By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
When you’re pregnant, everyone likes to say “Sleep now, while you still can!” and joke that you’d better be prepared to never shower again. And yes, it’s true that when you become a parent, life becomes busier and you have less time for yourself. But the idea of discarding important self-care habits because you’re a mom now is actually pretty toxic. After all, you can’t be the happy, healthy mother your family needs if you don’t feel well. Moreover, you didn’t stop being a whole person when you had a baby, and you deserve to feel great! Here, I’ll share some health and wellness tips that even the busiest mom can work on her hectic schedule. You may not have ample spare time these days, but you have enough for this.
When you’re a busy parent, it’s easy to skip meals or just pick at your little fussy eater’s leftovers. (After all, chicken nuggets are a source of protein, and juice boxes count as a serving of fruit … right?) But it’s important to eat a balanced diet that includes lots of veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat milk and dairy. Good nutrition helps you to maintain a healthy weight and avoid serious medical issues like diabetes, hypertension, and low immunity.
The good news is that making good meal choices doesn’t require tons of time. If mornings are hurried for your household, you might think about preparing a quick breakfast the night before. (Unless you’re doing physician-approved intermittent fasting, you’d never skip breakfast, right?) Try mixing a cup of steel-cut oats, a splash of skim or low-fat milk, a teaspoon of brown sugar, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Refrigerate it overnight, and pop it into the microwave for 45-60 seconds. It makes a quick and delicious high-fiber breakfast without the added salt and sugar of instant oatmeal. For some protein, you might pair it with low-fat turkey sausage or a hard-boiled egg. Eating a balanced breakfast is a vital part of starting your day off right.
Lunch and dinner don’t have to be any harder, especially if you’re willing to give meal prep a try. You’ll make a big batch of meals to eat throughout the week or freeze for later use. To save even more time, you could prep meals you can reheat in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Meat- and veggie-based entrees freeze very well, and you can pair them with brown rice or whole-grain pasta for an easy weeknight meal. For quick snacks, take even more shortcuts: try precut fruits and veggies, reduced-fat string cheese, and low-sugar granola bars. Done!
As a bonus, consider that your healthy eating habits might encourage your children to try new foods. Remember that you are your kids’ biggest role model right now. Let them see you eating broccoli, asparagus, grilled chicken, or salmon, and they just may ask for a bite!
You’ve probably heard people use this expression before. And it’s true: you can’t take very good care of anyone else unless you’re taking care of yourself. What does that look like? Well, it’s different for every mother, but here are some ideas for self-care:
You may feel like these activities are superfluous, but proper self-care habits really are a necessary part of your well-being. So make time for them, even if it means scheduling them into your weekly calendar.
As tempting as it is, resists the urge to try to do everything yourself. If a doting grandparent or favorite aunt wants to spend the afternoon with your kids, it’s okay to say yes. If your child’s teammate’s mom wants to organize a carpool to and from games and practices, it’s okay to say yes to that, too. If your partner surprises you with a gift card for an in-home cleaning service, say thank you and accept the help.
It’s not always easy to let other people do things for you, but you should still do it. It will relieve some stress, free up some time, and give you some space to recharge both physically and mentally. It also allows other caring, trustworthy adults the opportunity to be involved in your children’s lives, which is good news all around.
There’s no denying it: being a mother is a lot of work, no matter how old your kids are. There may be days when you feel like you simply have too much on your plate. Just remember these two important points: 1) you’re a person with needs, too, and 2) it’s okay to take some shortcuts! Take good care of yourself, and enjoy life with your kids knowing that you’re doing a great job. Happy Mother’s Day!