Self-Care Ideas for Working Moms

self-care ideas for working momsSelf-care has become a big buzzword in the last couple of years, but since we haven’t devoted a post to it, today we thought we’d talk about self-care ideas for working moms. The internet often defines self-care for moms as a giant glass of wine — but let’s go beyond that.self care ideas for working mothers You’ve probably heard the advice “put on your own oxygen mask first” many times, but it’s a good reminder (figuratively and literally!). It doesn’t matter what self-care looks like to you, just that you recognize that you deserve it — and that it’s essential to your well-being as a working mom. When you compare yourself to other moms you know, how does your self-care seem different? (Does it feel non-existent?) What does self-care mean to you?

Psst: In the past, we’ve asked readers how you’d spend a fantasy day by yourself and whether you prefer morning vs. evening “me time”. At Corporette, we’ve talked about dealing with overwhelm, the best ways to relax after a stressful dayhow to stop overthinking and worrying about the futurepersonal problems that affect your job performance, how to turn off work mode, and even how to nap at work, and we’ve had a couple of posts on professional women and drinking.

The readers in our Week in the Life of a Working Mom series have shown us many ways to fit self-care into a busy schedule, including our most recently featured mom, who regularly volunteers, runs, swims, and bakes (!). For Kat, self-care usually means working out on a semi-regular basis; going out for date nights, couples’ date nights, and group friend dates; very rarely, getting a breakfast, lunch, dinner with a friend; and getting a massage a few times a year. For me, it means exercising several times a week (thank you to dancing for helping me make this a permanent habit, FINALLY), reading, and making it as easy as possible to eat healthy foods, e.g., buying bags of pre-sliced, frozen fruit (I know) to ensure that I make smoothies. CorporetteMoms writer April uses sheet masks after her son goes to bed, and on really stressful days, she enjoys a magazine in the bath — no smartphone allowed.

Sometimes self-care is straightforward — but not always (its origin and evolution, for one), so I thought it might spark some discussion to point out a couple of problematic aspects of it:

The underlying message is clear: If you’re struggling as a mom, you’re just not self-caring hard enough. Or, if you had only practiced self-care, then you wouldn’t be struggling. (Stop Telling Me To Try Harder at Self-Care, Maylin Tu)

Self care can become a performance that people (especially women) owe others, rather than a personal restorative. Concerned friends ask, “Are you taking enough time for self care?” and unintentionally create the obligation to demonstrate self care so friends and family will stop worrying. (5 Times Self-Care ISN’T the Answer, Jelena Woehr)

Let’s set aside those issues or now to share some self-care ideas for working moms:

Self-Care Ideas for Working Moms: The Usual Suspects

  • Indulge in a book that’s not “serious” or “literary” — guilt-free! For ideas, see our posts at Corporette on brain-candy books and summer reads. (Try young adult books, too — or audiobooks, because listening counts as reading!) Here’s something I somehow only just discovered, two years after its launch: If you have Amazon Prime, you can use Prime Reading to download up to 10 titles at a time from a selection of 1,000+ books and magazines. I found about this perk when I was considering Kindle Unlimited, which gives you access to one million titles for $9.99/month. (It offers a 30-day free trial.) No matter what you read, book clubs are great, because they give you a “deadline” for reading (if you’re in a group like mine, it’s not a big deal if you don’t finish) and an opportunity to make new friends (or at least acquaintances). My group picked the fourth Thursday of each month for our get-togethers because we can add the dates to our calendars way ahead of time.
  • Lose yourself in the world of podcasts. On Corporette, we’ve shared posts on favorite podcasts for working women and the best podcasts for professionals, while Working Moms Against Guilt has some specific suggestions for moms. I love that I can listen to podcasts either purely as a source of entertainment or as a way to learn about topics I’d never think to seek out, like … the origin of Edible Arrangements. (That one was from How I Built This, which I find fascinating.) Note: You can use the site Listen Notes to search more than half a million podcasts. If you have an iPhone/iPad and, like me, aren’t a fan of the built-in podcasts app, try Stitcher (available for Android, too.)
  • Don’t feel guilty about making an evening out a “self date” once in a while, instead of a “date night” with your partner. Get satisfaction from doing whatever you want while only having to consider your own enjoyment. Want to see a movie that no one you know is interested in? Want to take a long walk, either outdoors OR inside Target? Kat’s question that came up as I was writing this post: Does grocery shopping alone count as self-care? What do YOU think? I think it just depends on your personal reaction to it, which at times may be, “Oh, yes, FREEDOM!” Note: If your kid is at a stage when he/she only wants MOMMY at bedtime and shuns your spouse … this too shall pass.
  • Listen to music (I suggest you sing along) when you’re doing mundane stuff at home, like emptying the dishwasher, putting groceries away, cleaning, decluttering, etc. It can even turn into an exercise in mindfulness (hey, another buzzword!) when belting out lyrics pushes aside whatever thoughts would otherwise be swirling around in your brain. If your kids are around, why don’t you take a few minutes for a impromptu family dance party? You can also make your showers a little more entertaining with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. (I’d recommend mine, but I have to return it because it doesn’t work.) Check out our Corporette post on the best girl power songs — a reader even made a Spotify playlist (NSFW) using the suggestions in the comments! (Speaking of Spotify, I think making your own playlists is a little bit of self-care, too.)

