In recent years, we’ve all became obsessed with self care — NPR wrote all about just how much millennials fixate on self-care rituals. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that millennials made more personal improvement commitments than any generation before them, spending twice as much as boomers on self-care essentials like workout regimens, diet plans, life coaches, therapy and apps to improve personal well-being.
Another study suggested that the uptick in self-care activities might be a result of the internet, since anyone with a Wi-Fi connection can identify self-care strategies and therapies. But we as a society start to care for ourselves more, not everyone has the time to pamper themselves. Working mothers, for example, don’t all have enough time in the day for hours in the gym, at the therapist's office or at the salon.
In fact, self care looks a lot different to different working moms. We asked a whole bunch what self care means to them, and here’s what they had to say.
“I am a full-time working mother of three. For me, self care is getting up early enough to do a light yoga workout, then coffee and quiet devotional time before the kids wake up and the whirlwind of my day begins,” says Emily McCollin, public relations specialist. “As a marketing professional, this time of centering myself away from social media and the cares of the outside world energizes both my heart and brain. I’ve always hated getting up early, but this routine is something that I have come to love because it makes all the difference in both my physical and mental health.”
Meditation in the Mornings
“To me, self care means speaking up for and being honest with myself about what I need in order to run a household and a business,” explains Ginger Geldreich Jones, speech-language pathologist and certified auditory verbal therapist. “Sometimes that means I need to sneak away on a girls trip or even just a few hours for a pedicure. Sometimes it means taking some of my time in the gym to read and relax in the sauna while the kids are in childcare. It most often means time with myself in the mornings to meditate and be still in the quiet of my house before the hustle and bustle and the ‘mommy I need you’s’ start.”
Reading Business Books
“I balance running my own business with parenting my two kids,” sys JoAnn Crohn, author of 102 Ways to Make Mom Life Easier. “Self care means time by myself pursuing something I find interesting — not stuff like the gym or things I feel I ‘should’ do. For me, I'm obsessed with reading business books. I sneak away into the other room, throw a comfy blanket on and read.”
Being Healthy with the Kids
“I'm an entrepreneur raising two children with special needs (Autism and Down Syndrome), and have spent a number of years writing on the importance of self care for moms on my blog Embracing Imperfect, a lifestyle blog for moms raising kids with disabilities since 2002,” explains Gina Badalaty. “I always encourage all moms, no matter their responsibilities to do or find self care. One of the keys to self care for extremely busy moms is to find ways to integrate into the life you are already living. For example, eating as healthy as your kids is a choice that involves no time… Exercise is important — do it with your kids if you can't carve out time alone (I recommend hiking, biking and swimming), or find an exercise routine you can do right at your desk — like kegels or simple thigh exercises.”
Indulging in Long Showers
“Self care to me is catching up with a girlfriend, a short walk to clear my head or a deliciously long shower,” says Lori Sussle Bonanni.
Playing Mario Kart
“I own a counseling practice named Counseling and Trauma Therapy in Los Angeles, Porter Ranch, California, and I am a mother to a seven-year-old young man,” says Adriana Alejandre. “Up until this year in July, I have had two jobs since he was born. Self care was something that was introduced to me in my early 20s in a class. I did not grow up knowing about it, but once I learned the term, it actually took me some time to adjust to it because I felt that it was selfish. Let's fast forward to today where I spend a few hours a day fulfilling my self-care bucket. After a long day of seeing clients at my office, I know one important basic element of my self care includes eating. So, I feed myself before interacting with anyone else. After putting my family to sleep, I plop down on my couch and watch the typical Netflix and Hulu. Another type of my self care is playing Mario Kart on the Wii U, and GoFish with my son on weekends or on days after work when I am not completely drained. On these days I need more isolated self-care activities. This can include saying ‘no’ when I am being asked to do something I do not want to do….”
Taking Daily Supplements
“Self care has developed a new meaning for me since I had my daughter,” admits Lauren Alexander, VP of marketing for Neurohacker Collective. “As a full-time working executive and mother of a toddler, gone are my weekly manicure/pedicure appointments, regular massages, facials and hair appointments. But on the flip-side I've become more indulgent in the self care of my health. I take my health incredibly seriously now, as I can't afford to be sick, sluggish or performing sub-optimally. I take a fistful of supplements daily, I eat a nutrient-rich diet, I removed a lot of the toxins in my house, and I prioritize my sleep. But my favorite self-care practice is that I take my bulletproof coffee in the morning outside and watch about 10 minutes of the sunrise. Something about the nature, solitude and the coffee makes me feel incredibly happy, grateful and at peace.”
