Sometimes, as a busy parent of young children — especially surviving 24/7 parenting during a pandemic — I can’t help but roll my eyes at all the self-care tips promoted on the internet. When going to the dentist alone feels like a vacation, believe me, I can’t simply get away for a solo stay at a hotel to “recharge.”
If that’s an option for you, take full advantage! But for many of us parents, making it through the day can feel challenging enough without the pressure to demonstrate self-care. So I came up with a few simple DIY strategies for supposed self-care at home, with kids.
1. Make small, tangible goals
I used to make grandiose plans for everything I could accomplish during my baby’s naptime. Solo time with my toddler! Weed the garden! Organize the kitchen! But all this was leading to burnout and wasn’t truly accomplishable, which led to me feeling even worse than before. So I’ve been practicing smaller goals, spreading them out over the whole week instead of in one day. One day might be scheduling doctor appointments (I tend to put off those phone calls!), and the next day might be painting my nails or stretching for five minutes. Smaller goals work better for me.
2. Take self-care to go
This might be one of my stranger ideas, but it works for me! My car is my self-care haven. How many times do we get stuck in the car with a sleeping baby or waiting in line at a school pickup or activity drop-off? Instead of simply scrolling my phone, I started to improvise self-care in my car. I started by packing a book to bring on the go. Then I added a small makeup bag, and eventually some moisturizer and a gua sha. While waiting in line for my son’s pickup at preschool, I can sneak in a five-minute face massage and feel so much better. Pack what works for you — it’s worth a try!
3. Less screentime = me time
Whenever I spend less time on my phone than normal, I feel more productive and more energetic. When I went screen-free for an entire week I learned that the less I’m scrolling through my phone, the more I can get accomplished for myself and my family. I’ve placed a time limit on Instagram and routinely try to leave my phone in the same place in our kitchen so I know where it is but don’t have the temptation in hand. I find that minimizing my exposure to memes, reels, TikToks, and Facebook threads helps me stay grounded and allows me to focus on myself and my family.
4. Take a shower or bath
This seems like it should be pretty standard, but as a stay-at-home mom it can feel pretty extra, especially if you’re not going anywhere that day. But I always feel better after. Sometimes I’ll let my kids watch a show after lunch so I can sneak in a shower on my own without interruption. Or instead of settling in for a night of TV after the kids go to bed, I’ll prop up a tablet in the bathroom and take a bubble bath or soak in Epsom salts. I don’t get fancy with candles or anything, but I do what it takes to create a relaxing experience without giving myself too much work. This also helps me get a better night’s sleep.
5. Simplify scheduling
One of the best things to come out of COVID was the simplification of our schedules. I used to get stir crazy if I stayed at home with the kids all day, feeling like our day wasn’t successful. But now, I relish our downtime. We don’t need an activity or outing every day, and my kids are often happier at home or outside exploring. Learning to be at ease with a slower pace has helped me accomplish some of the organization goals and house projects I usually place on the back burner. Saying no to social outings, obligations, and commitments has been one of the best yet most challenging things I have worked on this past year. It has helped me free myself from the pressure and guilt of doing things I don’t have the mental space or physical energy for, making room for the people and things I do enjoy.