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For Families

Self-Care for Busy Moms

Hannah Larson

Licensed Professional Counselor

Last modified 19 Mar 2024

Published 15 Feb 2024

Being a parent is tough. There are often way more tasks that need to be completed in a day than you can possibly finish. Here are some tips for building self-care into your life. You may be busy, but you can be kind to yourself too. 

Speak kindly to yourself 

The easiest way to build self-care into your day is to look at how you speak to yourself. Being a busy parent, it is true that you don’t have a lot of time. Our thoughts affect the way we feel, think, and behave. 

Even with no time in your schedule, this act of self-care can improve your mood, change how you feel about yourself, and give you more energy. 

I often hear from clients, “I can’t speak kindly to myself, I would get nothing done.” I want to challenge the idea that you have to speak harshly to yourself to feel motivated. 

Harsh words may work in the short term, but just like with your kids, in the long run, negative self-talk reduces motivation and increases shame, anxiety,  depression, exhaustion, and isolation. 

When you notice you are speaking harshly to yourself, try these steps.


  • “I did the best I can” 
  • “Things don’t always go as planned.” 
  • “I will be OKAY.” 
  • “I have the resources within me to figure things out.” 
  • “I can make mistakes and still have friends.” 
  • “I am still a good parent even on bad days.” 
  • Focus on what went well and acknowledge the positives 
  • If you are disappointed in a choice you made, ask yourself, “What do I have control over?” Ask, “What changes would I like to make next time?” Then, let it go. 
  • Know you only have control over your own actions and responses 
  • Accept what happened and ask yourself, “How can I move forward?” 
  • If you are in an anxiety or depression thought spiral, change your focus, and keep bringing your attention to something else

To instantly improve your mood, increase motivation, and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. 

There are many great tips within the Cadey app for recognizing cognitive distortions and changing them. If you would like to explore this topic further, visit the Cadey library. 

Find what you enjoy

When life gets busy, we sometimes keep saying “yes” to everything and make ourselves busier by habit. You may have become so busy you have forgotten what it is you enjoy. Maybe what you enjoy has changed since having kids. 

When you participate in activities that bring you joy, it improves your mood. 

Take a moment to ask yourself, “What brings me joy?” and ask, “How can I bring a moment of that into my life?” 

Here are some ideas to consider.  

  • Taking a bath
  • Connecting with meaningful friends 
  • Reading 
  • Playing music
  • Enjoying a hobby
  • Writing 
  • Crafting 
  • Painting
  • Antiquing 
  • Traveling 
  • Dancing to your favorite music
  • Being in nature
  • Walking or hiking 
  • Exercising 
  • Participating in yoga, dance, or another movement class 
  • Taking a class to learn something new (art, music, etc.)
  • Volunteering for a cause that matters to you 

Tips for adding joy to your life. 

  • Allow yourself to explore different activities until you find one you like. 
  • Instead of mindlessly scrolling on your phone or watching tv, take that time to read a book or do a craft 
  • Tune into your body. Are you saying yes to something you really don’t want to do? How can you say no and give that time back to yourself? 
  • Allow yourself to enjoy an activity in small increments of time. Do you have five minutes and enjoy playing music? Play for five minutes. 
  • Exchange babysitting with a parent you trust and take wine or cooking class, go play tennis. 

Be aware of how social media or electronics are eating up your time 

One reason we always feel so busy is that we have devices that intrude on every second of our spare time. 

It is the world we live in now. It’s not often that we can just leave behind our devices. 

Here are some things to try.

  • Take some of those moments when you would pick up your phone and instead go outside and notice nature. 
  • Enjoy the silence. Take a short moment to be with yourself. When we allow in small moments of silence we can make better decisions. 
  • If sitting in silence is painful, you may consider exploring this with a therapist. When silence is painful, it can be because of anxiety, depression, or feeling fearful of experiencing emotions that you have pushed down or hidden away. 

Accept and ask for help

Often in life, accepting help can go one of two ways. 

One, you are the superhero parent, and you want it to look like you have it all together.  When someone offers help, you decline graciously, saying, “I got it.” It can feel too vulnerable to accept help. 

The second feeling may be needing to stay in control. You may feel the other person may not complete the task to your standards. Being in control reduces your anxiety.

Pause for a moment when offered help. Ask yourself, “Can I accept this help.” If you can, let go of your need for control, your need to be perfect, and your criticism of how another is completing the task.  

Sometimes we really want help, but we hope those in our life will guess that we need help and graciously step up to offer assistance. After all, they can tell you are overwhelmed. You should not have to ask. 

The problem with hoping people will guess what you need is that others often don’t know. You may be surprised to hear this, but this includes our spouses. While, yes, it would be wonderful if those closest to us could just guess what we need and offer assistance, it doesn’t work this way. 

When asking for help, be as specific as possible. Instead of just saying, “I need help,” ask for help with a particular task. For example, you may say, “On Wednesday night, I work late. Can you make dinner for the kids?”  

By asking for help and accepting help from others, you can take some of the strain off of yourself. You deserve that break. You deserve to have a community. 

Exchange sleep-in days on the weekends 

If you are raising your kids with a partner, trade sleep-in days. One person sleeps in on Saturday while the other parent is up early and helping with the children. Then, switch on Sunday. This way, each caregiver gets a meaningful break. This tip sounds simple but it can be really meaningful.

Often in families, one partner is the early riser, and if you don’t make a plan like this, that person takes on all the weekend responsibilities. This may seem ok for a while, but soon that partner will start to feel resentment. The sleeping partner will likely say, “Well, you were up anyway.” The key is that even if you are awake, maybe you can have a coffee or read the news in the peace and quiet of your bedroom instead of playing short-order cook while dodging flying legos. 

Set a schedule and make sure you get a break too!

Self-care truly does matter 

Self-care brings you back to your family. Taking care of yourself makes you feel happier, healthier, and more optimistic about the future. Self-care also allows you to show up more fully for your family. When you are taking care of yourself, you can be present with those around you. Kids can tell when we are present and when we are checked out mentally. The next time you are struggling with self-care, remind yourself that you are doing it for your family. 😀