Guilt is often enough to convince moms that it’s not possible to take time away from your kids or career to prioritize self-care and indulge in a little ‘me time.’ And you’re not alone. According to research from the journal Personality and Individual Differences, women are much more likely to feel guilty than men—yep, there’s a reason your husband has no problem leaving a screaming toddler and sink full of dishes when it’s time for his weekly basketball game, while you’ve skipped the gym for six months straight. But moms need to take a cue from the men in their lives because in order to effectively juggle all of the responsibilities of work and home, it’s important to take care of yourself.
Offset the stress of balancing work and family.
Moms are doing more than ever before—and according to Pew Research Center, most (56%) feel stressed about the daily juggling act. That stress can lead to feelings of frustration or even physical symptoms such as weight gain and exhaustion. Taking time for yourself can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed—and doing so will ultimately make you more capable of handling all of your responsibilities with patience and flexibility.
Show your kids that you value your own health and wellness.
Moms want to raise well-rounded kids who are healthy, interested in the world around them and open to new experiences. But if the kids see mom constantly sacrificing her own well-being, they are going to have trouble learning what it takes to live a full, happy and healthy life. Show them that you value your own health and wellness by making sure you have the time you need for self-care.
Tell yourself it’s not optional.
It’s true that guilt can get in the way of a mom’s most well-meaning plans for self-care. But, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found an easy trick to feeling less guilty—pretend you have no choice but to put yourself first and take care of your own needs. When your brain believes you have no choice, the guilt goes away.
You’re thinking about going to favorite barre class at 7PM, but really, you’re tired and dinner needs to be cleaned up, and your partner has to answer a few work emails, and…sound familiar? Moms are pros at coming up with excuses as to why their families can’t function without them—even for an hour or two. Keep your commitment to yourself by officially scheduling your ‘me time.’ Once it’s on the family calendar, it will be harder to convince yourself that it’s OK to bail.
Choose activities that energize you.
A brisk walk with your bestie or a coffee date with your constantly complaining coworker? When you’re a mom, the time you have sans kiddos is minimal and should be treated as a precious resource. So whether it’s time with a supportive friend, a yoga class or a leisurely stroll in your town’s shopping district, choose kid-free activities that energize you, not drain you.
Carve out me-time moments.
Sometimes leaving the house just isn’t realistic, but it’s still possible to get your daily dose of ‘me time.’ Consider waking up 30 minutes earlier than the kids to start your day with an uninterrupted cup of coffee. Or, after the kids are tucked into bed, resist the urge to jump on social media and instead spend 10 minutes meditating then curl up with your favorite book.
Tap into your child care resources.
Convinced that ‘me time’ is the key to finding balance, but still feeling anxious and guilty about leaving the kids? It’s time to tap into your team of sitters. When your kids’ favorite sitter shows up, getting out of the house without drama becomes a snap. And remember: kids also benefit from time with trusted adults who aren’t mom and dad—they get to practice their social skills, and many sitters bring a different set of skills to the table, allowing your kids to be exposed to new interests and hobbies.