- It can feel “selfish” to focus on your needs as a mom—but your health and happiness matter. Advocate for your needs, ask for help, and don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. You’ll come back recharged and ready to be a better parent for your kids, and a healthier version of yourself.
- Instead of feeling discouraged by an all-or-nothing approach to your health, strive for balance instead of perfection. You can’t do it all, so aim to take small steps towards your health.
- Find time for yourself by making time in your schedule. Take 15 minutes at the start of every week or month to block off time on the calendar for workouts, “me time”, date nights, and so on.
- Another great reason to prioritize your health is that your kids look up to you and use you as a model for their behavior. By focusing on your health, you set an example for them that they’ll use to influence their own behaviors and decisions.
Motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes and looks different for everyone. But a common experience among many moms is that while working to take care of your family, you often forget to take care of yourself.
Chances are you’d never miss a doctor’s visit for your kids, but when was the last time you checked in with your doctor? Or the last time you caught up with friends or scheduled a date night? Your health and happiness matters too. And not only because you’ll be a better parent by showing up as your best self, but because you deserve to feel good just for yourself.
At this point, you may be asking, “That’s great but how do I make time for that?” We know that practicing self-care as a mom can be a challenge. So to help, here are 8 tips for all our moms out there to help find time for your mental and physical health:
1. Focus on Balance, Not Perfection
When it comes to health, we’re told we need to do a lot of things: get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, cook healthy meals, drink plenty of water, stick to a consistent workout routine, and so on. While these health targets are great, that doesn’t always mean that they’re realistic.
Instead of feeling discouraged by an all-or-nothing approach to your health, strive for balance instead of perfection. In other words, don’t feel like you have to do it all. So instead of trying to check off every box, write down a few health goals and focus on taking small steps towards achieving them. Maybe 8 hours a night is unattainable, but could you shut off the TV early one or two nights a week to opt for an extra 30 minutes of sleep? Or go for a walk whenever you find a 15-minute window of free time instead of scrolling on your phone?
Even the smallest step towards a health goal is forward progress. Remember you don’t have to aim for perfection. And it might surprise you how much a small change can create a big impact.
2. Plan Ahead
It’s not always easy to find time to tackle your personal goals or focus on yourself. For many moms, the best way to find the time is to physically make the time by putting a hold on the calendar. You’re already planning ahead for your kid’s schedules so why not add in a few calendar holds for yourself?
Take 15 minutes at the start of every week or month to block off time on the calendar to focus on your health goals. Like scheduling a once-a-month meet-up with friends, a weekly date night, or a regular workout class. Then, do your best to hold that time sacred and schedule around it just like you would for any other calendar item.
The key here is to start small and be realistic about what you can commit to. It’s easy to dismiss these calendar reminders as they pop up (and frankly, sometimes you will have to skip them). But the more you can stick to your schedule, the easier it will be for these calendar holds to become habits embedded into your and your family’s routine.
3. Prioritize “Me Time”
As you’re planning ahead, make sure you’re also scheduling “me time” on your calendar. Even if it’s as little as ten minutes in the morning before your kids wake up or 30-minute chunks during nap time, it’s important to make time for yourself. Brew a cup of tea and get into a good book or call a friend. The goal of “me time” is not checking items off your to-do list or health goals. It involves doing something you want to do.
Prioritizing your health is about more than just scheduling workouts or eating healthy. Your mental health is equally as important. And taking time away to focus on yourself helps refuel both your mental and physical energy. So instead of feeling guilty for taking this much-needed “me time”, view it as charging up your battery. You’ll come back recharged, and a healthier version of yourself.
