Self-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.
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 day, and even how to nap at work, and we’ve had a couple of posts on professional women and drinking. (2019 Update: Check out our latest discussion of why every working mom needs a few girls’ nights out!)
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 (see 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 far 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, I recommend Stitcher (available for Android, too.)
Don’t feel guilty about making an evening out of 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?
Here’s 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, 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. 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 counts as a 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:
- Make a photo book and/or organize family photos.
- Resurrect one of your old hobbies — on a smaller level, if necessary. Or get a new, low-key one: Try subversive cross-stitch, get a couple of adult coloring books (maybe even adult coloring books — link NSFW, obviously), or get a new board game and force your partner play it with you.
- Plan a vacation, either the family or kid-free variety.
- Seek out new mom friends and/or make time for your current friends (moms or not!).
- Get into strength training or try other workouts. Check out our roundups of free YouTube workouts and quick workouts for busy moms. If you haven’t been able to fit exercise into your life as a mom, consider lunch workouts.
- Pick a charity to help, or take some kind of small political action (unless completely avoiding politics is your self-care these days.).
- Try meditation.
- Book a service (or day) at a spa.
- Learn a new language.
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:
- Work on easing your mom guilt. Working Moms Against Guilt has a few book recommendations in this list — or, try one of the many podcast episodes on the subject. (Alternately, talk to your mom friends, or a therapist.)
- Tackle something in your life that isn’t working. Feeling overwhelmed as the default parent? Burdened with all the emotional labor? Taking on way more parenting duties than your spouse? Mommying your husband? Overwhelmed by dealing with all the school/activity emails?
- Negotiate reduced work hours or a flexible working arrangement.
- Research and hire a cleaning service.
- Take an aspect of your life and play Do, Delegate, NOPE.
- Level up your childcare: Get a mother’s helper, a night nurse, a personal assistant, etc. Or hire a virtual assistant.
- Sleep-deprived? Take some steps to get better sleep and address insomnia.
- Start a working parents group at your office.
- Schedule that therapist or doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.
- Take a social media break.
- Make a family budget.
- Do some emergency prep.
- If you’re struggling, ask friends and family for help.
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.