Before I had my son, I was a pro at self-care.  Here’s what a normal weekend looked like for me:

I woke up leisurely after a full night of sleep (those were the days!).  I would meditate for around 30 minutes in my comfy bed, then I would write in my journal and read a few pages from my favorite uplifting books.  After that I would drive to a beautiful location (usually the beach or a woodsy trail) for a nice run… Then I might grab a coffee or a bite to eat after my run and read some more.  After that I would head home for a shower, rock out to some music while I got all gussied up, and then my husband and I would meet up with friends to enjoy a nice weekend of wine tasting, BBQ’ing, and relaxing.

I’m telling you, I was a PRO.

Self-care as a mom looks a WHOLE lot different though. The scene I just described above (which used to be such a regular occurrence) now seems like a fantasy vacation.  Kids require a lot of time and attention, and my previous weekend routine simply doesn’t fit into my new family schedule anymore.

The problem is that I often feel guilty for not “taking care of myself” the same way I used to before I had kids.  “Self-care” is such a buzz-word these days, and there are times when I actually feel bad about myself for not indulging in the same kind of activities that I used to be so good at.  All of this talk about “self-care” makes me feel like I’m letting myself down if I’m not taking all of this time for myself the way I used to.

However, I think it’s important to realize that just because I don’t spend the entire day focused solely on myself anymore, it doesn’t mean that I’m not still taking care of myself.  I’m still able to re-charge while integrating all of my responsibilities as a mom, wife, employee, friend, sister, daughter, etc.

Here’s how self-care looks to me now that I’m a busy working mom:

  1.  I schedule my self-care strategically.  I now consider what my free time looks like each week, and I’ll ask myself what I can combine to get in a little self-care while doing other things.  My favorite is to go for a walk with my husband and son by the beach on Saturday mornings, and then head to the park afterwards.  That way I get some exercise in, I get out in the fresh air (by the beach no less… my ultimate happy place), I get to connect with my husband after a long week, we get some family time in, and our son loves it because he’s a park addict.  It’s a win-win-win, and it didn’t take any extra time to accomplish all of those things.  I also frequently listen to books or podcasts while getting ready for work or making dinner or when I’m driving.  I still get my “reading” in, but now I just kill two birds with one stone.
  1.  I say no.  I used to be VERY afraid of disappointing or offending others, so I was all about accommodating others’ requests.  Now that I’m a working mom, one of the ways I practice self-care is to reserve my energy for what’s truly important to me.  These days I decline to do things that don’t lift me up.  If it’s an energy drain or if I feel compelled to say yes out of obligation, it’s a NO.
  1.  Tidy Up My Space.  My husband will laugh at this one because he does the bulk of the cleaning around our house (hey, he works from home!).  But when I’m feeling disorganized or frustrated or stressed out, it really does help me to tidy up my surroundings.  I immediately feel more calm, organized, and in control.  Having a nice and tidy space just feel so gooood.
  1.  Short bursts of self-care.  I used to be able to spend hours at a time taking care of my mind, body and spirit.  Looking back, I’m stunned at the amount of time I had to focus 100% on myself.  I still get time for most of those things, just not to the same extent.  But I’ve realized that I also don’t need quite as much time to myself to feel the same effects.  Now I just condense the most important activities into a shorter routine.  Now, instead of a 30 minute meditation in the morning, I get about 5-10 minutes.  Instead of an 8 mile run, I’m happy with a 30 minute walk or 10 minute HIIT routine at home.  I realized that just because I can’t spend every waking moment focusing on self-care, it doesn’t mean I can’t do a few little things to re-charge as I go about my life.
  1.  Sleep.  Sleep is hard to come by in my house these days, but I’m one of those people who needs a good night of sleep. Without it, I’m cranky and foggy and impatient.  So part of my self-care routine now means prioritizing sleep.  I’ve been hearing a lot about these wonderful “morning routines” (I even wrote a blog post about it a few months ago).  I do believe that waking up early to start your day in a peaceful and intentional way IS ideal, but for me, sleep is the priority.  If it’s been a long night with my son, or if I feel like I need the extra zzzzz’s, I’m opting for sleep.  I don’t care how much you meditate or work out in the early morning hours.  If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you really aren’t living a healthy life.  Sleep is important!
  1.  Create before I consume.  This is great advice that I just recently heard from Marie Forleo.  She says she makes it a practice to “create before she consumes” each day.  Meaning, she puts the focus on reflecting or writing or creating something of substance before she takes in thoughts, advice or content from other people.  Her argument is that it’s so easy to get caught up in everyone else’s world on social media, blogs, TV, the news, etc.  But taking a few minutes in the morning to get very centered in who we are can do wonders for our mental health.
  1.  Sit Still.  With the fast-pace of working parent life, I find it a luxury to sit in silence and DO NOTHING.  My family and I are blessed to live in a home that looks out over a valley, so we have an awesome view of the San Diego sunset every single night.  It feels like a trip to the spa to enjoy a glass of wine on our balcony as I watch the sun set over the horizon.  I only need 5-10 minutes before the stress and frustration of my day melts away.  Try to find your happy place, and take a few minutes to decompress and just LET GO.

As a busy working parent, these days self-care is all about making conscious decisions to make sure that I’m not running on empty at all times.  It’s about checking in with myself frequently throughout my day, and then prioritizing myself here and there to make sure I’m getting what I need.  It’s about getting creative, and taking responsibility for my health and well-being.  It’s also about forgiving myself if I get stretched a little too thin, and re-calibrating when I need to.  If I can do those things most of the time, I think I’m actually doing okay.

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