4. Multitask Like a Mom
Planning is great when you can make it work, but sometimes the only way you can squeeze in time to focus on your mental and physical health is to multitask. Whether you were always good at multitasking or forced into the habit, it’s an inevitable part of motherhood. So why not use this skillset to your advantage when it comes to your health? Here are a few ideas:
- Go for a run during your son’s baseball practice
- Read that book you’ve been meaning to get around to during your daughter’s dentist appointment
- Schedule the doctor’s visit you’ve been putting off while you wait for the school bus
- Go for a walk while you’re on hold with customer service
- Grocery shop during a virtual team training that you only need to listen to
Pack a healthy lunch for yourself as you’re making lunch for your kids
5. Ask For Help
Even with multitasking, scheduling, and “me time”, you can’t solve every problem, tackle every task, or figure out every dilemma on your own. Every parent needs support systems and a community for help. After all, it takes a village to raise a child. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it (or even when you think you don’t!).
Here are a few ways you could lean on your community for support:
- See if your parents or close relatives can babysit during date nights or gym visits
- Recruit your partner’s help in sticking to your fitness routine or scheduled “me time”
- Ask a friend to come over and help with a project you’ve been wanting to tackle
- Enlist the help of a fellow parent for school pick-up and drop-off duties
- Create a rotating schedule with your neighbor to watch each other’s kids
- Join a parenting group in your community to get advice on everything from breastfeeding to favorite diaper brands
- Work with a doctor or therapist to address health concerns like postpartum depression or anxiety
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Turning to your community for help is crucial to prioritizing your mental and physical health. Trying to do it all yourself will only lead to burnout, and you can’t parent effectively (or focus on your health) if you’re burning the candle at both ends.
6. Involve Your Kids in Your Healthy Behaviors
It can feel “selfish” to focus on yourself instead of your children. But your kids look up to you and use you as a model for their behavior. By prioritizing your health, you set an example for them that they’ll use to influence their own behaviors and decisions.
And better yet, including your kids in that healthy behavior helps establish habits that they will carry into their own adult lives. For example, instead of making dinner solo, make it a habit to cook healthy meals together with your kids. Or, instead of skipping your run, pack your kid up in a stroller or plant them on a bike and take them with you. Or maybe start a nighttime reading routine together, where eventually you can read your own books.
Not only is this a big parenting win, but it’s also combining the “multitask like a mom” and “ask for help” strategies in one swoop. You’re spending quality time with your kids and teaching them good habits at the same time. Plus you’re also making room for those healthy habits in your life too.
7. Set Boundaries and Learn to Say No
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your health is to say “no”. Cancel plans you don’t have the energy to go to. Say no to volunteering if you don’t have the time. Reschedule work meetings that creep past normal work hours. Talk to your partner about adjusting responsibilities if you find yourself tackling the majority of housework or parenting tasks. Establish boundaries and communicate your needs to the people around you—and do your best to enforce them.
This even applies to your kids too. If your kids want to play but you’re in the middle of writing an email or eating your breakfast, explain to them why you can’t join them. They might not get the memo as a toddler. But as they get older they’ll start learning the importance of creating and respecting boundaries.
8. Stick to a Sleep Schedule (As Best You Can!)
Motherhood and lack of sleep often go hand-in-hand. But insufficient sleep can make everything else in your life harder. Poor sleep quality and quantity impact everything from your health to your mood. As a mom, a full 8 hours of rest isn’t always possible. But, to the extent that you can, establish boundaries around your sleep schedule. The more nights of full sleep you get, the easier it will be to tackle your other tasks and health goals.
Set up a nighttime routine for yourself that you try to follow each night, and keep your kids on that same schedule. Avoid screens before bed. And try trading off nighttime duties with your partner so that you can each get some much-needed shut-eye.
This also means that yes, sleep trumps everything else on your health list. This includes skipping a workout to opt for a full night’s sleep instead. Or not feeling guilty about ordering takeout after a late night at work so you can get to sleep on time. Remember: it’s about balance, not perfection.
Eating healthy, exercising, getting a full night’s sleep, and finding ways to focus on yourself are all important for maintaining your mental and physical health. But as a mom, sometimes it’s hard to make it all happen. Remember that the goal is a healthy balance, not a perfect routine. And don’t forget other tools in the toolkit like planning ahead, multitasking when you can, asking for help, involving your kids in your healthy routines, advocating for your needs, and establishing boundaries. You’ve got this!