Time is definitely one of your most precious resources as a mum. And between working and being a parent (a full-time job in itself) it can often feel like you have very little time left each day for yourself. But it’s 2022, and after surviving a pandemic, juggling kids and work all from home, I think we all know just how bad burnout can really be.
Self-care really can be the difference between a full-on meltdown on Wednesday versus powering through the week. So while it can feel tempting to go around filling up everyone else’s cup – here are our top self-care tips for working mums, to get you to Friday still feeling human! Trust us, this is going to help you take care of yourself as a mum + make your life as a working woman just that little bit easier.
1. Fill YOUR cup… (not the aesthetic cup!)
Instagram really is a blessing and a curse… On the one hand, a good ol’ scroll and zone out is sometimes all you need after work to reset. But on the other hand, when you do scroll past an Insta mum who is professing the benefits of a 7 pm run or the most aesthetically pleasing post of someone reading a self-help book in the bath… suddenly your zone out and scroll can seem a little less luxurious.
Remember, self-care is about finding the activities that actually fill your cup – not the activities that think should fill your cup. Because sometimes a run or a nice hot bath are definitely going to do the trick and other times, a scroll on Insta or a glass of your favourite beverage and just a moment of quiet time are exactly what you need.
Similarly, if you do find that exercise really helps you reduce your stress levels – but you don’t love running – switch it up. Try swapping to walking and listening to a podcast, or even putting on some music and dancing with the kids. As we don’t get a whole lot of time allocated for self-care, it can often feel like you need to squeeze in some huge activity or grand gesture because you may not get this opportunity again for a while. But remember the goal is to take care of yourself – and that can look like so many different things from day to day.
2. Find moments throughout the day – every day.
While the occasional spa day, or girls weekend can truly be rejuvenating – realistically they can’t happen once a week. So, when you’re in the thick of a busy week with work and the kids it’s important to have your self-care activities that can be done in a pinch.
If you can, try to get a bit creative with where you fit your self-care activities into your day. For many of us, after a big day of work and getting the kids down for bed, we can feel too exhausted to do anything that is truly restful. So, try to plan out little moments of self-care throughout the day. Whether it is having your own playlist you swap to after dropping the kids off at daycare to crank on your way to work or committing to taking your lunch break outdoors, so you can have some deep breaths in the sunshine.
Or, if you work from home and have to juggle both work and your little ones – try to schedule some self-care activities when they are down for their nap, or while they are content playing or doing something else.
3. Get your body moving
The truth of the matter is that exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels, improve your mood and maintain your health as a busy, working parent. But it is definitely one of those things that are easier said than done… And while many parents absolutely love working out, and view exercise as a core pillar of self-care – others just may not love it, which is okay.
It’s about finding workouts, or ways to move your body, that are going to serve your body as well as your mind and soul. Whether it is a weekly class with friends, daily walks on your lunch break, or squeezing in a run where you can – if you’ve fallen out of the habit of regular exercise as a working parent (we all do it) it can take a while to get back into the swing of things, or to find something you enjoy doing.
So, take it slow and be kind to yourself. Remember self-care is an ongoing process and journey – it’s better to create small ongoing habits, than unsustainable and huge sweeping life changes.
4. Make time for your mental health
Mental health is so important for all of us, at any and all stages of life. Parenthood is a huge time of change, uncertainty and let’s be real – stress. So, it is important to check in with and take care of your mental health from time to time as a part of your routine self-care. What this looks like, will be different for everyone based on their circumstances and history.
It could be as simple as taking some time to check in with how you are feeling and reflecting on your mood over the past few weeks or something like journaling. To a more structured solution like visiting your doctor to get a mental health care plan, or booking an appointment with a mental health professional.
5. Get your baseline sorted
As much as we wish that the occasional manicure would just patch up our entire stress levels and health – the truth is that getting your baseline of health sorted will always make a bigger impact. While elusive to most busy parents, consistently eating and getting a full(ish) night’s sleep truly is the best way to take care of yourself through the week.
If you struggle to find time to prepare food for yourself throughout the day – try to pack your lunch for work the night before, or meal prep. But if that just doesn’t feel achievable (especially if a big project or busy time is coming up at work), you can also try a meal or grocery delivery service.
Sleep is definitely a tricky puzzle to solve and there is a lot that is just out of your control. However, to maximise the amount of restful sleep you are getting, try to change the habits and behaviours you do have control over. Avoid hopping back onto your laptop and doing work after putting the kids down to bed (where you can). And if you notice that you are just staring at the ceiling before bed, see if limiting caffeine in the afternoon makes a difference.
At the end of the day, self-care is a journey – not any one singular activity. It can be really tricky in the beginning to navigate how to take care of yourself, both as a parent and as a worker. But by taking it one week at a time, finding activities that you truly find restful and creating habits that contribute to your overall health – you’ll begin to notice the differences in your mood, well-being and life as a working mum.