Self-Care Ideas for Working Moms: Other Ideas

Here are some past posts that may motivate you to make time for one of these activities:

Self-Care Ideas for Working Moms: The Tougher Stuff

This kind of self-care is beneficial for your physical and/or mental health but isn’t exactly “fun” or Instagram-able. Here are some past posts about things that qualify as tough (self-)love:

What do you think are the best self-care ideas for working moms? (Or do you have so little time for yourself right now that “self-care” seems like a foreign concept?) What is your reaction to the two quotes above about self-care? Do they resonate with you? Is your self-care more about indulging yourself (manicure! massage! chocolate!) or about “tough self-love,” e.g., addressing a health issue you’ve been ignoring? Or both?  

Picture via Stencil.


Trying to "put the oxygen mask on yourself first" but don't have time for professional pampering? Here are some easy self-care ideas for working moms, including brain-candy books, fun podcasts and Spotify playlists, exercise, and more! (Does grocery shopping by yourself count as self-care? Hmmn...)


  1. I have a lot of thoughts about this, so apologies for the long post in advance. To some degree, working is my self-care. I get to be my own, adult person, with time to think quietly, eat (mostly) when I want, (mostly) use the restroom when I want and am not tied down to the needs, desires and whims of the toddler tyrant I live with and my SAHD husband has to deal with all day long for a significant portion of the day. At the same time though, sometimes I feel like my life is either all about our kid or all about work, and there isn’t necessarily a break for me in there. And then I feel a little guilty because I work so much (BigLaw) so taking time for me feels very much like taking time away from my kid (which I then rationalize with the I am better parent when I am not super burnt out approach).

    Self-care for me also looks very different than it does for other people. My (younger, single, childless) sister made a comment the other day that she was glad I was taking care of myself because I had a new dress on and had gotten a haircut and put on a full face of makeup. But to me, buying new clothes and getting my hair cut and wearing a lot of makeup regularly are not enjoyable activities but rather necessary evils. So, to her I look like I’ve “let myself go” as opposed to focusing on the things I love to do and care about and whittling down to the bare minimum all of the annoying things I don’t like to do.

    Self-care activities that I try to get in regularly these days include – always keeping my toenails painted and looking respectable since I am generally barefoot at home and wear sandals regularly if it’s above freezing. Sometimes this means I go get a pedicure, more often it means I do them myself so that they are done exactly the way I like them. Cooking and baking is a hobby of mine, so I try to cook or bake something once a week (which has the added bonus of less eating out at work during the week). I take the baby in the stroller for walks because I enjoy being outside and it to me counts as bonding time. I make sure I get a scalding hot shower every morning (even when that meant the baby cried in her crib for 10 minutes) because that’s important to me. Once a month or so I try to sneak in reading a trashy romance novel. And at least once a weekend I try to carve out a full “family time” activity because that is fulfilling – even something mundane as running errands together as a family.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Running, Hallmark movies, solo shopping outings, and once in a while a really good, fancy cupcake. Daily Starbucks is my wine. Not a big alcohol drinker (but am totally not opposed to it or judging…it makes me feel kinda gross so I have to be in the right mood).

    • govtattymom says:

      You sound awesome! Starbucks, Hallmark movies, and cupcakes? We must be long lost sisters or something . . .

  3. I had to laugh at the suggestion of organizing a photo book as self care; for me, the feeling that I should be making photo books is one of the more stressful parts of motherhood.

    Reading books, though, definitely helps. It’s also helped with some mild anxiety I had after giving birth. I think just getting outside my own head has been valuable. I commute on the subway so I just read books on my phone now, it’s also great for when my little one’s not quite asleep and I need to sit with him in the dark for 10 minutes while he doses off.

    Right now I find it hard to make time to go out at night because I’m nursing & it’s just a lot of logistics and we still don’t have an official babysitter 2.5+ years into this whole parenting thing. So while I would urge everyone to have a babysitter on hand to make me time, what actually does work for me is to make plans faaaaaaaaar in advance because when I’m buying tickets to something in November it never seems difficult in that moment and then when it actually comes up, I can’t find an excuse to not go.

    I also like to work in some “self care” during my work week. Book a haircut for slow days in the office and take a long lunch to go get some pampering. This summer I’ve been taking a long walk to get a fancy cappuccino just far enough away for me to unwind. Mr. AIMS and I will also meet for lunch during the week and trying to have a little date without kids for a change. I find that it all helps and planning for it actually makes my work time more productive too.

