Anyone who tells you motherhood isn’t hard is selling you something. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever loved. I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for almost five years now, and self-admittedly my personality is the furthest thing from a stay-at-home-mom. I’m busy, impatient, moody and intolerant. I loathe arts and crafts. I can’t pretend play to save a life.
At the end of most days, I feel like I’ve done everything yet nothing at all. I’ve broken up fights, fed too many fast food meals, gone from happy and proud, to embarrassed and enraged all within a matter of minutes. I’ve been challenged all day, yet haven’t really had to think. My brain feels like mush and I just want to be alone, but then once alone I spend my time scrolling through pictures of my kids. It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times.
And it’s easy to lose yourself in the mix. There’s a huge risk when women spend an exorbitant amount of time focused on just one thing. We are obsessors. We are also notorious for pouring all of ourselves into another person without asking much in return.
But we were women before babies, and I believe we can still be women during the child-raising years too. Our contentment is our number one commodity, so in an effort to not let ourselves slip away, I’ve compiled a few quick and easy ways to sneak in some self-care. After all, when the oxygen mask goes on mom first, we all breathe easier.
1. Practice saying no
Repeat after me, “No is a complete sentence.” Can you do a playdate today? No. Join the PTA? No. What about bake a cake for Aunt Lola’s 90th birthday tomorrow? Nah, I heard Costco makes great ones.
The need to please is strong among women, and somewhere along the line we all turned into “Yes” girls. It’s time to take things off our plates and not feel guilty about it. Self-care comes in a lot of forms, but knowing when to bow out can save your mental health.
2. Bring back a sound or scent from your favorite era
Nothing brings me more joy than bad pop music. Think about the happiest time in your life, and then find your phone. Pandora or Spotify are waiting to take you back to your NSYNC glory days. They say rock-n-roll fuels the soul, so turn it on and shout it loud.
Then go peruse the mall and find a perfume or scent that brings you joy. I’ve been known to sneak into Bath & Body Works on a particularly hard day and sniff some Sweet Pea lotion. It’s an instant joy and a reminder of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
3. Buy a new coffee creamer
Self-care is often associated with pricey and time-consuming things, such as manicures or pedicures, but small purchases bring big smiles too. Grab a new coffee creamer you’ve been dying to try or snag a candy bar at the checkout lane. That trashy tabloid is calling your name!
4. Eat one meal a week in bed
You have one mission: Order comfort food and get comfortable. There’s something about bad food and good TV that’s bound to lift anyone’s spirits. Binge-watching and Taco Bell are my self-care. All that’s missing is a “Do Not Disturb” sign for my bedroom door. Sometimes, the best rest is while we’re awake.
5. Delete (or stay off) social media for a day
I’m starting us off slow. One day; that’s it. Social media is a blessing for connection and a curse for comparison. So on those particularly rough days, when you feel like every person does it all and has it better than you, hit delete. Take away the temptation and watch the peace that returns when the only thing you have to focus on is staying in your lane.
6. Organize a drawer
Sometimes self-care is doing work that produces immediate gratification, such as organizing a drawer or making your bed. Maybe color code your closet; do a few tasks that feel productive. After all, productivity equals progress.
7. Pay for someone’s coffee
I know self-care is about the self, but there’s no bigger pay off than seeing a stranger’s day change. I’ve had this happen to me in the Starbucks line and my entire attitude immediately shifted. I then returned the favor to the next person in line and felt even better.
We are infinitely connected to each other—something we forget when we’re in the thick of tough circumstances or raising our children. But if we leave our bubble for a minute, and impact someone else’s day for the better, I’m pretty sure we just gave care to ourselves too.
Stephanie Hanrahan was just your seemingly average housewife until she grew tired of pretending and took an axe to her white picket fence (also known as making her private journal public). Learn how she traded her pretending for a panty liner on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog Tinkles Her Pants, where she chronicles her journey as wife to a husband with chronic illness, mother to special needs kiddos, and a woman who often unravels then finds her footing again.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Baumann Photography