loved ones who depend on us. Societal and traditional gender norms also make it complicated for moms to outsource their load without feelings of guilt and/or shame. Other times, it might just be that we forget to take care of our overall health in the face of our own daily demands.
We also live in a society that burdens mothers with an overwhelming physical, mental and emotional load that was never ours to carry alone. We have lost the village, and so many of us are suffering as a result of it.
In our quick-fix, Amazon prime society, we also are conditioned to instant gratification and may not take the time to invest in the things that benefit our health and wellness over the long-term.
Prioritizing Self Care in Life and Motherhood
In facing these complex issues, it’s important to start with the understanding that self care is not selfish. Rather, it is an essential part of your well-being. Being a mother involves constant caretaking and outpouring of love.
Mothering requires you to nurture others with you body, mind, and energy, which is why you need time to replenish and nourish yourself.
Even with the obstacles we face as mothers, on a cultural, societal, and community level, you can still provide yourself the same quality of care and attention you choose to give everyone else.
As mothers, when we enter the relationships with our children from a place of kindness and respect for ourselves, we will ultimately have more to give. Treating ourselves from a place of empathy and self-compassion means that we can create space to do the same for our kids.
In order to love our children well, we need to love ourselves well. Self-care is an extension of self-respect, and caring for ourselves means choosing kindness.
As with any major transition, intentional care is needed to put new roots down and build a sturdy foundation from which to grow. This is not about self-care in the sense that our society defines it. It’s about actually parenting yourself like you do your children. You can give yourself the keys to become the best version of yourself.
No matter what your motherhood experience has been, you deserve to take space and time for yourself.
You deserve and NEED the space to reposition yourself in place for growth, healing, and rebuilding as you learn who your new identity is as a mother or rediscover who you have become through this process.
No matter what your story has been, we are reborn through the process of bringing babies into the world. It can feel like we’re losing ourselves when we need to nurture ourselves to connect to the woman who has always been there.
You don’t have to survive motherhood from one day to the next. You can care for yourself by focusing on the things that are within your power to change to support your ability to thrive:
Our mental health and emotional self care
Physical self care, including how we care for our bodies and manage stress
Spiritual self care
Community care plan, including how we build relationships
As you learn how to redefine what self-care looks like for you in the present season, keep these questions in mind:
What is it that I need today, and how can I receive it?
What am I turning to for true satisfaction, rest and rejuvenation?
What is the one thing I can do now, that if it’s the only thing I do with time, will refresh me for the remainder of the day?
As you think through this process, here is a list of self-care activities to help you engage in life-giving practices in these key areas in your own life:
Heal Your Mind and Prioritize Your Mental Health
1 in 5 mothers are affected by maternal mental illness. Even if you have not been impacted directly by a mental health condition, we can acknowledge the significant toll that the motherhood transition has on our mental and emotional health.
Being a mother essentially means experiencing multiple transitions as children grow up and change. This inevitably creates identity issues for ourselves, making us more vulnerable to mental and emotional challenges.
In addition to this, moms today are faced with the myth of the “perfect mother”, which can exacerbate an overwhelming mental load on moms who feel like they have to do and be everything to everyone and to do it all perfectly. In many ways, this is reinforced by the echo chamber that is social media, where we are constantly flooded with perfectly curated images of others’ lives.
Lastly, physical demands can perpetuate mental health concerns. Chronic malnourishment and lack of sleep can be a contributing trigger to mental health issues.
So what are some practical ways you engage in self care activities to help heal your mind and protect your mental health? Check out these ideas below:
Challenge the myth of the ”perfect” mother:
Guess what, mama - she doesn’t exist, and you don’t need to pressure yourself to become her. It’s absolutely okay to adjust your expectations and high standards for yourself and your kids. Realize that by doing a good enough job in caring for your children, you are a good enough mother. Give yourself permission to let go of perfectionism, as this can be toxic to your mental health.
Release yourself from toxic people and relationships:
If others are taking advantage of you or draining your mental energy, you deserve to change this! This might mean letting go of unhealthy relationships, learning to set healthy boundaries for yourself or saying no to people or things that are draining and not life-giving
Normalizing and validating the many faces of Motherhood:
When you’re scrolling social media and see highlight reels of everyone’s life, remind yourself that motherhood encompasses a variety of experiences. You’re not failing if you’re not enjoying every aspect of motherhood - we’re not supposed to!
Give yourself a social media break and take an honest assessment of the accounts you follow. Unfollowing accounts that make you feel less about yourself and avoiding comparison traps can be excellent forms of self-care.
Speak words of kindness to yourself:
If I were to live broadcast your inner monologue, how would that make you feel? Do you have an inner critic that barrages you throughout the day? Learning to speak to yourself with kindness and respect (even when you don’t believe the words you’re saying) is a self-care idea that can elevate your mental health. What words or phrases could be life-giving to you; no need to beat yourself up in your head all day long with your inner monologue. Approach yourself from a place of self-compassion.
Release feelings of guilt and shame:
As moms, it’s all too common to carry overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and this can wreak havoc on your mental health. Many times, these feelings of guilt or shame stem from unreasonable expectations or experiences that make us feel unworthy or isolated. Remember that you are enough and worthy as you are.
Get professional help when needed:
It’s absolutely okay to ask for help when we need it, especially to process and heal from the many transitions we go through as moms. Spending some time with a maternal mental health professional or support group can be an incredible step of courage and self care.
Nourish Your Body and Treat Yourself With Respect
Moms face a multitude of obstacles that can make it difficult to care for our bodies. Poor cultural practices glorify weight loss instead of honoring moms as they go through childbirth experiences. In addition, mothers face lacking policies in our country that gives moms more time to heal and recover after childbirth.
