As a stay at home mom, I’ve found that if I am not intentional about creating a daily self-care routine, it just doesn’t happen. When I stopped trying to schedule BIG self-care- like days at the spa- and instead focused on integrating self-care throughout my stay-at-home mom day, I became way happier, and calmer!
And hey, self-care for stay at home moms isn’t meant to be exclusionary. All moms need self-care, and many moms who aren’t normally stay-at-home moms have suddenly found themselves at home with kids in 2020.
And trips to the day spa definitely aren’t happening.
But don’t worry. I’ve figured out a magic formula for integrating self-care into your daily routine WITH kids.
Why I created a daily self-care routine as a stay at home mom
When I was dealing with infertility, I went totally crazy with self-care. I was doing yoga, meditating, visualizing, using mantras, doing foot soaks, journaling my dreams, praying, and even more. Then, I got pregnant, and I continued a lot of it.
But then, I woke up one morning with a screaming baby. And everything went out the window.
This was a huge mistake— RIGHT when I needed the self-care MOST, I totally ditched it.
My first baby was NOT easy. He was a high-needs, mama-craving little one prone to crying. He wouldn’t settle with nursing, which made everything harder.
I remember when he was about two weeks old, I asked my parents to hold him while I went to brush my teeth before trying to get him down for the night. My dad grabbed my hand and said, “Hey, take your time. Wash your face. Do what you need to do. We’re okay.”
I totally didn’t hear him. I was overcome with post-partum anxiety, and I totally let my self-care slip.
About two years later we were trying to conceive again, and I was finally getting back into some self-care again. Walks, yoga, a little meditation, and a lot of prayer. It wasn’t quite the same, but it totally worked. Again, I was able to keep some of it up during pregnancy, even with a toddler.
But then, I found myself with a newborn and a toddler. And everything went out the window again.
Again- just when I needed serious self-care, I was lost in a sea of toddler and babies. It took at least a year before I was able to redirect and get myself back on the self-care program.
And, I’ll be honest. Taking the time for self-care for me is very difficult. My gut instinct is to put my children first 100% of the time. I have to fight this instinct. Because if I want happy children- and I do- then they need a happy momma!
What is self-care for moms?
Here’s the deal. Self-care isn’t really pedicures. It isn’t really taking a shower. And it definitely isn’t browsing at Target.
Self-care is nourishing your body and your soul. It making time every day- not just once every month- to build yourself up. It is purposefully creating a life that makes you happy.
This isn’t easy when you are home with kids. And this is why it is even more important to weave your self-care into the daily fabric of your life, so that it isn’t one more thing on the “to-do” list that gets pushed.
Read this post and make a list of all the ideas that work for you. Then brainstorm more. Then figure out which ones you can do every single day and make a checklist. Put it up where you can see, and do those things EVERY SINGLE DAY.
If you commit to doing them every day they will become a habit. And you will have changed your life.
Tip: Don’t make them hard. Don’t put “meditate for 45 minutes a day” on your list if you have zero help with the children and they don’t nap. Instead put “deep breathing for 5 minutes” on your list. If it is unreasonable to take a dance class every day (how awesome would that be???), maybe it is reasonable to dance with your children for 15 minutes a day.
Make it work for you. You deserve it!
Self-Care for Stay At Home Moms During the Pandemic
Here’s the bad news- I’m writing this for mothers during an international pandemic that is changing life as we know it. So many mothers lives have changed dramatically, and we really don’t know when schools will open and people will go back to the office.
And also, there’s a pandemic. So, you know, really kind of freaking stressful.
So it is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to focus on self-care now. THIS is how you stop yelling at your children. THIS is how you move away from a nervous breakdown. AND THIS is how your calm your body down, decrease inflammation, and make yourself healthier and happier for the long run! Why not try for something more than a pedicure?
Self-Care can boost happiness and health
Here’s the great news- there are multiple, science-backed self-care methods that can help you be happier and healthier overall. AND, you can do them while you are with your children.
There are also a ton of ideas that aren’t particularly backed by science, but are still really good.
Take this list below and choose what resonates with you! Add to the list with your own ideas. Then make them happen EVERY DAY!!
