Staying Sane as a Mom, Part I: Take Care of Yourself First

Recently one of my fellow mom friends texted me this meme and said, “Spot on.”

I thought it was kind of funny, but it’s been haunting me ever since.

Another friend who’s also a new mom frequently texts me emojis with tears spewing from their eyes.

Parenting is hard. I just wrote about my recent about-to-cry mommy moment.

Parenting and working full-time is hard, too. Sometimes it just seems like there’s not enough brain space for everything. It can be exhausting.


And also – it’s possible to parent and work and not want to cry every moment of the day.

The difference is this: take care of yourself first, not last. 

This is revolutionary. As women and as mamas, we are conditioned to take care of everyone else first. We burn ourselves out at work trying to get everyone to think we’re awesome. We do twice as much housework as our spouses, because we want to care for them. And we absolutely, from the moment we find out we’re pregnant, put our children ahead of ourselves.

This is the absolute, number one rule that I follow: when in doubt, I take care of myself first. If it’s a choice between laundry and exercise, I exercise. If it’s a choice between more family time and half an hour’s quiet walk by myself, I take the walk. I’m an introvert, and parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else.

So, whatever kept you sane before kids – find a way to do that now. It’s probably going to look different, and that’s okay. I used to love my quiet mornings alone. That’s no longer my reality, but know what is? A shower. I drop off Elijah at daycare and I come home, put on a podcast and take a shower, all alone. It’s glorious.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Schedule self-care. Look at your to-do list for the weekend. How many items are self-care? (Exercise, eating or prepping healthy meals, a fun adult activity like date night or happy hour with friends?) If the answer is “zero,” add at least two. They don’t have to be complicated. A yoga class. A Starbucks date with your Kindle, or with a friend. A walk around the neighborhood and a phone call to your mom. Now: prioritize them. Do – or schedule – these fun things for yourself before you do laundry, clean the kitchen, or go to the grocery store. Now, show up for your commitments, just the way you would show up for your child’s pediatrician appointment.
  • Seven-minute workouts. People complain all the time that they don’t have time to work out. This may be true – if your idea of working out is “I must run three miles” or “I must take a one-hour barre class” or “I must do half an hour of strength and half an hour of cardio every time I go to the gym.” If you’re anything like me, you think, “I can’t do that one-hour exercise commitment, so it’s not worth doing anything at all.” Au contraire, my friend. Try this research-backed 7-minute workout. (You can also download the app.) I’m also obsessed with Katie Dunlop of Love Sweat Fitness – she’s constantly posting 5-minute ab, arm, and booty workouts. I usually just do the 5 minutes – often while Elijah is eating his snack – without necessarily repeating them. And guess what? That’s fine.
  • Stop scrolling and do something fun. Instead of constantly checking email and Facebook on the weekends, do something you used to enjoy before you had kids. Make an iced coffee and read a magazine. Get a book from the library. Go for a walk in the park or by the water – with or without kiddos in tow. I’m realizing that I give myself a pass sometimes – it’s okay for me to check my phone while Elijah’s playing, because it’s just for a minute (or fifteen). But if I read a book, I feel like I’m ignoring him. Guess what? You can get some prime reading done during play time, nap time, and even bath time (keeping your child in your peripheral vision at all times, obviously). If you’re not a big reader, choose something else. You’re never going to wish you had spent more time on social media.
  • Get out of the house alone for non-work, non-domestic commitments at least once a week. Everyone needs a break. Get your spouse to watch the kids, hire a babysitter, drop them off at Grandma’s. Just do something without them that doesn’t involve work.
  • Prioritize the relationships that sustain you. Schedule date night. Call your friends. Make plans to meet up for coffee. Travel to visit family, even when it’s inconvenient.

How do you take care of yourself?



October 16, 2017

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2 Comments on “Staying Sane as a Mom, Part I: Take Care of Yourself First

  1. I take care of myself by reading your blog and hanging out with you! 😉 Also, I like your idea that when in doubt, your default is to choose the self-care option. That is such a helpful framework for me to make decisions; thank you!!

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