Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out my full disclosure policy here.
Self care, alone time, mom time out.
There are many names for it and everywhere we turn we hear that we need it!
“Taking time for yourself makes you a better mom.”
“Avoid burn out by going on a mom time out”
Self care is cruical on this motherhood journey.”
…and so on.
These sentences used to ring so emptily.
When I’d have a mom’s time out and returned, I usually did not feel much changing. Me leaving for a few hours seemed like coming up for air for two seconds while drowning.
It didn’t make much difference.
I still fell right back where I started, frustrated and tired.
What was wrong with me?
Did I do the wrong things? Should I look for self care tips? Maybe I should have done something relaxing like a spa.
I couldn’t seem to do self care right.
If You Have Trouble Relaxing, You Aren’t Alone
For many years I wasn’t able to feel relaxed and spent more time stressing over that I should enjoy this time than actually enjoying it.
I’m not sure when the turning point happened, but there definitely was one.
I know this because today, I feel differently.
I’m able to go out and come back feeling better. I learned how to take care of my emotions and frustrations even when I physically can’t get away.
I accepted my need for regular alone time and stopped feeling unnecessarily guilty.
To save you the trouble I went through, I want to tell you how I do self care nowadays.
Maybe you’ll get a few ideas and take better care of yourself too.
How To Self Care The Right Way For Moms
In order to be on the same page and have clearly defined terms to avoid misunderstandings, let’s determine what self care means.
This is totally my definition for the purpose of this article.
Self Care Definition
Self care is when a mom engages in activities that are meaningful to her, grow her and make her feel better, in order to be able to fulfill her calling the best she can.
It’s like the oil change and tune up your car needs due to regular use or the quick cleaning you do in your home to keep it functional.
My mission here is to help you be the best parent you can be. You can’t do that without proper self care.
Trust me, I’ve tried.
What Self Care Is Not
I disagree with the popular opinion that kids are an annoyance and a burden. I view them as a precious treasure, and I don’t want to be sharing the opinion that we should simply survive them.
Self care is not about justifying why you don’t pay attention to your kids or why they spend most of their time in front of the TV.
Self care does not need to be expensive.
There are options to refresh your mind even when you don’t have a lot of time to cocoon.
Self care is not selfish, it is a service you do for your family in order to be able to selflessly love them. That is why self care is important.
Lastly, please don’t think of self care as something that will solve all your problems and make you ultimately happy. Only one thing can do that, and this ain’t it.
How To Actually Make Self Care Work For You
My tips for self care formed during hard times where I had to learn to do my best despite my circumstances. These ideas are the results of lots of trial and error, frustration and finally, success. I hope they inspire you!
1. Lower Your Expectations
That sounds weird but it was so crucial for me! The idealistic person that I am, I imagined the times spent alone to leave me feeling like a carefree woman.
That never happened.
I had to face reality.
Once a mom, always a mom is a true statement. That is the beauty of becoming a mother.
You may get away from your kids for a while, or they may grow up and leave the nest, but there is never, ever, EVER a time when you completely stop thinking about them, missing them or worrying about them.
Until my heart beats the last, I will carry the happy burden of being a parent. That comes with the territory.
So forget being able to just forget. It ain’t happening.
Stop expecting what won’t happen and start experiencing what can.
You can make a conscious decision to help yourself relax and focus on something other than your kids.
You can choose to say “stop” out loud every time you want to obsessively check on them, control what they do in your absence or unnecessarily worry about them.
You can redirect your attention and live in the moment for this period of time.
There Is No Magic Bullet
I know, disappointing.
Wouldn’t we want to know about a sure-fire way to refresh and relax and bounce back ready to conquer?
There is not one way you are always guaranteed to feel better.
Because this world isn’t perfect. Complete peace and rest do not come from the things that surround us.
But There’s The Prince Of Peace
I know this because when I changed my relaxation routine to one that included praying and studying the Bible, I finally found the refreshment I craved.
It wasn’t the coffee I was sipping. Nor was it the view or the friend I invited. Though all of those were nice.
True refreshment always came from Somebody greater than me, who knows how to encourage and bring hope even in the midst of a trying season.
The Bible calls Jesus the Prince of Peace because He gives peace unlike the world does. His yoke is light because He carries our weaknesses and lets us borrow His strength for the journey.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, start here.
2. Take A Break Right In The Middle Of The Chaos
What? How is that even possible?- you ask.
The best way I found is drowning out the chaos for a short while.
Just put in your headphones with music blaring. (It has to be headphones otherwise the music just adds to the noise and you can’t hear anything.)
I usually listen to worship and praise because my heart needs to be elevated to the right place and only God can work that change.
But if you choose some other type of music, that’s great too.
This drowns out the noise, without physically having to leave the room or forcing the kids to be completely quiet.
Then just wait.
I don’t push myself to start relaxing or feeling better.
I just breathe and focus on NOTHING.
I stop the thoughts that come into my mind and maybe repeat something such as “I’m ok”, “Relax”, “Breathe”.