Ideas for Self-Care for Stay at Home Moms
- Breathe. If you don’t have a regular deep breathing practice, this is probably the number one daily self-care action you can take. There are several studies that support deep breathing as a quick way to calm your central nervous system and feel more relaxed. Even Mayo Clinic and WebMD tell you to breathe. DO IT! I do a “calm breathing” I learned in hypnobirthing- 4 counts in, 8 counts out. There are lots of ways to do this. Whatever you do, stop doing everything else and just watch your breath go in and out. It takes two minutes of this to drop stress levels. Don’t just do it when you are stressed, find times in your day when you ALWAYS do your deep breathing, so you are doing it multiple times a day! I would always do this when nursing. Pro-tip- this is also a great way to help a slow breastfeeding letdown!
- Go Outside. If you can, get your butt outdoors with your children! Being in nature reduces psychological stress. We try to go outside no matter what- even if it is rainy, snowy, hot, cold, etc. Unless it is physically dangerous outside, I try to make sure we get time in nature every day. Bonus points for the closer you are to actual nature- dirt, mud, trees, birds singing, water. Dirt can be just as effective as anti-depressants. Maybe its time to start that garden with your children?
- Affirmations. Every night before you go to sleep come up with an affirmation, and repeat it when you wake up. Affirmations generally only work when you truly believe them. Affirmations have been show to decrease stress among other things. Ones that work for me are “I am a peaceful and loving mother,” and “Today will flow easily and enjoyably.”
- Sing with your children. I love to sing, and children love to sing. We make little rituals of songs throughout the day. The songs make us feel connected to the day and to each other. And singing TOGETHER gives us extra happy points. Several studies show that group singing boosts overall happiness.
- Dance for 15 minutes a day. Did you know that 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise is the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next to years? If you can run, run. If you can Peloton, Peloton. But as for me, I’m mostly home with my children, so we dance. Our “dance parties” happen daily, and are some of the happiest moments of our day.
- Give yourself a daily womb massage. I know it sounds extravagant, but this five-minute a day practice connects you to your womb, increases blood flow to the reproductive areas, and gives you a chance to be mindful of your cycle. I do this immediately after waking up while I was still in bed and sleeping. Many women practice it who are trying to conceive, but as long as you aren’t pregnant you can practice it every day. You can also see an Arvigo Massage specialist who can do an initial massage on you and then teach you a daily routine.
- Take an indulgent bath every night after the kids go to sleep. Hubby always goes for a run while you watch the kids? How about you always take a luxury bath while he does the dishes? Here is how I take my most indulgent bath: I start by dry brushing my body, and then once a week I apply a charcoal mask before I get in. I run the bath with magnesium salts in it to boost my relaxation. If I’m in the follicular or ovulatory period I add rose and jasmine essential oils. In the luteal phase, I’ll add a little ylang ylang essential oil. (In general, I try to buy certified organic essential oils to avoid pesticides- this is hard to find for rose and jasmine!). In the bath, I scrub with a Sugar Body Scrub. I soak for as long as the water stays warm. After I wash my face and rinse everything well, I get out and apply a Jasmine Body Oil.
- Start a daily gratitude practice. Research shows us the key to a working gratitude practice is to spend two minutes every day scanning your life for three NEW things to be grateful for. And, make those things as specific and detailed as possible. I usually do this when I’m snuggling my children to sleep. When I nursed my daughter to sleep, I would do it then! We’ve also started a gratitude practice with our children. Every night before bedtime we talk about things that made us happy that day. It gives us each a chance to briefly relive all the happy moments of the day and fall asleep with them!
- Journal your dreams. I truly believe that dream journaling and processing your dreams is deeply restorative mind-body work. It helped me a great deal when I was trying to conceive. This one only works if you are able to wake up on your own without children jumping on you- so if your kids are still little, save this one for later!
- Eat Well. I know it is hard when you are caring for children to feed yourself well, but this is something you should NOT compromise on, and it is truly self-care! Get your veggies and your fruits in, and cook yourself real, whole foods! Supplement with nourishing and energy boosting smoothies and healthy snacks throughout the day to keep you going.
