Self-care in motherhood: start with small doses!

I recently listened to this great Deliciously Ella podcast interview with Michael James Wong on how to ease stress and bring mindfulness into our day. I’ve also been reading Brooke McAlary’s new book Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time, which urges us to rediscover the act of ‘small care’ and small pleasures to weave into our daily lives. Both the podcast interview and the book have really confirmed this thought I’ve had lately about self-care in motherhood: it’s not so much about carving out the time for yourself as it is about being mindful while doing everyday things.

Self-care has certainly become a buzzword in the last few years, and while I think it’s really great to prioritise the care and attention we give ourselves, I think it can also add this extra ‘to-do’ to our list, which can end up making us feel even more overwhelmed. I’m a huge, huge believer in taking care of ourselves as mothers, and I really believe that the more we take care of ourselves, the better care we give to our children and others. But… how can we prioritise ourselves, when we feel like there’s just not enough time in the day?! The answer, I believe, is to do it in small doses.

In her podcast interview, Ella explains how she has started to turn her daily 10-minute walk to the cafe into a moment of being more mindful. She intentionally leaves her phone at home, she pays attention to what she sees on her walk, what she hears, what she smells and how she feels, and she pays attention to her breath as she walks. She says it allows her to feel present and mindful in what is an ordinary daily task. I really love this idea.

For the last couple of years I’ve tried to apply this mindfulness practice to some of my daily tasks, and I love that I have these moments throughout my day where I check in with myself. For example, each morning when I grind the coffee beans, I try to stand up straight, feet firm on the ground. I pay attention to how my body feels and where I might be holding tension. I often do some gentle neck stretches and pay attention to my breath while I do this. It’s just a 3-minute moment in my day where I pay attention and am present in my mind and body. I’ve been trying to do the same exercise in the shower each morning as well. Instead of rushing quickly through my morning shower, I try to be really mindful of the thoughts in my head. If I’m feeling overwhelmed with work, why am I feeling stressed? If I’m feeling insecure in a friendship, I ask myself why those feelings are coming up for me. If I’m feeling rested and positive, I try to be grateful for this feeling. It’s just a moment in my day where I sort of check in with my emotional state; sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk or a reminder, while other times I just have a moment of gratitude. Either way, I usually come out of the shower feeling conscious of my thoughts and emotions, which usually helps me be more mindful in my actions throughout the day.

Obviously these are small things, and it might seem like they’d have very little impact on my overall wellbeing, but I do believe these little moments make a big difference. Motherhood is crazy busy. It requires incredible levels of patience and commitment. We give so much of our time to our young people, often with very little thanks or acknowledgement. I really believe if we start taking small moments throughout our day to focus on ourselves, it has a knock-on effect on our overall mental health.

I have a friend who told me she’s recently turned the task of hanging laundry on the line into a mindfulness exercise. Each time she reaches up to hang an article of clothing up, she stretches and does it with intention. When she grabs a piece of laundry from the basket, she squats down and makes it an exercise. I have another friend who told me that she tries to squeeze in 10 minutes of stretching while sitting with her kids in the lounge room while they play in the evenings. Another friend does ab exercises while her daughter reads out loud to her. I love these little acts of ‘me time’ in what is otherwise a busy motherhood moment.

Please share below if you have found a clever way of reclaiming moments in your busy day to prioritise ‘me time’. I’d love to hear.

Courtney x


Comments (7)

August 17, 2021

I read or meditate while sitting next to my kids’ beds, waiting for them to fall asleep. That changed from being one of the worst time consuming upheavals into a pretty nice moment for myself. X

Kate Parsons
August 17, 2021

What a lovely idea, thank you for sharing.

Courtney in Australia
August 22, 2021

I love this idea! I also read while Wilkie is falling asleep! x

September 21, 2021

Hi Courtney,

I only just discovered this article today but I am really interested in this topic. For me it is so important to be mindful in my everyday tasks like working, being with my family or getting household stuff done.

I get overwhelmed easily by all the things I want and have to do during the day. I often start my day thinking (planning) I will start with some household tasks (kitchen, laundry) when the kids are out of the house, then I will work for five hours straight, then I will give my attention to the kids and their needs and in the afternoon I take some time out for myself, like sitting on my bench in the garden, reading, yoga, a walk…

But I usually end up doing everything needed and more (because also needed) but then it’s time for dinner an no time left for myself. So I go to bed shortly after the kids, feeling tired and overwhelmed. I used to be angry about all the household tasks I have to do (even though my husband and I share a lot of of them) because I considered them things I had to do.

A few month ago my sister and I talked about the never ending laundry and cleaning and she recommended me the book „Putzen!?: Von der lästigen Notwendigkeit zu einer Liebeserklärung an die Gegenwart“ (“Cleaning!? From an annoying necessity to a declaration of love for the present“) – unfortunately published only in German and not available anymore (I bought a second hand copy). This book changed so much for me.

Linda Thomas writes about the importance of doing everyday tasks with mindfulness and seeing them as an opportunity to influence your inner attitude with everything you do. For example, how a clean, tidy and comfortable home contributes to contentment and that there is a connection between cleanliness, tidiness and health. The mindset of conscious cleaning, being organized and cooking affect our living environment, and accordingly enhance housework and cleaning. It goes so far that I suddenly love tasks that I originally detested, see a sense in them and am happy to do them.

For me it makes a big difference to be mindful. Sometimes I rush through the day and in the middle of the day I suddenly realize, I have not yet taken a full, relaxed breath. So I take a deep breath and from that moment on I try to go through the rest of the day with deliberation, calm breath and to consciously notice small pleasures, such as a short conversation with one of my children – right at the moment it stands in front of me – a little tea break on my terrace, walking barefoot through the wet grass or even folding laundry 😉

Courtney in Australia
September 23, 2021

Hi Laura,
This is such a lovely comment. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me. I love the idea of applying mindfulness to the home and the simple chores we do during our day. That book sounds really wonderful. I wish I could read in German! 🙂 Like you said, sometimes just being more conscious of even taking a relaxed breath… can have a knock-on effect and make us more conscious of other things. Such a good reminder. Thank you again for your comment! x

February 9, 2022

Hi Courtney,

I woke up this morning with the intention to bring in some self-care and mindfulness to my day after a week of feeling run-down and pretty blah. So, it’s funny I came across your article today!
I’m similar in that I can only manage small doses as a mother to a 4 year old Autistic boy.
The things that make a difference to my day is a nice face oil in the morning, a quick salute to the sun in the kitchen while I wait for my coffee to brew, writing down how I’m feeling and why before I start work for the day (even if it’s one sentence), burning incense to signal the end of my work day, and meditating (but mostly falling asleep) as I lie there waiting for my son to fall asleep. It’s not much, and these things all take less than 5 minutes, but they keep me feeling like ‘me’.

Courtney in Australia
February 28, 2022

Hi Kate,
Thanks so much for sharing. I love all these ways you’ve incorporated mindfulness into your day. Love the idea of quick sun salutations in the kitchen while you wait for your coffee.

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