If you’re a mom who has looked up “self-care” on Pinterest or Instagram, it’s likely that you’ve said “I don’t have time or money for that”. Social media makes self-care appear extravagant with bubble baths, candles, face masks, and complicated skin-care routines. (I have to admit, I’m guilty of posting the occasional #selfcare overindulgence myself.)
I would say that one of the hardest parts of parenting is how constant it is. You don’t get breaks, and when you do you never really quite know what to do with yourself. Do you take a nap? Do you do a quick kitchen clean? Do you use your time to indulge in a real meal, because let’s face it – when else could you really eat? Maybe you’re like me and you just veg out on the couch for that gratifying half-hour. The truth of the matter is, us moms have to take the moment to intentionally care for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive (although that’s allowed too,) you just need to follow a few basics that will keep you going. Those few basics can be summed with NESTS. What is NESTS? Read on!
N is for Nutrition
After making sure that the kids are well-fed, it might be too exhausting to focus on your own nutrition. I’m not telling you to overhaul your whole diet, but chances are you know where you could make some improvements. Start small – even a little change can make a difference. For you that could mean actually eating three meals a day, replacing your unhealthy snacks, taking your vitamins, drinking your water, cooking a hearty meal once a week, or eating your vegetables. Small improvements in your nutrition will fill your days with a bit more energy which will hopefully motivate you to keep improving and keep taking care of yourself.
E is for Exercise
Exercise does wonders for our bodies and our moods. It increases our energy levels, boosts our mood with endorphins which reduce stress, and promotes sleep. Not to mention that sticking to an active routine enhances self-esteem. If you think that you couldn’t possibly make time for exercise what with being a mom and all, the simplest thing you could do is go on a daily walk with your little one. You can take a friend along or go solo, both of which can do wonders for your mind and body. Bonus points if you surround yourself in nature which has calming and stimulating effects on mind and body. For me, a trip to the gym three times a week is a must, mostly because I can take a nice, long, unapologetic shower afterwards, but also because it reinforces the concept that I deserve to take care of myself.
S is for Sleep and rest
Some people treat the expression “sleep when the baby sleeps” as a rule, and some laugh at the unreasonableness. Whether or not you can actually sleep during those precious naps varies by person, but at least you can rest. If you’re thinking “I have too much to do, when am I supposed to load the dishwasher, run the laundry and prepare dinner?” then stick to this rule: the first half of the baby’s nap is for you to rest, and the second is for your to-do list. If you don’t get around to your to-do list – too bad! Rest is more important. Try to avoid screen time while you should be resting as it’s rarely rejuvenating, not to mention the bright blue light actually keeps you from sleeping.
T is for Time to self
As I’ve mentioned earlier, looking up “self-care” will give you images of bubble baths and long skincare regimens. Whether or not that’s up your alley, it gets one thing right: taking time to be by yourself. Steal and savor those little moments when you can be alone with your thoughts. I’m sure you can find one or two of those. This could mean reading, journaling, painting your nails, or it can be paired with another self-care essential like having a quiet breakfast alone. My favorite is to double up with exercise and go for a long walk or hike. I baby-wear my daughter along for the ride, but if feels like alone time since she’s pretty occupied and entertained. I love taking that hour to be alone with my thoughts, but sometimes I listen to an audiobook for a little entertainment. Bonus points: after being stimulated on the walk, my daughter is often tired enough for a nap once we get home.
(For more information about baby-wearing, check out The Breezy Wrap page)
S is for support
Research shows that parents who seek (and accept) support cope better with their day-to-day lives and have reduced stress. Some people have a ready support system, and they have no problem asking for what they need. Some of us need a little nudging. I fall into the latter category. It’s not even that I can’t ask for help – I don’t even know what to ask for! If you’re like me, I suggest you make a list of things that could maybe be helpful at one point or another. You don’t have to ask anyone yet. You don’t have to ask anyone at all if you don’t want to, but having a list of ways you could be supported might make it easier to open that door. Some examples could include:
- have a friend come over for a chat;
- ask a friend to check in with you via text once a week;
- an exercise buddy;
- babysitting tradeoffs;
- ask your partner to come home from work earlier;
- ask a friend to help you cook or bring over food;
- ask your partner to take over one of your chores;
- ask your kids to take over some chores;
- ask someone to keep you company while you tidy your home.
You see? It’s not so hard to make a list of things that may support you, even if you think you couldn’t possibly ever ask someone. Now you can be a little more aware and alert to opportunities when someone does offer help. You can say “hey, yeah, I do need support with that. Thank you.” If you need support in other ways, you can find groups of other moms (either online or in-person) and just feel reassured by knowing that someone else gets what it’s like to be a mom.
I invite you to make a regular commitment to each one of the NESTS and take some intentional moments to truly take care of yourself. And who knows, maybe graduate to bubble baths and ten-step skincare eventually. In the end, you are the only one who can provide a happy, well-balanced mom and woman to your family and loved ones.