- Pray. Connecting spiritually with God, Goddess, spirit, the divine in yourself, or whatever works for you, is a very important part of self-care. I think to often we think of prayer as a connection to some far away God, but prayer is really a time to go deep within and connect with our inner hurts, happiness, and longings. Tell your longings to God. Ask for comfort. Read the Bible, or whatever your holy books are. This is true self-care. Do this on your own, and do this with your children. I am known by my son to stop everything and drop down to my knees and ask him to pray with me. I also pray in the little minutes- like when my children are so sweet and beautiful, I ask God to protect them. And when I am losing my patience, I pray for more. And when I am getting lost in anxiety, I ask God to pull me out. And you know what? It usually works!!
- Practice indulgent skin care. Girl, wash your face. And then tone, and then treat, and then moisturize :-). It’s great to do masks, but make your daily skin care a soul-nourishing process. I finally made the switch to high-quality, non-toxic grown-up skin care to really improves my skin and I don’t regret a minute of it. I use the best non-toxic, anti-aging skincare out there by Beautycounter. To see my full skincare routine, see this post. After cleansing and toning, I start my indulgent evening skincare routine with a rose quartz roller or gua sha routine to relax my jaw muscles, stimulate lymphatic drainage, and boost blood flow. Then I use a facial oil based on where I am in my cycle (I try to cycle everything!!!). If I am in my follicular or ovulatory phase, I use this Plumping Oil which has Jasmine and Rose in it and feels oh so luxurious. If I am in my late luteal or menstrual phase I use this Balancing Oil which helps balance my hormonal acne, and the ylang- ylang scent helps to relax me. I finish with an indulgent anti aging night cream and eye cream.
- Write Your Happiness. Keep a happiness journal. You can keep your own, or you could keep one with your children! For two minutes a day, think of one positive experience that’s occurred during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you can remember. It works, because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. So you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain. Do it for 21 days, your brain starts to think your life is twice as good as it is, and your feeling of happiness increases, which leads to other beneficial health outcomes. Research shows that for people with chronic pain, after six months of this they could drop pain medication by 50 percent!
- Deepen (non-physical) social connections. It’s easy to feel socially disconnected as a stay-at-home mom, and even easier since the pandemic has started and many of us are isolating. Yet, science tells us that our happiness is largely dependent on our feeling socially connected to others. An easy, and evidence-based way to do this from home is to spend two minutes at the start of each day writing an email, text, or direct message, praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person every day. It works because you wind up chatting with that person back and forth, and re-establishing connection. Do that with one person every day until we are released from our houses again! Social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness. I -know you spend more than two minutes each morning scrolling facebook or instagram- so while you are on, send a quick sweet note to something with a thank you!
- Meditate. Do whatever you need to to reach the “relaxation response” for 15-20 minutes that is linked to many positive health outcomes, including boosted immune systems, lowered heart rates and blood pressure, reduction of symptoms of a ton of conditions, including infertility, depression, cancer, anxiety, insomnia, hypertension, arthritis, and even lower cardiovascular risk. (American Psychological Association). I know it can be tricky to find time to do this with kids, but if you can make this a priority it is going to change your life. If you are lucky enough to have children who nap, do this then. If not, do this when your partner is home and can watch them. And if none of those are possibilities, do it when they are asleep- this is going to be much more deeply restorative than watching tv! Here are my favorite ways to meditate:
- Yoga Nidra– you can download one from Amazon. One hour a day is better, but there are 20 minute sessions.
- Circle & Bloom– My favorite fertility, pregnancy, and cancer-recovery meditation company also has programs for Stress Reduction, Happiness, Blissful Sleep, and Body Detox. Use my code tomakeamommy for 20% off.
- Heartmath. For those science and math inclined, this is a great program that tracks your heart rhythm patterns and helps you reduce stress through achieving clinical emotional balance and coherence. You can actually see your heart rate patterns and challenge yourself to achieve greater levels of what they call “coherence.” I use the Inner Balance Tool and love it. This tool is widely used in clinical settings, especially by psychotherapists. It uses Bluetooth technology near your head, which is weird, but I do it anyway because I find it so incredibly helpful.
- Any other meditation tool or app– Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, etc.
How do you do self-care as a stay-at-home mom?
Anna Rapp has a Masters in Business Administration and another Masters in Public Policy and Administration. But, she quit her cool policy job out of a desire to be home with two miracle children she had after infertility. Now she blogs at To Make a Mommy about fertility and at To Make a Family about green living, healthy recipes, and gentle parenting. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids!