The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Self-Care as a Parent

Self-Care as a Parent

Parenting is hard. Between keeping kids alive, juggling work, and managing a household, it’s easy to put yourself last. But running on empty is a recipe for burnout. Prioritizing self-care is not selfish—it’s necessary to be the best parent you can be. Use this guide to start making your needs a priority again.

Eat Nourishing Foods

When hunger strikes, it’s easy to grab whatever processed snack is quickest. But, while processed, high-sugar snacks might provide short-term relief. they’ll inevitably lead to an energy crash later. And that cycle of roller-coaster blood sugar levels is no way for a parent to live. The key is having well-balanced, nourishing meals and snacks prepped and ready to go when hunger strikes.

Think a handful of nuts with an apple, hummus with veggie sticks, a small portion of trail mix, hard-boiled eggs, or a tasty protein shake. Having these better options on hand prevents you from making poor snacking choices out of desperation.

The same principle applies to your meals. Instead of swinging through the drive-thru for a calorie-bomb burger and fries, take an hour or two each week to meal prep balanced lunches and dinners. Grill a bunch of chicken breasts, bake a couple of sweet potatoes, and roast some veggies—simple, nourishing ingredients you can mix and match as meals. Portion them out so all you have to do is reheat.

This approach applies to more than just your diet. By prepping healthy snacks and meals, you’re also taking care of yourself in other ways. For example, you’ll have more time and energy to play with your kids, and you might even find yourself feeling more focused and productive throughout the day.  Taking care of your well-being, including improving your scalp health through a balanced diet, is essential for being the best parent you can be.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is often the first thing to go out the window when you’re a new parent. Between feedings, diaper changes, and general baby duties, it can feel like you’re running a terrible nighttime marathon with no end in sight.  But making sleep a priority has to happen, even if it feels impossible at times.

You have to be militant about getting quality sleep whenever you can. Set a bedtime for yourself and try to stick to it as closely as possible, even if that means leaving dishes in the sink and surrendering to the clutter monster. And when that precious bundle of joy inevitably wakes you up at 3 am, don’t try to be a hero. Sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it’s a short cat nap during the day.

On those days when you got brutally minimal sleep, permit yourself to have an early bedtime that night. Order a pizza for dinner or take other shortcuts, but prioritize getting to bed early to pay down that sleep debt. A well-rested parent is a more joyful, engaged parent.

Make Movement Non-Negotiable

Exercise isn’t just about weight or fitness goals. For parents, it’s a crucial piece of self-care that boosts your energy levels, improves your mood, and melts away stress. The key is intentionally scheduling your workout like any other important appointment and fiercely guarding that time.

Set your morning alarm 30 minutes earlier and use that kid-free window first thing to get moving. Squeeze in a yoga video, jog around the neighborhood, or crank out a strength circuit before the chaos begins.

Or if mornings are a no-go, take advantage of naptime or quiet time. Get the kids settled, lace up your shoes, and hit the pavement for a walk or run while they’re resting. Getting that movement in during the day helps shake off any antsy energy or irritability that sometimes builds up.

Find Time for Solitude

As a parent, the idea of having any real alone time can feel laughable. The demands are constant – kids always need something, whether it’s a snack, help with homework, or a housework request. It’s relentless. But carving out even the smallest pockets of solitude throughout your day is crucial for your mental health.

Believe it or not, even 10-15 minutes of alone time can recharge you. If you can’t seem to grab a quiet moment at home, get creative. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you have to and just sit there in silence, taking some deep breaths. Or stay in your parked car when you get home and read a few pages of a book before heading inside. The key is using that time to escape, even briefly, from the noise and demands.

Ask for Help

When your mom offers to watch the kids so you can run errands alone, say yes. If a friend offers to bring a meal when you’re swamped, graciously accept. Hire a babysitter occasionally just to give yourself a kid-free breather. Getting a brief respite allows you to reset your mindset and return to parenting duties feeling more centered and patient.

At the very least, try to trade off parent-duty nights with your partner once a week. Having that committed child-free evening lets you both recharge and reconnect as individuals. Go out to dinner, see a movie, or just veg at home without kid distractions. It’s incredibly healthy for your relationship.

Speaking of relationships, don’t let your friendships fall by the wayside. Having a strong support system of other adults is crucial for your mental health. You are so much more than just a parent! Make an effort to text, call, or video chat with friends and family regularly to maintain those bonds. Get together in person when possible for coffee dates, playdates, or parents’ night outs. Conversing with other grown-ups, even briefly, reminds you of your identity and interests outside of parenting.

Prioritize Your Well-Being

Self-care isn’t a luxury—it’s essential for your well-being and ability to show up optimally for your family. Start small and be consistent, even 15 minutes daily can make a massive difference. Put your own oxygen mask on first so you have more energy, patience, and presence for your loved ones.

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