Tell a mum to devote more time to self-care and you are likely to be on the receiving end of an eye roll, scoff or possibly a dirty look, followed by a list of reasons why it’s just not possible.
We are all well acquainted with the theory. We all know how important self-care is. But how exactly do we make more time for ourselves?
Here’s what I’ve learnt from my own experience and drawing on the wisdom of other mums I’ve interviewed through my blog.
- Genuinely make self-care a priority. Not once, not twice, but daily. Telling yourself you don’t have the time/energy/money for self-care, in reality, means it is not a priority. When I first heard this idea I became super defensive and started reeling off all the reasons why this wasn’t true for me, but I’ve since realised it was the truth in the statement which struck a nerve. If I am to truly take care of myself, I have to give it the same energy and attention as I give other areas of my life I value. It is that simple (and hard).
- Schedule self-care time. If it is in your diary, it’s more likely to happen. If you need accountability to prevent you from cancelling your self-care time, enlist a friend or family member to make sure you go or better still have them share the experience with you. If it’s an activity you can commit to, by paying in advance, like a treatment or a class do that.
- Ask for help. The saying about it taking a village to raise a child, maybe overused, but it’s certainly true. If you don’t have a partner or family who can help and you can’t afford a babysitter consider arranging with mum friends to take turns minding each other’s children, even if just for half an hour.
- Be flexible in your thinking about self-care. Before I had children I meditated every morning for 20 minutes. I haven’t since. This was a source of real frustration and resentment for a time. I wanted to go back to my old ways of doing things. When I finally realised I needed to soften my all-or-nothing approach, I started doing short (5-10 minute) guided mediations, as and when I could. Self-care might not look how you want it to for now but be open to other ways of doing things. For example, if you can’t make it to a day spa maybe you can do a home face mask, or if you can’t go to an in-person yoga class, do an online yoga video.
- Embrace the idea of little and often. Doing lots of little things can have a big impact on how you feel. Having a cup of tea, sitting in the sunshine, reading a few pages of a book. Little moments of self-care add up and are certainly better than none at all.
- Recognise self-care doesn’t need to be child-free. One of the reasons mums often share why they can’t devote time to self-care is because their children are always with them. With a little Google research, or reaching out to online communities like Northern Beaches Mums, you will find lots of businesses and service providers who specifically address this problem with offerings like Mums and Bubs movies, yoga and exercise classes or massage and beauty services that will come to your home.
- Be creative. Look for opportunities to build little self-care practices into your day. Listen to an inspiring podcast or eBook while driving, put on an aromatherapy burner while cleaning the house or leave a good book in your car to read while waiting at school pick up. Get clear on what fills your cup and think creatively about how you can build it into your day.
Prudence Henschke is the creator of Mama’s me-time, a blog inspired by her own challenges to prioritise self-care after becoming a mum. Mama’s Me-time