How to Stop Failing at Self-Care, for Tired Moms

Self-care for moms is so important and yet so often ignored. It’s something I personally struggle with.

As a mom of four, I’m always catering to everyone else’s needs. It’s not until I think about how many days it’s been since I’ve showered that I realize I’ve really let myself go by the wayside.

I hear the same thing from my mom friends. We’re in a constant frenzy of meal prep, cleanup, entertaining, and chauffeuring our little ones. And it’s not that we mind—that’s in part what we signed up for as moms—but nonstop service can start to take its toll.

You might think you can continue the status quo until one day you realize you’re totally depleted.

It may build up slowly or show up with a bang (like ending up in the ER with a panic attack).

Yep, I’ve been there. Mom burnout due to lack of self-care is happening to moms every day. It can lead to physical symptoms and mental health problems.

And guess what? If you’re not caring for yourself, you’re not showing up in the best way for your children—I promise you that.

Your body and your mind will suffer, not to mention the loved ones who depend on you.

Maybe you’ve heard about self-care and brushed it off as a buzz word or fad. Maybe you think it’s reserved for a certain few who get paid vacation days and can afford trips to the spa.

As a working mom, I used to think any time spent not at the office should be spent with my kids.

There are a million possible excuses. But please hear my plea: it’s time to own up to the fact that you need self-care in your life for the long haul.

Self-care for moms is an essential part of maintaining our well-being. You deserve it, and you can fit it into your life. So, let’s talk about how to stop failing at self-care. I need to hear this as much as you.

Tips are based on personal experience and should not be considered medical advice.

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How to stop failing at self-care for tired moms

Steps to Regular Self-Care for Moms

Realize Self-Care Is for Everyone

The first step to inviting self-care into your life is acknowledging that we all deserve the right to maintain our well-being. It’s a basic human right.

You don’t have to earn the ability to practice self-care. Have you heard yourself saying something like, “I can relax after the kitchen is clean” or “I can pick my hobbies back up once the kids are in college”?

Are you of the mindset that your to-do list must be completely checked off before you can attend to yourself?

We tend to put all other priorities—our work, children, partner—ahead of ourselves. But it’s OK (and necessary!) to put yourself first sometimes.

Practicing self-care doesn’t make you selfish. You have to put on your oxygen mask so you can be there to help the others that need you.

Think about what a great example you’ll be setting for your children by showing how to properly take care of yourself.

If potential costs associated with self-care is one of your excuses, it need not be. Often self-care can be completely free. It can be something as simple as getting more sleep.

There are types of self-care to fit every lifestyle. Yes, really! Once you learn more about what self-care is and isn’t, it will be easier to see.

I should also note that while this article focuses on self-care for moms, men are deserving of self-care too.

Know What Self-Care Isn’t

Self-care doesn’t have to be lavish pampering or a treat yo’self mentality. Those misconceptions can give self-care a bad rap and make it seem frivolous rather than a necessity.

Let’s get back to basics. Oxford defines self-care as, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.” Others add that self-care should be something done intentionally to refuel yourself.

There is a wide variety of what you can do for self-care, depending on your interests, resources, and needs. However, self-care should not be detrimental to your health or finances.

Drinking a bottle of wine a night or enjoying a pint of ice cream daily would not be considered self-care. Behaviors that are harmful or addictive do not qualify as self-nourishing.

Other than that, the options are pretty wide open. Even simple little acts, done intentionally, can make a big difference.

While we’re at it, I should clear up a couple more things. Self-care doesn’t have to be done alone. It can be meeting up with a friend or date night with your partner.

Self-care can also mean stopping activities that are detrimental to you, like checking work emails before bed.

Just Make. the. Time.

I’d venture to say that the #1 barrier to self-care for moms is lack of time. Moms are busy—trust me, I get it. But there’s got to be time for you somewhere.

Sometimes you have to make time. For example, learn to just close the damn door on messes rather than spending every night picking up after your kids. Maybe the dishes sit in the sink overnight once a week. (Or better yet, get someone else to do them.)

Do you have some time typically spent scrolling through social media that could be spent on a more healthful and intentional activity? Or maybe you could declutter your family schedule to make more time for yourself?

The less free time you have available, the clearer your need for self-care. For example, the single mom working two jobs who always pushes past her own needs.

You’ve got to put self-care on your calendar and make it happen or it never will. It doesn’t have to be for a whole day or even half a day. You could spend 3 minutes practicing a mindfulness meditation or journaling. You could do a quick 5-minute stretching routine or deep breathing exercise.

I don’t think the benefits of self-care are proportional to the time spent. Those little bits count. So please, make self-care a priority and schedule it into your week. It’s that important.

You might need to ask for some help from friends or family members to make it happen, and that’s perfectly OK. Saying “I need some time for myself” is not an admission of failure.

Don’t Make Self-Care a Chore

I think another deterrent to self-care for moms is that it can feel like one more thing to add to a neverending to-do list. My hope is that you can find a way to practice self-care that doesn’t feel like another chore.

Self-care should be something that refuels your mind and body, and that means it needs to be something you like doing. The lady down the street might get enjoyment from training for her next half-marathon, but that’s not going on my self-care list.

The activities you choose should be customized to you and not just what you think you should be doing. If meditation isn’t your thing, that’s totally fine. Activities you love and enjoy will rejuvenate you the most—and that’s the whole point.

If I see one more article saying I should wake up before my kids to relax, I might just scream. Because that’s the opposite of my idea of relaxation. I cherish every minute of sleep and would much rather take some time after they’re in bed to have a moment for myself.

Now adding a nap into my Sunday? That’s more my language.

Try to think back to some things you enjoyed before you had kids. Maybe you could even sprinkle some of those back into your life.

While it might feel more scripted at first, self-care should be something you start to look forward to. If that’s not the case, you might need to make some adjustments and think about what truly refuels you.

Jumpstart Your Self-Care Practice

Make a pledge to start incorporating self-care this week. What is one thing you could do for your own well-being? Now break out your calendar right now and schedule it.

It’s called a self-care practice because it’s a habit that will take some time to develop. By being intentional about your self-care, you can take note of how you feel afterwards. As you start to associate positive effects with your self-care practice, it will reinforce the habit.

Try to avoid the barriers and pitfalls that we’ve reviewed here, though they are bound to happen sometimes. If you miss your self-care one week, don’t beat yourself up—just readjust and try again.

Be open to modifying your practice as appropriate. There may be times when you need more self-care in your life. For instance, if you encounter an illness or if you are teetering on the edge of mom burnout.

You might want to try new and different activities from time to time to keep things fresh.

I hope you begin to cherish and enjoy your self-care practice, and that you feel its benefits in your mind and body.

Do you feel more prepared to commit your self-care practice?

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Tired mom? How to stop failing at self-care

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