I visualize happy things and I visualize myself letting go.
And most often, I also pray. That is how I get access to God’s supernatural strength to love and give selflessly even when I’m at the end of my rope.
Usually, I can tell when I feel better and that’s when I can jump back into what I was dealing with.
Why Does Music Work
If you don’t believe me, check out this article from the University of Nevada, on how effective music is in relaxation and stress management.
Moms need attitude adjustments just as much (if not more) than their kids because we are carrying the burden of helping our children deal with their big feelings.
Don’t you find yourself having to exercise serious self-control when you’re helping a toddler through a tantrum or explaining to a tween why sarcasm isn’t a good way to communicate?
At some point, you run out of that patience, but the day may not be over yet.
So listen to music.
I tell my kids I love them, therefore I will need to listen to some music so I can be a kinder mom. Sometimes I sit on the couch and watch them run around but hear no sounds.
Other times I had to kiss a boo-boo or give a bath, but I wasn’t getting agitated by the fussing, arguing or crying.
You Don’t Need To Ignore Them
The point is not to neglect the little ones or leave them alone without supervision. Though if they’re old enough, by all means, do go somewhere else in the house.
You most often need this type of break when you are a stay at home mom with young kids. So be attentive, smile or soothe as needed, stay present but cancel out the noise.
For a moment, your life will be like watching a movie with no sound on, just background music.
I homeschool and over time I have noticed, I become very agitated around lunchtime.
I finally realized that’s the time when my first round of patience runs out from teaching, correcting and talking so much.
While I prepare lunch, I send my kids outside if I can, but either way, I listen to music and quiet my mind and heart.
Try the headphones and see for yourself.
3. Find Your Triggers
Triggers, in other words, are your pet peeves.
What gets to you so much you have a hard time controlling your temper?
Disrespect? Mess? Whining?
For me, one of the biggest triggers is noise.
When I am tired or overwhelmed, the noise my kids make drives me up the wall. Even when it’s happy squeals, screaming laughs or chasing each other around the house.
At some points during the day, I just can not deal with that without turning into a MOMster.
If you feel the same way, here’s what to do.
Dealing With Triggers
Figure out what the triggering times are for you (for me it’s lunchtime and the end of the day).
You might also need to figure out what behaviors trigger you, but you will not be able to graciously deal with sassiness or disrespect until you’re in a better spot.
When you’re tired, even insignificant problems can be triggering.
The first step is to realize and accept that this is happening.
Plan Ahead For The Witching Hours
I guess there are several ways to interpret what the “witching hours” mean, but to me, it’s the part of the day when everybody is melting down.
Kids are tired, moms are cranky and daddies are getting home from work.
And it’s the same time every dang day.
Prevention is always the best way to deal with frustration.
When you know in advance that certain things set you off or certain times of the day are more stressful than others, you can prevent
your epic meltdowns by planning ahead.
- Plan movie time for 30 minutes when you throw dinner together, so you have less chaos going on.
- Let the kids play outside longer than normal. Fresh air is good.
- Have a meal plan ready and start prepping throughout the day, so you aren’t scrambling and stressing out in the evening.
- Take a time-out together and cuddle on the couch.
- Send each kid on a 30-minute quiet time in separate rooms, with audiobooks or picture books.
Read More Tips That Work
There’s a phenomenal book I highly recommend, called, quite surprisingly, “Triggers” by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake.
The book addresses all the possible triggers I can think of, in a 31-day format, so you can think about one each day. Not only are the responses Biblical and grace-filled, but they’re also practical.
I refer to it often when I need encouragement.
4. Stop The Guilt Trip
It may not come naturally, or it may feel like you’re doing something wrong when you invest time in your own well being, but you aren’t.
My husband always reminds me: “If you check out mentally, who is there to take care of the kids? You are the most important person who has to be ok because you don’t have a substitute.”
When you put it that way…it’s obvious.
No need to feel guilty.
After all, don’t the instructions on a plane say that in case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before you help others?
That’s because you can’t effectively help if you desperately need help yourself.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Despite head knowledge, your emotions may still not want to accept the fact that you matter too.
You feel that tight sensation in your stomach or chest and that awful little second-guessing game begins.
So if you feel like you shouldn’t take a break, ask yourself:
-Am I actually doing something wrong or deliberately hurting anybody?
-Have I acted selfishly, ignoring other’s needs?
-Have I put forth my best effort and worked hard?
Your answers will clearly determine where you stand and whether you need to feel guilty or not.
Base the decision on facts and not some underlying, vague feeling.
Then, enjoy your break and intentionally say no to guilt.
5. Know Who You Are And Act Like It
I’m not talking about being conceited and full of yourself.
I’m also not talking about selling yourself short and assuming you’re not worth anything.
View yourself in light of your true worth.
There are many ways people strive to achieve good self-esteem.
Positive self-talk, surrounding yourself with supporting friends, focusing your energy on achieving worthy goals are all great things.