“I'm the founder of Wholesome Yum, a recipe website that gets over two million views per month, and I am also a working mother — in fact, I have two jobs (a day job as a software engineer, plus the website) and two kids,” says Maya Krampf. “To me, self care means balancing work, family and taking care of myself. It's so common for mothers to forget to take care of themselves, but that is necessary for us to be the best we can be for both our families and our jobs. One of the most important ways to do this is paying attention to the foods we eat. Filling ourselves — and our families — with nourishing foods is crucial to fueling our busy lifestyles.”
Playing with the Cat
“What Does Self Care Mean to Me? As a working mother to sometimes set firmer limits with others, which allows me some extra time,” says Lydia Verniory a human rights lawyer. “It means making small changes to keep love going in our home. It means taking a bath every evening if I don’t want to. It means learning to chose better friends. It means spending extra time playing with my cat. It means painting in the middle of the night to help my soul.”
Putting the Phone on Silent
“I’m the co-founder of FPC, Fit Pregnancy Club and mother to a 17-month old,” says Joanie Johnson. “As a new business owner and head trainer at Fit Pregnancy Club, teaching 10 classes a week, and mother to a 17-month old, self care has almost become laughable. Coming home after a day at the studio and putting my phone on silent has become the ultimate self care. My newly walking daughter provides hours of entertainment as she explores. Playing with her has become the best stress relief... I commit to a few hours focused solely on her with my phone on silent and I'm much more relaxed, focused and productive at the end of the day because of it.”
“The essential aspects of my daily self-care routine are 1. decent (i.e. six to seven hours) sleep, 2. exercise (running each morning and, lately, I've been adding a little yoga at night before bed); 3. meditation (early morning pre-kids waking up) and 4. personal growth/learning new things (audible and podcasts during my commute time makes this possible),” explains Leslie Forde, blogger at Moms Hierarchy of Needs. “I'll admit that I only added the personal growth component in the past year plus after my youngest started sleeping through the night. There are other self-care rituals that I indulge in less frequently (i.e. making time to visit friends, dancing) but am aware are important to my sense of well-being and satisfaction with my life.”
“For me, self-care is sleep,” adds Linda Salazar. “I make sure that I stay on a good sleep schedule (going to bed on time and waking up daily at the same time). I also take naps on the weekends. My family and friends sometimes tease me about this. But, when I'm well-rested, I'm a better mom, employee, sister, daughter, friend, etc. I don't wake up groggy or ‘need coffee’ to get going. As a matter of fact, I don't drink caffeinated beverages. I'm a morning person, so I just get up and get going!”
“I'm a working mom and licensed marriage and family therapist in West Los Angeles who specializes in anxiety and relationships,” explains Amy McManus. “When my kids were little, self care meant making time most days for exercise — though sometimes it had to be at home on a treadmill or with a yoga video. Now that my kids are much older, I have more opportunities to exercise, but I have learned as a mom, and as a therapist, that the very best thing for my mental and physical health is to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep every night. There is nothing else I can do that has a more significant impact on my ability to regulate my emotions and enjoy my day!”
“I am a working mother of two children (a son, 10, with special needs and a daughter, eight), and I have a full-time day job and my own private practice,” says Holly Sawyer of Life First Therapy. “Here are some things I do or have done to help me practice self-care: 1. A friend had a spa package and I went with her. All I had to do was tip the masseuse. 2. Every night, I bathe and do long stretches and do not allow the children to interrupt my ‘me’ time for anything. 3. After a nice hot bath, I journal about my day to empty my head before bed. 4. While in bed, right before bed time, my daughter reads to me every night. This is a two-for-one because it helps her complete her required reading while allowing me to focus my mind on a fictitious story and just be present to laugh and enjoy her and the story. 5. In the morning, I meditate for five to 10 minutes and do not check my smartphone for at least one hour.”
Turning the Bathroom into a Spa
“As a health and wellness specialist, a full-time child care provider and business owner, I believe self care for me is reflexology and turning your bathroom into a spa and retreat at home,” says Tamyara Brown. “For many working moms, we have to find a way to steal our time and create an environment of pampering. I create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.”
Spending Time with Friends and Family
“As a mom of two, co-founder and COO of Houseparty, I hear the words ‘self care’ thrown around constantly,” says Sima Sistani. “I agree working moms must find ways to stay happy and balanced but, I I find the concept of ‘self care’ misleading. It insinuates that fulfillment comes from spending time alone is the only way to recharge. For me, caring for myself means treating myself to extra doses of what makes me happy and spending time with friends and family is what makes me happiest of all.”
