Practicing Self Care When You Don’t Have a Lot of Time or Money

When I first started reading about the importance of self care among mothers, I was thrilled. Women spending more time focusing on themselves and taking care of themselves? I’m all for it. But then I started reading some examples of how mothers were practicing self care and I became discouraged. Not because what was working for these women – like getting weekly manicures, monthly massages or attending twice weekly barre classes – weren’t great examples of self care, but because they all seemed either expensive or time-consuming. I began to wonder: is self care only for the privileged mom?

The answer, I know now, is no. But when you skim the surface of self care, you may notice that many moms do indulge in self care that can be costly and/or time-consuming. And good for them! But, that isn’t attainable for all moms. Upon further reading and my own thought, I realize there are ample ways to practice self care without spending a lot of money or utilizing a ton of time.

  1. Read a book. I am embarrassed to say that it took having a child for me to get a library card. I now am a huge fan of the library (shout out Southport IPL branch) and the fact that you can borrow books for free. I admit, when I read a novel, it ends up taking me more than a few weeks because it’s simply difficult to dedicate too much time to reading at once. If you’re looking for an affordable book option without borrowing, I recommend buying used off Amazon. I’ve purchased books for as little as $.10 (you do have to pay shipping), and it’s been great to read at a pace that my schedule allows. When it comes to self care, reading a white-knuckle thriller or self help novel may work best for you. It’s about your personal interests and needs.
  2. Indulge in little things. Practicing self care doesn’t have to be a major life change. Little things can make a major impact on your day, your mood or your overall outlook. Now that I’m pregnant, my taste for coffee has ebbed and flowed. But, before I was pregnant, I loved my daily cup of coffee. Once a week (usually Tuesday because I found that I needed a pick-me-up on my least favorite day of the week), I would stop for Starbucks. Spending more than $5 for a cup of coffee is too steep an indulgence for me to afford on a daily basis (both in dollars and calories, because to be real, I never just get plain coffee). It may sound silly, but having this treat once a week was truly something to look forward to. For you, maybe the small indulgence is lunch out once a week instead of eating at your desk or eating leftovers. Maybe it’s splurging for shampoo that you love, rather than whatever is on sale. Are these all minor things? Absolutely. But little pick-me-ups can boost your mood and offer care to yourself.
  3. Try a new workout. To the moms who wake up at 5 a.m. to make the gym their priority, major kudos. That’s not me, admittedly. But for many women, working out brings both health benefits and endorphins that make them feel great. If you know what kind of workout you love, spend time doing it – even if it’s only a little. If you haven’t been someone who works out often, try a class. If you don’t have time or cash for a class, try YouTube. I used to complete a workout video called Yoga Flow for a Beach Body most days of the week. After trying several videos on YouTube, I found one that fit my skill level and time allotment (which wasn’t much; the video was 25 minutes or so).
  4. Talk to your spouse, friends and/or family more. Self care can consist of simply making more time for things you think are important. For some, that may be spending more time with a spouse, family or friends. Of course, as moms, time is of the essence. If spending an evening or weekend out seems out of reach, dedicate some time to connecting the old fashioned way: on the phone. For me, it’s easy to get in the habit of watching TV  or working nearly every evening, without even thinking about other options. My husband and I have started spending an evening or so a week simply talking. I need that connection with him, so spending that time is an example of practicing self care that benefits both me and my relationship.
  5. Spend a few minutes each day on yourself, and lose the guilt. You do a lot every day – no matter who you are. Each day, you deserve praise. And I’m not saying every woman is going to feel great after giving themselves a literal pat on the back or reading affirmations in front of the mirror each morning, but you can thank yourself in some small way that’s meaningful for you. Maybe you listen to your favorite podcast every day on your way to work – and the topic isn’t related to your job or your kid – it’s just something you like. Maybe you use an expensive facial serum daily, and it’s the only luxurious part of your day. Perhaps you read spoilers for your favorite reality TV show each day before you open a single work email. Whatever it is, do it. Release the guilt. Enjoy.

Self care is never “done.” Investing in yourself is ultimately a way to also invest in your family, your friends and your work, so it shouldn’t fall by the wayside. No matter how you practice self care, just make sure you do it. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a little more attention than we normally do; and sometimes we can put our needs aside in order to help someone we love. Just know that however you practice self care is awesome. It doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or noteworthy. 

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