It’s 8 a.m., and I’ve already unloaded the dishwasher, taken out the recycling, cleaned the bunny’s litter box, and gotten two reluctant little learners onto their school Zoom meetings.
But I haven’t found a single moment for myself: no bathroom breaks, no sitting to eat breakfast, and no hot coffee. Just some brief sips of bone cold brew.
And even the stolen hasty mouthfuls are abbreviated by an insistent preschooler about to go into full meltdown over his morning snack.
I have no reserves left and the day has only begun.
Some mornings I’ll navigate the chaos reasonably well. I’m able to maintain a semblance of calm. But other times, I’m consumed by the storm.
My tone gets irritable and my words critical. I blame rather than validate. I issue reprimands rather than give hugs.
And all the while there is this noisy self-critical chatter in my exhausted head telling me I should do better. That I’m a bad mom. That I’ll never get it right.
If you can relate, this post is for you. We all need some self-compassion in our mom lives to break the cycle of drain and blame.
Ready to make life easier?
Practicing self-compassion will make life easier
As moms, we face a deluge of daily struggles including—but certainly not limited to—feeding temperamental toddlers, dealing with squabbling siblings, and managing meltdowns.
While these challenges may be small in the larger scheme of things, they add up. Slowly but surely, the daily parenting grind chips away at our wellbeing.
And the thing is, we typically don’t pause and acknowledge our suffering. Rather we plow through—berating ourselves for not parenting better.
The result? We feel worse rather than better.
Here’s where self-compassion comes into play. It’s an alternative approach to our typical default responses to mama-related overwhelm and stress.
And who doesn’t want to make life easier and more enjoyable?
What is self-compassion?
Perhaps the easiest way to describe self-compassion is with a related concept and one that we’re generally more familiar with—compassion.
When we show compassion, we recognize the suffering of others and step in to help.
Self-compassion is similar to compassion but with a unique spin—it requires that we notice our own suffering and offer ourselves comfort.
Simply stated, self-compassion means treating our distressed selves with the same kindness and respect we’d give to a cherished upset family member or friend.
And with amazing benefits.
Research shows that self-compassion increases our happiness, resilience, and motivation. It helps us eat better and get more restful sleep. And self-compassion also helps us parent with more grace and empathy.
All sounds pretty good, right?
While the concept—and benefits—of self-compassion seem wonderful in principle, the question remains.
Where do we start?
Especially when we’re already overstretched moms as it is—so used to giving generously to others but not to ourselves.
How to practice self-compassion
The truth is self-compassion isn’t a passive process. It requires work—effort put into replacing old ways of seeing and treating ourselves with a better alternative.
And if you find yourself thinking—oh no, not another thing to do! Bear with me. The time and effort required will pay off many times over.
Becoming a more self-compassionate person can be likened to increasing physical fitness.
We can read all we want about exercise without making a single iota of actual progress. Because it’s doing the work that ultimately counts.
And just like reaching peak physical health involves multiple components (aerobic, strength training, flexibility, and stability) so does self-compassion.
But in this case, the heavy lifting is done solely by our brains in three key areas:
- Common humanity
Let’s look at each of the three self-compassion elements, one-by-one.
We need to first see or be aware of our suffering before we can address it. This means pausing and paying purposeful attention to the present moment—asking ourselves gently and honestly:
How am I doing?
And then—not running away from our answer—or being consumed by the feelings and thoughts we discover.
Easier said than done, I know.
2. Common humanity
All parents struggle and we all make mistakes. Our struggles don’t make us weak, flawed, or undeserving. They make us human.
So rather than feel less than—isolated and alienated in our suffering—self compassion offers a way we can feel connected and supported during times of hardship.
Simply stated, self-kindness means treating ourselves with the same gentle consideration we would a loved other.
Importantly, self-kindness differs from self-esteem. It’s not contingent, comparative, of competitive. Rather, self-kindness is there to prop us up regardless of how life is going and how well we’re coping.
Make life easier with this self-compassion exercise
Great, so now we have a basic understanding of self-compassion.
But the question remains: how can we get some self-compassion into our own daily lives as busy mamas?
Returning to the example of physical fitness, we need to practice self-compassion to experience the benefits.
But learning any new skill can be overwhelming at first—and hard to fit into busy mom days.
Similar to starting a new exercise program, it’s important to start slow and find opportunities to practice.
And a great place to start your journey is with a basic self-compassion exercise and one that incorporates all three key components.
Next time you find yourself in a different parenting situation, try the 5-step process below.
Step 1: Notice & Pause
The first step in self-compassion is noticing. We need to first be aware of our suffering before we can act on it.
So, the next time you notice unpleasant emotions or negative thoughts creep in, pause whatever you’re doing.
Taking a few slow, deep breaths can have a grounding effect—bringing you fully into the present moment.
Step 2: Acknowledge your suffering
Once your awareness is centered on the present, acknowledge what you’re experiencing.
This can include telling yourself, in your head or aloud: “This is a moment of struggle,” or “This is what suffering feels like.”
The goal here is to remain present in the moment, without stifling or being consumed by difficult emotions and thoughts.
Step 3: You’re not alone—recognize your common humanity
Knowing we’re not alone, helps move us through difficult moments.
Remind yourself that all parents struggle. For example, try telling yourself: “I’m not the only mom who feels this way,” or “Other parents struggle like I am now.”
Then move on to an act of self-kindness.
Step 4: Be kind to yourself
Gently ask yourself: What do I need in the moment?
Then follow through on that need by giving yourself encouraging words or by taking care of a basic need.
For example, try telling yourself: “I can show myself kindness when I’m overwhelmed,” or “When I’m kind to myself, my children learn to be kind to themselves.”
You can also recognize and address a basic need—like taking a sip of coffee, sitting down for a couple of minutes, or taking a much-needed bathroom break.
These small acts of self-kindness don’t take long but can make a big difference to our wellbeing.
Step 5: Reflect on your experience
Later in the day, when the difficult moment has passed—reflect on how the process went.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Was the self-compassion practice helpful?
- What did I notice?
- Which parts went well?
- Which parts require more work?
Consider recording your responses in a journal.
Be patient with yourself and go slow
While self-compassion exercises need not be complicated, that doesn’t make them easy.
If you find yourself struggling, it’s worth remembering that this upfront work will make your life easier in the long run.
Self-compassion can also dredge up a whole host of difficult thoughts and emotions, similar to how an exercise program can unmask old injuries and physical limitations.
So, start slow.
And if you find yourself overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or health care professional.
We’re here to support each other—as we take one step at a time, slowly but surely—on our parenting journey.
You’ve got this mama!
I’d love to hear from you!
What do you think of the concept of self-compassion? Do you think it can make life easier?
Let me know in the comments below.