You should make yourself a priority.
This is advice we moms have been hearing a lot lately.
The self-care rhetoric is doled out like we need convincing, like we’re not aware of the importance of self-care.
But I’m pretty sure most of us would love to take better care of ourselves.
Wanting more self-care is not the issue. Finding the time and energy is.
And frankly a lot of the recommended self-care measures are expensive and time consuming with short-lived benefits.
So, how do we overcome these obstacles and make self-care a priority—something we can regularly work into already full days?
By the end of this post, you’ll have the basics to kick-start your self-care journey.
No expensive credit card bills or weekends-off required.
Shall we get started?
Make yourself a priority
We moms have gotten the message.
Yes, prioritizing ourselves is important. But here’s the thing.
Without more support from others, especially society as a whole, all this talk of “make yourself a priority” ends up sounding a lot like lip service—a surface solution to a problem etched deeply into the fabric of our lives.
No bubble bath is going to erase the chronic stress and overwhelm we face as moms. Nor will any single self-care act get to the heart of why we’re so utterly run down in the first place.
It’s also a bit insulting.
The demands of motherhood don’t magically disappear while we’re indulging in “carefree” fun. Rather, stressors tend to pile up—an avalanche of must do items that threaten to bury us the second we return to our regular lives.
And then there’s the cost.
Gym memberships, spa treatments, girls only weekends, and yoga retreats sound great—in principle. But they eat up a lot of time, money, and often both.
We can’t get to the gym if there’s no one to watch the kids. A massage isn’t possible if this month’s food bill ate through all our spare cash.
And let’s not forget additional constraints such as single parenting, personal health issues, and children with special needs—all of which threaten to further complicate the act of finding time for ourselves.
So, yes. mama. You should make yourself a priority. But the barriers to fitting in regular acts of self-care can seem pretty insurmountable.
So, clearly a one-size fits all approach to self-care doesn’t work.
Beyond prescriptive self-care
There’s more than one approach to self-care.
In her book Impossible Parenting, Canadian social worker Olivia Scobie introduces the idea of prescriptive self-care. These are the resource-intensive, hyped-up ways of prioritizing yourself written about above.
Scobie likens these self-care measures to a medication prescription. We’re handed the script and told the treatment is super important for our wellbeing—essential even. But without even considering whether we can actually afford it.
And then what?
If we follow through with the recommended “therapy,” are we really further ahead? Maybe for a little while until life’s demands run us into the ground again.
A bubble bath feels good in the moment but what happens when we leave the confines of the bathroom?
And what if we don’t heed others’ self-care advice?
We face blame for not listening to external guidance—with the message being that we’ve failed twice over. Firstly, for letting life get the better of us and secondly, for not doing something about it.
This just isn’t a fair situation.
So, how can we go about self-care differently?
Prioritize yourself with self-care basics
It’s time to get in touch with what we truly need.
But how do we figure out if an act of self-care is prescriptive or not?
Scobie suggests looking out for the word “should.” For example, if you hear yourself saying, “I should go for a manicure, but it’s not a priority right now,” or “I should go for that night out with friends but I’d rather relax at home,” these are clues to dig deeper.
When you find yourself hesitating about a self-care act, ask yourself—leaving outside opinions aside—what you need in this particular moment to feel better.
The truth is, it’s often the simplest of acts that bring the most relief.
We’re talking about the basics here—like pausing to use the bathroom, getting a sip of water, or taking a shower—sometimes maybe even in peace.
Although these are small things, they mean a lot.
These little acts of self-care make a big difference in our days.
They’re the building blocks of the foundation we need to tackle the bigger issues in our lives.
And they’re what allow us to show up for ourselves and others, day-after-day.
This isn’t to say we don’t want the other stuff, too, or that there’s anything wrong with more prescriptive forms of self-care. Bubble baths, massages, and weekends away are all potential ways of prioritizing yourself.
But rather, we need to be aware when acts of self-care become shoulds rather than wants and when prescriptive self-care gets in the way of simpler ways to improve our lives in the here and now.
So, let’s pull this all together.
Simple ways to make yourself a priority
Learning to take good care of ourselves isn’t easy. But it’s a lot less daunting when we get back to basics and shed ourselves of external expectations.
So, with this in mind—think of the next step can you take towards your self-care. Try starting with a list of simple activities that help you feel good in a day.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- Clean your face
- Drink a hot cup of tea or coffee
- Listen to a favourite song
- Jot down your thoughts
- Work in 5 minutes of movement
- Get some water when you’re thirsty
- Grab a quick breath of air outside
Once you have your own list, choose one of the items and start intentionally working that self-care act into your days.
Then gradually consider adding additional ways of prioritizing yourself in the weeks to come—making sure to pause and ask yourself: How are these self-care acts making me feel about myself? My life? My relationships with others?
And don’t forget to give yourself a big dose of self-compassion as you put your self-care plan into action. Prioritizing yourself isn’t easy—especially when you’ve chronically pushed your own needs aside.
If you find yourself feeling stuck and discouraged, try remembering these three things:
- You’re not alone. They are so many other moms—just like you—also struggling with self-care.
- You’re worth it, mama, just the way you are.
- You’ll get there. Each step, no matter how small, will move you inch-by-inch, day-by-day towards the life you deserve.
Being kind to yourself can go a long way when it comes to all aspects of our lives—including self-care.
Next steps in prioritizing yourself
Mama, the last thing you need is another “should do” item on an already lengthy to do list—or more guilt.
What you do need, and deserve, is the opportunity to take better care of yourself—in a way that’s true to your unique desires, goals, and circumstances.
We can recognize the importance of self-care—and really want to take better care of ourselves—but still struggle to fit it into our busy lives.
And it’s easy to slip into the mode of doing what others’ expect of us, even when it comes to something as personal as self-care.
But we can take small steps to figure out what we personally need most. And start to working little acts of self-care into our days.
Please share the love!
If you think this post would help another mama, please pass it along! We all need support getting the self-care we need.
JulieJuly 29, 2022 at 8:28 pm
I couldn’t agree more. Self-care is extremely important when you’re a mother. It’s also really important to communicate your needs because so many people just assume we’re super human.
Jenny BorstAugust 5, 2022 at 12:13 am
Great point, Julie. There are several steps to working self-care into our days—including making others aware of what we need. It can be really tough to prioritize our wellbeing, especially when this means delegating and setting boundaries. But self-care is too important to assume others—including our family members—will automatically anticipate our needs. So we need to speak up!
RoseJuly 28, 2022 at 11:51 am
I’m not a mom(yet) But I really enjoyed reading this, you have a lot of good points and good reminders. Lots of things I find to be true even though I’m not a mom, it’s hard to remember to take time to take care of ourselves but even harder to figure out exactly what that looks like. This was very encouraging to read and has a lot of things I can actually put into practice today, to start taking better care of myself!
Jenny BorstJuly 28, 2022 at 10:13 pm
Hi Rose, I’m so glad you found the post helpful. Self-care is important for us all, regardless of having children or not. Wishing you all the very best for your self=care journey!