Wellness has been misinterpreted as weight loss, and many women lose so many precious moments of their life hyper-focusing on the size of their bodies. Diet culture has taken advantage of moms during the most vulnerable times of their lives, making us believe that we need to achieve a certain weight or jean size to be happy, successful, or worthy.
In reality, your physical health goes beyond the number on the scale or the size of clothes you wear. As mothers, our bodies go through so many transformations, and we don’t need to miss our children’s childhood or our own lives by engaging in self-destructive food and eating behaviors.
The truth is that growing, birthing and raising children is physically taxing and requires intentionality to replenish, recover, and heal. This is not about “bouncing back”, but being intentional about engaging in practices and behaviors that allow us to thrive physically and mentally.
So how can you set a healthy foundation through nutrition, movement, and self-care that restores your body? How can you break free from the normative pressures to engage in dieting behaviors and weight loss tactics, which are justified in the name of health?
Learn to become the expert of your own body:
When life or motherhood feels chaotic, it’s normal to want to feel some sense of control in other areas of your life. For many women, this means feeling in “control” of their food and weight. Unfortunately, this leads many mamas down the path of being preoccupied with their body or following unrealistic diets that give a rigid set of rules to follow.
Self-care means trusting your body as the expert of what you need and honoring the signals your body gives you. You don’t have to live at war with your body. Give yourself the respect you deserve by treating your body kindly and taking care of the one and only place you call home for life.
Reject societal expectations of “bouncing back”:
Our bodies are meant to change throughout our lifetime, and motherhood is no exception. Mothers are more than their bodies, and bodies don’t’ “bounce”. You don’t have to be a certain size or weight before you can start living and enjoying your family and life. You are worthy and deserve to take up space in this world, no matter what anyone says.
Shift the focus away from physical health as something that is associated with our weight and size:
You can absolutely care for yourself and prioritize your health without focusing on changing your body or your weight. Why is this important? The intentional pursuit of weight loss typically results in poor mental health and physical complications that result from yo-yo dieting.
Instead, choose to engage in behaviors that prioritize body kindness, like effectively managing stress, feeding and nourishing your body well and eating foods you enjoy, and moving your body in ways that feel good to you (not punishing yourself with exercise). Ultimately, this mindset will make you healthier overall than any diet possibly could.
Be intentional about nourishing and caring for our physical body:
Yes, #momlife can make it challenging to find the time to take care of ourselves physically. But when you make it a priority to care for your physical body, this means being more intentional about parenting yourself.
Maybe this means going to bed earlier instead of staying up scrolling, or taking the time to feed yourself a meal rather than skipping out on eating. Self-care means choosing to care for yourself and your body in a way that cultivates kindness and compassion rather that choosing what is convenient - because you deserve it.
Build Your Village and Engage in Community
Mother Nature can teach us a thing or two about motherhood.
On a trip to the Zoo with my kids, we came across the Antelope exhibit. The Zookeeper pointed out how antelope babies were congregated into a “nursery group”. All the mother antelopes in the herd would take turns caring for the young so that other mothers could have a chance to eat, drink, and rest. Amazing, right?
If community is a natural part of how animals care for their babies, how much more should it be part of our lives?
In an age of social media, we are more isolated than ever before. We believe we have to do it all and make it look picture perfect in the process.
As a result, we have created unrealistic expectations about motherhood that has set mothers out to fail.
Instead, we need each other to do a job that was never meant to be done alone.
Motherhood was never meant to be an isolated journey.
Let’s change the motherhood narrative, shall we, mamas? It has to start with us.
Here are some ways that you can rebuild your own village and community in motherhood:
Ask for help from friends and family members:
Asking for help can be hard for so many reasons. Social media perpetuates the idea that we need to do everything alone, and this can keep us isolated. Start with the understanding that you were never meant to do everything. Stand in your worthiness that you deserve support and are not failing by asking for help.
Hold space for mothers in your community, (yourself included!):
It’s easy to forget that we’re all in this together. Connect with other mothers in your community. Encourage others to share their stories. When we stand on each others’ shoulders, we lift each other up higher than if we were to try to climb alone. When we create space for other women, we are creating a paradigm shift that our communities so desperately need. It starts with us asking, sharing, and giving without apology.
Get plugged into support:
Sometimes fear and shame can keep us isolated and from connecting with other people. Building your community means having a support team that can advocate for you, even when you can’t advocate for yourself. Whether this is a friend, professional, or group of other moms, build yourself a lifeline of people that will have your back when things get tough.
Make connections in real life:
Social media can be an amazing place to connect with people from all over the world. Just remember that online connections do not replace real life connections.
Remember that you’re not alone:
When we live in the monotony of our own bubbles, it can feel like we are the only person in the world going through our own trials and tribulations. Lean into the uncomfortable and into vulnerability to create space for yourself and to open the doors for the community of mothers who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
How Will You Care for Yourself in Motherhood?
In what ways can you nurture yourself and implement self-care in your own life, physically, mentally, and in your community?
Remember that this is a constant evolving process, one that might look different from season to the next.
The important thing is to understand that you are worthy of caring for yourself - of giving yourself the same attention and effort that you constantly pour into the people you love.
Find what works for you and be committed to attuning into the life-giving practices that help you thrive - whether you’re herding toddlers or high-schoolers.
You deserve it, mama, because you are worthy.
If you are interested in learning more about how to get involved in advocacy work for better policies that support mothers and families in our country, check out this post here. It’s time to have the conversations that make space for mothers in our society and to better support women along their motherhood journeys.
What would you add to this list of self care activities, mama?