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Do you feel guilty making time for self-care as a busy mom? Here are some practical strategies to help you get over the guilt and carve out time in your schedule for this important time.
For years, I didn’t take care of myself. I was so busy pouring into my family, my home, and my business, that I didn’t leave any time free for things that refreshed me. I even skipped out on dentist and doctor appointments, reasoning I didn’t have time for those.
But, all of these things seriously took a toll on me. I wound up with tons of dental problems that started causing pain. I was worn out. And I was burned out. I had nothing to give, and my attitude took a sharp nose dive.
It was at this point that I realized I’d made a huge miscalculation. I’d ignored myself to the point where it had a significant impact on my ability to function.
It was awful.
And I knew something had to shift.
But I was still a busy homeschooling mom with a business. I didn’t have a ton of time to take care of myself.
So I started small. And these things made a huge difference. I feel so much better now, and am ready to tackle the problems life throws at me. I’m not already stretched to my limit, so when something happens, I have the bandwidth to deal with it.
And life is so much better.
If you’re feeling like you have no time for self-care, but you know you need to do something, this post is for you. Here are seven steps you can take to make time for self care as a busy mom.
1. Redefine Self Care
What is self-care? I typically don’t buy the definitions I see floating around on social media.
I don’t think you have to have x number of hours of self-care per day, week, or month. Self-care doesn’t have to be an hour-long bubble bath each week, and a day out with your friends every month.
I don’t think you can quantify self-care in that way. There isn’t a “one-size fits-most” prescription you can adhere to that’ll suddenly fix all your problems.
So I had to come up with a better definition of self-care. I really like what Brandi says in her post, Self-Care for Christian Moms: an Unconventional Guide:
But I think embracing the ordinary – the people and circumstances God has placed before us – is one of the biggest keys to living with joy instead of stress.Brandi ~ Chicken Scratch Diaries
I love this. Part of taking care of yourself as a busy mom is to embrace the life that you have. Try to create a life you don’t need to escape from.
In other words, make finding joy part of your daily routine.
2. Brainstorm Things that Are Life Giving
What brings you joy or makes you happy? Grab a piece of paper and a pencil and jot down as many tasks as you can that you enjoy.
Here are a few to get your brain rolling. But please remember that we are all different. What brings me joy may be stressful for you. So don’t just blindly copy down my list.
- Taking a walk
- Playing a board game with my family (especially Villainous or Ticket to Ride)
- Sitting on the porch with a book
- Snuggling on the couch with a child or two
- Watching a movie or episode with my husband and teens
- Eating popcorn
- Playing frisbee golf or another active, outside game with the family
- Drinking coffee and reading the Bible
- Listening to audiobooks or podcasts of my choosing (not the kids’ stuff :D)
Go ahead and create your list for yourself. Try for a large variety, so you have more options. You don’t want to feel stuck in a rut when it comes to finding joy.
3. Categorize Your List
Notice that some of the items on my list are perfect for doing when my family is around. Most board games are pretty lonely to play solo.
But, when I’m sitting down drinking coffee and reading the Bible, I want to have some alone space.
Your list may have similar tasks. You can do some when other people are around, and some you prefer to have quiet space for.
Take the time to categorize your list. I like to create simple T charts, so in my planner, I have ideas for solo tasks that bring me joy and ideas for things to do with my kids.
Speaking of my planner, taking some quiet time to plan each week is definitely something I enjoy. Life runs so much more smoothly, and I have time to do more instead of trying to figure out where all of the hours disappeared.
I have the Clever Fox Pro, and I absolutely love it! I created these lists in the back bullet journal section, which works perfectly for random lists and things.
Taking time to write down your list does two things. First, it helps you see how many different ways you can find joy in your life.
Second, it saves your brain power. When you have some time, and you want to spend it on self-care, you don’t have to stop to think. You can just look at your list and pick something. No sense in wasting your precious time trying to decide what to do…
You can also categorize your list based on short or long. So if you have five to ten minutes, you could pick something from the shortlist. If your husband is staying with the kids for a few hours and you have lots of time, pick something from the long.
How you organize it doesn’t matter, make it useful for you.
4. Schedule Time for Self-Care
You need to make these life-giving activities a regular part of your day. You want to do at least a few things you love every day.
But, that will take time to create this habit. So, in the meantime, schedule it. As you create your plan of the day, identify some self-care activities you can realistically do.
Then, put them in your plan.
If you use a time-based schedule, write your self-care tasks in there. You want to put them into your calendar so you see the reminder.
Otherwise, life will get crazy, and we will space that we were going to do something to take care of ourselves. Then you might crawl into bed that night and feel overwhelmed because you are always giving and never filling your cup.
So instead, schedule it. Put a reminder on your phone. However you communicate important tasks with yourself, do that for self-care.
5. Actually Do the Things
It’s one thing to brainstorm and have good intentions to do more for yourself. It’s another thing to do them.
If you want to avoid burnout, you must actually do the things. So when the reminder pops up, take a break and go do it.
If life has happened and you can’t, reschedule it ASAP. And then keep that.
It has to be a priority, or it will just keep getting pushed to the side.
Tip: You may benefit from having someone keep you accountable. I like to tell my kids what life-giving tasks I plan on doing. These are usually fun things, so they’re very motivated to remind me about what I said… my husband is great too. He frequently reminds me to go do something I enjoy.
If I have my phone with me during my life-giving activity, it will quickly drain the joy right out of me. My phone has a way of calling me – and making me think that I should be doing work.
Since I work from home, I do much of my business from my phone. It’s a very helpful tool. But, it can also be a dictator. All of the emails, Facebook, and things are always there, ready for me to stay busy.
The only way I can get away from it is to put my phone down and walk away. When I’m doing self-care, I make it a point not to bring my phone along. Or if I’m doing something that I may need a phone, I either have one of my kids be in charge of it, or I leave it in my purse or something. Out of sight, out of mind…
The time away from my phone is so refreshing. When being unplugged is combined with a joy-giving activity, it does so much to help improve my mood.
So walk away from the phone and leave it be. Go do something fun without it. Everything will still be there when you get back, I promise!
7. Make a Plan
These small tasks can become something you do daily. But you should make a plan for at least occasional, more significant self-care events.
- Find a sitter and arrange a date with your spouse.
- Walk through the mall or a store you enjoy.
- Drive for a coffee and listen to a favorite podcast from start to finish without interruptions.
- Send the kids to grandma’s house and take a nap.
Talk to your spouse and devise a plan for making these things a regular occurrence. They don’t need to be daily or even weekly, but do come up with something that fits nicely into your schedule.
While you’re at it, make a plan for covering the kids while you do all your doctor appointments. Go see the dentist regularly and get your mammograms and all those things. Your health is worth the cost of a sitter or the inconvenience of using a PTO day for a doctor’s appointment instead of something fun…
Making Time for Self-Care as a Busy Mom
As a busy mom, it isn’t always easy to make time for self-care. Stuff will always come up. But, if you keep working to make it a priority, you will take better care of yourself than you were.
And we need to remember that baby steps are important in this aspect of life. Celebrate your wins and do it again.
If you feel like your time is totally out of control and you need someone to help you get your ducks in a row, I can help. My course, Balancing Diapers and Deadlines, is designed to help you calm the chaos and make time for what matters most.
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.