Working Out Even Quickly
“I am a first-time mom and a stay-at-home working mom, and I own my own bookkeeping business,” says Christin of Christin’s Bookingkeeping. “Getting out and meeting clients is the only real time I can get out of the house besides going to the grocery store! Before I had my son, I was one of those girls that was at the nail salon every couple of weeks, getting her manicure and pedicure. I got my hair trimmed regularly every six weeks. I was at the gym every day staying fit and I was out every weekend at a social event. Now, I barely have time to take a shower (let alone take one alone), so how do I pamper myself? I meditate and exercise, while my son sits in his bouncy chair… Sometimes my workouts only last 10 minutes before it's time for a diaper change, but at least it's 10 minutes more than I would have done. Sometimes, I have the privilege of being able to do these 10-minute sessions two or even three times a day! Those are the days that I really feel like a winner! Those 10-minute sessions are helping me lose the baby weight and, since my son is watching, I feel like I’m setting a good example for him as well.”
“Self care can be a hard thing to come by, especially now that I am a single working mom, but I try to get it in when I can,” says Cheryll Putt, licensed trauma therapist and mom coach in San Diego, CA. “Sometimes, self care for me means just hanging out with the kids and enjoying the things that they enjoy. We often spend a lot of that time laughing, which helps everyone deflect stress. I try to take mindfulness walks. For example, when I can get in a walk, I don't focus on my to-do list or how I can help my clients. I tune in to my five senses and my breathing pattern. It really helps to calm and relax me, even though I am exercising. Sometimes self care is just vegging out on Facebook or watching my favorite shows on TV. Sometimes, I try to do something creative like paper crafting or water coloring. As I type this it seems like a lot of things I do, but in reality I don't spend nearly enough time on self care.”
Better Managing Housework
“I take a minute to jot down everything I've done at home that day and how long it took,” says Margaret Groves. “Why? I finally realized that I was treating my time at home as ‘lost’ time. I didn't know how long it took me to do basic tasks: how long it took to keep up on laundry, how long it took to shop for groceries, cook/prepare meals and eat them, basic housework. And in my world, if it's not measured, it's not important. This was leading to me (and my family) completely devaluing any time I spent at home. It turns out that I spend seven to 10 hours on housework every week. That is a lot of time. If I spent that much time at the gym, I'd be a world-class athlete. Knowing that I spend that much time is so helpful; now I value my time that I spend there, and even better, I feel much better about asking my partner to pitch in. And finally, I stopped that cycle of ‘trying to fit one more chore in’ before we leave the house as a family, and then running late, and then developing a resentment against my family who was just trying to be on time to soccer practice, telling myself that they just didn't care about my efforts. (That might just be me?) Because now I know how much time it takes!”
“I’m a working mom of a 14-year-old and a nine-year-old,” says Ayesha Gallion, senior communications editor for Inteplast Group. “Journaling is a huge part of taking care of myself. I journal mostly about my goals and connections with other people, and use it to deconstruct ideas so that I can explore whether they are worth building out.”
Eating Lunch Out
“Since I make my own hours, I have built in a lunch from 1 to 2:30 pm and a 30-minute break from 4:30 to 5 pm,” says Courtney Watson, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “I take my lunch; I don’t eat in the office.”
“I am an immigration attorney with a thriving practice in Pompano Beach, Florida,” says Reneta Castro, mother of two. “My days are crazy, between court appearances, work assignments, deadlines and the pressure of being an immigration attorney during this administration that is so anti-immigrant. Yoga and pilates, as well as doing my makeup in the morning, help me keep centered. Burning incense also helps the atmosphere in my office. But the best self care is knowing that the work that I do has meaningful impact to those I choose to represent.”
“The first thing that I think of is my mental health,” says Enza Ketcham, mom blogger and teacher. “Coffee. For some reason, enjoying a hot cup of coffee is something that I find rewarding. The warm treat that I usually enjoy in the morning is something that just makes me feel better. Whenever I am needing a special treat for myself, I go for coffee! Also, if you have kids like myself, then keeping them to a bedtime is something that really helps me unwind and work on stuff on my to-do list. When my kids stay up too late or get in and out of bed for an hour, I notice I get a lot more stressed and end up going to bed later myself… And when my house is picked up I can relax more and enjoy simple things in life. I feel tons of mental stress go away when I know I am not staring at dirty dishes, a messy table or a huge pile of laundry!”
Drinking More Coffee
“Self care for me is getting up before anyone else so I can have coffee and quiet time,” says Clair Pearson, certified sound healer. “I love having my two cups of coffee in the dark, in my bed reveling in my alone time. I use this as an opportunity to go through what I call are ‘my gratefuls.’ which is my list of things I am thankful for. Then it’s time to get people ready for school. When I come home from drop-off, I’ve developed a really nice routine of meditating for about 30 minutes. It’s amazing how much better my days go when I am mentally and emotionally centered.”