But the best and most reliable way I found to determine who you are is to study who God is and view yourself in light of that.
If you need help getting started, please sign up below and I will send you a free resource on how to effectively study the Bible, get to know God and understand yourself.
(create sign up form for bible study)
6. Draw Your Boundaries
Self care practice is a great opportunity to draw your boundaries.
How will kids learn to draw their own boundaries, take care of themselves and respectfully express their needs if not from you?
Whether in words or action, and it’s most often in action, but you’re sending messages about how to deal with situations life brings about.
Kids need to see their mom saying no so she can focus on her priorities.
A mom who kindly lets her children know when she needs a few minutes alone or when certain behaviors have become overly disruptive is doing the best for her kids.
This is hard work at first because you need to train your kids to respect you. And the first step is you respecting yourself.
How Does This Work In Reality?
For example, my kids aren’t allowed to come downstairs until 7:30am.
I wake up at 5-5:30 am and spend time reading, working out and getting mentally ready for the day. I guard this time because that’s how I ensure I am a healthy, kind and productive mother.
If they wake up (which is often), I require them to lie back down, listen to audiobooks or sometimes I let them get up if they play really quietly.
I didn’t always carve time out for myself.
I didn’t draw my boundaries.
I had the false belief that I need to spend every waking moment with my children to show them how loved they are.
I know many of you relate.
Kids Shouldn’t Be Your Whole World
I needed to realize that I matter too; for the reasons, I explained above: I’m a crucial part of the well-oiled machine.
If we want to love our families well, we have to draw boundaries around ourselves.
Kids cannot be our whole world and the sole purpose of life.
Not only because it isn’t healthy, but also because it isn’t Biblical.
Now I am much better at drawing my boundaries, saying no and encouraging my children to be independent of me.
7. It’s NOT One And Done
I started viewing my time away from kids not as one special time when I am required to refresh or else! You know that doesn’t work and you get all stressed out just thinking about how relaxed you should be. Top this off with the fact that your husband has been the one watching the kids and he would love to know how much fun you had and how ready you are to come back home with a good attitude. No pressure or anything.
When I started treating time off as a constant tending to myself, things started to change.
Let’s have a little storytime
How Plants Are Like Moms
I don’t know a thing about plants, as I have killed a cactus before.
In theory, I know that in order for a plant to grow it needs care. You can’t just water a plant once every month and expect it to grow, bring flowers or be healthy.
If you only water it every so often, the consequences may not be immediately visible, but the plant’s roots will start to grow weaker.
It’s still alive but not at full potential.
Now if that plant goes to a new owner, who actually cares for it and waters it every time it needs it, the plant will eventually come back to health.
Again, the result will not be immediately visible after one watering. The plant will need some fertilizer probably and some other stuff I have no clue about.
Either way, it will require more attention than a plant that is doing ok.
Both of these are extremes.
One is neglect; the other one is emergency care.
Ideally, a knowledgeable plant owner practices a basic level of care and the plant thrives. It never actually has to reach a point of plant-emergency.
That is the same way with us, moms.
Not making time to refresh will slowly, but surely wear you down. Implementing a self care practice will, in turn, steadily revive you.
Don’t wait for the need to take extreme action. Do what you can to take regular breaks.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it amounts to anything.
Think of the plant analogy and rest assured that consistent, basic level self care is necessary for you to thrive.
8. Find Out What Causes Joy
This will look different for everybody, so you will have to do a little soul searching.
- What makes you smile?
- How do you imagine the perfect day?
- What activities refresh you?
- How do you relax best?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then pay attention to yourself for a couple of weeks. Notice what caused joy and a sense of fulfillment.
Sometimes unexpected things bring a new sense of refreshment into our lives.
When my friend gave me a free pass to an hour’s massage, I was there for it. I haven’t had a massage in years and I figured it wouldn’t hurt.
What I did not expect is how much I loved it and how relaxed I felt afterward. When they offered me the membership, I signed on the spot.
I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on myself, but this was an acceptable first step. I decided to do it every two weeks, and I scheduled my appointments in advance.
I went even when my husband or kids were fussy.
I went when I had second thoughts and doubted if I should take this money and time for just me.
That commitment to my well being has made such a big difference. It was something I did just for me, just because I wanted to. It brought me joy.
9. Practical Ways To Practice Self Care
After I started looking for it, I found other ways to bring joy into my life:
I joined a gym and allowed myself to drop the kids off twice a week for an hour, so I can strength train.
On those mornings when my husband is home, I get up early so I can work out and sit in my favorite place to have coffee, breakfast and read for an hour.
I turn on a podcast in the car that nourishes my soul.
I go out on regular date nights with my husband and let him worry about what we do, I just show up and enjoy.
I sit down for 30 mins and do nothing.
All these things have a place in life at different times, but the point is to fit them in.
You need to plan to consistently put wood on the fire inside your soul.
Before you go, read my post about the one weird thing you need to be a better mom.
What are you gonna do that brings you joy? How do you plan to take care of yourself more intentionally?