    • Anonymous says:

      Me too! I make photo books because it’s important to me to have them, but I definitely consider it a chore and not “self care.”

    • KateMiddletown says:

      100% – I am so thankful my husband enjoys making photobooks.

    • anne-on says:

      +1. I haaaate making photobooks…so we just don’t? I do make it a point to take and print out good family photos once a year or so and rotate/swap out our framed photos. Our kiddo loves looking at those and (when I get around to it) I do enjoy having new photos up. But man, the idea of scheduling yearly family photo shoots and/or making photo books makes me break out in cold sweats.

      • Anonymouse says:

        I’ve found it much easier now that there are apps so that you can make the photobooks from your phone! I’ve used Shutterfly (ugh – computer is better) and Project Life (very easy)

  4. KateMiddletown says:

    Trash tv, cup of tea, skincare splurges or cheap sheet masks with my daughter, making time to get a mani/pedi/massage/wax when the need arises, taking a walk and listening to trash tv recap podcasts (without the dog to make it more luxurious). Gardening.

  5. Walking the dog, going for a run or actually making it to spin class, listening to podcasts. For me, self care is in the little things — ex: buying the good coffee and not the cheap stuff. Putting my cell phone down (I just installed the Moment app) is part of this, too — I never feel good after a bunch of mindless scrolling.

  6. anne-on says:

    Exercise is a necessary part of controlling my anxiety, so I suppose that counts but what feels super indulgent is the reformer Pilates gym I signed up for and looove. Making pilates (and cardio after) a priority has a HUGE impact in my mood/energy, which to me is a big part of what I think of when I think of ‘self-care’.
    Other smaller but impactful things – I cook dinner most nights. It forces me to be ‘in the moment’ and eating healthy(ish) homemade food with my family is something I really enjoy. Reading for fun on my kindle, going to the library for me (not just kids books), and catching up with girlfriends are also really restorative.
    I also try to schedule massages every now and again but have totally given up manicures and pedicures unless I “need” them for work events (and even then I tend to fake it by buffing my nails and using clear nailpolish). A free weekend day to leisurely stroll around downtown, try on clothes, pop into Sephora, meet a friend for lunch…ah, that would be heaven!

  7. shortperson says:

    my self-care is a regularly scheduled weekend babysitter. if i have work to do, i know i can get it done with out stressing. if i dont, i can do something fun, sometimes bringing along one child but not both. being with either alone counts as self-care to me at this point.

    • Anonanonanon says:

      I actually really like this. Not just for the built in “me” time, but because it also ensures that a relationship with a good, trusted sitter is maintained, so that when you need one for other reasons it’s not a huge stressful scramble. This has inspired me to consider using our sitter more regularly.

      • +1 I’ve had a regular once a week babysitter for 5+ years. It’s really great. I usually work out, sometimes work, often go to the grocery store alone. The babysitter comes at the kids’ bedtime and puts them to bed. I just miss the grumpy part of the day, and most of the time I’m away is when they’re sleeping so I feel zero guilt.

  8. August says:

    What is the issue with the frozen sliced fruit for smoothies? I thought it was cheaper and also won’t go bad/get tossed?

  9. Anonanonanon says:

    I’ve started outsourcing a lot more of my life and not feeling guilty about it. This gives me time to read a “just for fun” book, watch a TV show with my husband, or just sit on my butt. I use Shipt for grocery/target runs (I prefer it to other services in my area because it can be scheduled as close to an hour in advance), ubereats for lunches at work, etc. Right now with a relatively new baby and an elementary-schooler, I’m just throwing money at things to have a moment of “me” time.
    I live very close to a major city and I’m making myself (and my husband) actually go there more often to try new places. Getting to try “hip” restaurants and bars and up-and-coming areas of the city makes me feel like ME again, and like I have something to contribute to conversations other than “here’s what my kids are up to”
    I am trying to do a better job of taking care of things like nails, remembering to buy new makeup when I’m running out, clothes, etc. But like a poster above that sometimes just feels like something I have to do to maintain my professional appearance more than something I enjoy.

  10. The biggest things I do for self-care aren’t necessarily fun all the time: running, and going to bed early so I can get up and run. Intense exercise is one of my tools to manage anxiety.

    Time with my sisters/friends is one of the best ways for me to feel like myself again, not just a wife/mom/worker drone, but I’m also an introvert who needs more solo time than is actually possible with kids. :)

    I like to read and listen to podcasts. I also buy fancy coffee when I need a treat or pick-me-up. It’s not the best habit, but it’s far from the worse.

    The stuff that’s commonly billed as self-care, like baths, nail care, etc., just feel like one more task on my to-do list. So those don’t happen very often. I haven’t had a pedicure since March. Meh.

    Having a monthly housecleaning schedule does so much for my overall happiness. During especially busy seasons, we bump it up to twice a month.

  11. Thanks for the excellent on target information! working-moms are Great

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