“I own Serendipitous Psychotherapy, LLC and my niche is with mamas,” says Kelley Kitley. “I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach and self care is my top priority. My fave is in my car to and from work listening to music and drinking coffee while I sing at the top of my lungs. Once I transition into my office, I sit at my desk, light a candle, take a deep breath and think about five things I’m grateful for.”
“Publishing, writing and podcasting has become more important to me after becoming a mother because it is an activity I do by myself without my family,” says JF Garrard, president of Indie press, Dark Helix Press. “Perhaps it is an odd thing, but taking the time to work on something that is not baby related keeps my brain sharp. I want to be able to keep busy on the day I become an empty nester because the day will inevitably come.”
Going off the Grid
“Self care for me is taking time to exercise and making it fun — I like Zumba; I hate running, so I don't force myself to run if I don't feel like it,” says Alison Foley-Rothrock, owner of a small immigration law firm and mother of two boys. “I make sure that I eat when I'm hungry and don't put it off to get ‘just one more thing’ done, which usually leads to eating lunch at three in the afternoon and less healthy choices about what I eat. And I find space and time that's just for me, even if it's only 20 minutes, when I don't have to answer to anyone else or do anything in particular but just find some peace and quiet. It helps to turn off the phone, Facebook, emails, etc. I have to give myself permission to not be available 24/7.”
Cooking with Headphones
“As a mother of twin four-year olds, the time that I get to myself in a day is minimal, so self care has come to mean something very different (and also imperative) to me,” says Jessica Groff, a health coach. “It could mean that I sit down and read a chapter in a book at the end of my day, or the hubby watches the kids for an hour while I cook dinner and listen to a podcast in headphones. I also get up an hour before my family during the week so that I can start my day off quietly and peacefully. I do a 30-minute yoga practice, write in a gratitude journal, drink a glass of water and review my schedule for the day. It’s much more satisfying than being ripped out of bed by two screaming children who need all the things from the moment their eyes open to the moment that they close, and it really feels like I’m taking care of myself when I do this, even if it means waking up before the sun.”
Eating Breakfast with a Friend
“As a full-time mental health therapist and mom to two precious young children (a nine-month-old daughter and four-year-old son), I often find it harder to practice self care than to teach it to others,” says Jessica Tappana. “One form of self care is that I have a standing weekly breakfast date with a friend (also a mother). We occasionally have to cancel, but most weeks we know we are meeting on Monday mornings after we drop our sons off at preschool. Simply adding in this little time dedicated to socialize has been incredible for my sense of connection! Another form of self care is that my husband and I ask each other for about 20 minutes of interrupted time a few times a week in the middle of the evening or a weekend day where the other will watch both children and we can retreat into our bedroom with the door locked. I'll usually just lay down and focus on my breathing and being mindful of thoughts that pop into my head. Occasionally I'll use that time to read part of a book — something I did frequently before children but have struggled to do the last few years. Last but not least, a very special ‘self-care’ activity I do on particularly bad days is purchasing a drink from Starbucks and slowly drinking it making sure to enjoy each little sip!”
“My self care includes meditating and praying daily to clear my mind, not bringing work home, spending quality time with my children and being present with them with no distractions,” says Lakiesha Russell, a licensed counselor and church volunteer.
“I'm a proprietor at a Best of Boston art studio as well as a professional painter and writer, and I find that my time alone with my thoughts in my studio is what I need to ground me,” says Diana Stelin. “Painting twice a week helps me solve life's everyday dilemmas and set priorities. It's a time when I can have an honest conversation with my inner self away from the hustle and bustle of work and my family with three kids under 10. When I come out of a painting session, I feel relaxed, reenergized and ready to take on the world. I'm also a lot more understanding and giving to my little and big students at work and at home.”
“I have a 13-month-old son named Jaxon, and I have been working at an advertising agency for 16 months,” says Brittany Bright. “I started my job fresh out of college when I was six months pregnant. Therefore, I had to learn how to be a working woman and a mom in a short amount of time. Although I am still learning, 2017 has taught me the importance of self care. There are the things that I do to practice self care: 1. Keep home and work life separate. Work stays at work. 2. Eating healthy meals and exercising regularly. 3. I allow myself to become frustrated and vent to someone that I trust. 4. On the weekends, I give myself a few hours of ‘mommy time.’ 5. Brunch with friends. 6. An extra long nap by myself. 7. A trip to the park or library to sit quietly and think.”
Hitting the Gym
“I am a working mother to two little children — two years old and six months,” says Leaann Rybakov of BuckWHAT!. “I own my own health food company and its basically like having a third child. My days are nuts… I try to do a 45- to 60-minute workout every day. Luckily I live across the street from a gym, but just getting that small amount of time to myself to better my mind and body keeps me sane.”
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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