100 self-care ideas that will make you a better parent

The importance of self-care for parents and even more for mothers!

When we become parents, the idea of self-care might seem like a distant memory.

Something that we remember doing before we had children.

Now that we have children, they are the priority.

Without a doubt, your baby and your children must be taking care off.

A baby who wants to be breastfed cannot wait for you to finish your cup of tea. After all, they are only little for such a short time and they really need you right now.

There is no doubt that being a parent is amazing and rewarding. It is also the most difficult and underpaid job in the world!

If you want to respect your child’s needs, you may enter a sacrifice yourself cycle.

Dr Laura Markham coined the concept of SAP disorder (S – Sacrifice – yourself – on the A – Altar of P- parenthood), when the parent sacrifices herself on the altar of parenthood.

Taking care of young children is a 24/7 job. There is no real break. Even when you are not with your children, you will think of them.

But that sacrifice is not sustainable on the long term.

And we have a misconception from the beginning. It’s like we believe that we take care of our family or we take care of ourselves. In fact, self-care as a parent is very different from self-care in the pre-kid’s era. 

But, you will need to take care of yourself to take care of your children.

Here is a nice cup metaphor: to give to your children, you need to have something to give. You cup needs to be full to the brim to spill over, to give to your children and your loved ones.

If you cup is half-full, you will have to make an effort to pour into your family’s cups, but you can still do it. If you cup is empty, you have nothing to give.

So, what do you need to fill in your own cup?

The answer might be very different for every one of you. What will help you is very personal. But you “must” take care of yourself.

You cannot be a happy parent if your needs are not met.

In my courses and in my one-to-one coaching session, we do this little activity:

“find 10 things that make you happy and make sure you do them today, this week or this month”.

I have compiled my clients answers and my own tips to give you 100 ideas to try.

Note that I don’t believe that self-care means time away from your children. Children’s needs must be met. Children under the age of 3 are in a proximity stage when they really need to be with a close caregiver. You know yourself and your children best. So, trust your instincts: if you feel that you must stay with your little ones, please enjoy that privilege season.

And I don’t believe either that you must privilege your couple above everything else. Sometimes, you must find yourself again before you can reconnect with your spouse.

Try one of these 100 ideas. Any of these ideas can be done with your children or when they are asleep. If you have another one, please comment! I will add it to the list!

Download the handy  list to stick on your fridge

100 ideas for self-care:

  1. Spend time with friends
  2. A online chat with our family from abroad
  3. Read a book
  4. Listen to a meditation app
  5. Write in a journal
  6. Make a photo album of your children
  7. Cook with your children 
  8. Bake with your children
  9. Invest in a cleaner
  10. Have the ironing done professionally
  11. A meal subscription box
  12. Walk the dog by yourself
  13. Walk the dog with the children
  14. Enjoy a new kind of tea. Drink tea/coffee in a flask in bed.
  15. Family time at the weekend when we are together
  16. Take the time for tea/coffee with cake!
  17. Have Netflix or any other systems that allows you to enjoy a movie anytime – aka when baby sleeps!
  18. A date with your spouse
  19. A take away after the children are in bed
  20. A restaurant like that you don’t cook
  21. Let your partner cook
  22. Cuddle the cat.
  23. Have a bath by yourself. Add sea salt and essential oil.
  24. Have a bath with your children.
  25. Enjoy your favourite museum. 
  26. Go to the cinema with your children to enjoy your favourite snack
  27. Have a shower the night before so the morning will be less rushed.
  28. Take time to have a long phone call with a friend.
  29. Read a book in the evening instead of the TV. It’s more relaxing!
  30. Being able to read on the kindle when I stay in my child’s bedroom for a very long time. This saved my sanity when my children didn’t want to sleep alone, didn’t want me to leave or were waking up as soon as I was leaving.
  31. Have a massage
  32. Teach massage to your children so you can massage each other
  33. Enjoy a baby massage class, so relaxing for mum and baby
  34. A family yoga session where we connect as a family 
  35. Get a manicure 
  36. Nap with your child
  37. Go to bed when your child goes to bed
  38. A slow day with nothing planned.
  39. Do less things in a day – take each hour as it comes and enjoy the moment.
  40. Learn something new like an online course!
  41. Make sure you eat healthy food
  42. Make sure I have a snack when on the go, otherwise, I get cranky
  43. A walk with an endpoint but no real route.
  44. Listen to music
  45. Dance with your children
  46. Sing your favourite songs.
  47. Sitting quietly for 10 minutes and feeling the sunshine on your skin
  48. Exploring somewhere new
  49. Going out anywhere by myself

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50. Go to the Gym

51. Practice yoga at home, even with the children

52. A new haircut

53. The smell of cut grass

54. Laugh out loud!

55. A day out at the beach

56. Hugs and kisses with your family in bed

57. Look at the horizon and enjoy the view, quietly, peacefully

58. Observe your baby

59. A clean and tidy house

60. Light a candle

61. Go to church

62. The Silence

63. All the traditions, Christmas with your family

64. The many occasions to read my book when breastfeeding

65. Go to the coffee shop with your baby

66. Draw with your children

67. Be in my pajamas when I’m at home

68. A new pair of comfy sleepers

69. A walk in the sunshine

70. Eat chocolate

71. Cuddle my children until they let go

72. Listen to my children playing together

73. 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep!

74. Quality time with each of my children individually.

75. See how pleased my children are to see each other when they have been apart.

76. An hour to myself in the evening when my husband takes care of the children

77. Be in the garden

78. Make things with your hands: knitting, sewing, …

79. Drink a glass of wine with your spouse.

80. Follow the seasons. Picking strawberries and blackberries, making elder flower cordial, gathering conkers and autumn leaves.

81. Breastfeeding

82. Carry my child in a sling.

83. Carry my child even when he seems to tall or too old to be carried. If he asks, I will carry him!

84. Wake up before everyone else to enjoy the peace.

85. Meditate with the children

86. Read a bedtime story to the children

87. My children saying “I love you”

88. Messaging sweet words to my husband even if we are together, as we cannot find a minute to really talk!

89. Having my children brushing my hair

90. Painting my nails with my daughter

91. Practice gratitude, writing what you are grateful for every day

92. Have a memory jar to fulfill with happy memories

93. Read a daily affirmation. My children practice this with me.

94. Finding post-it with messages from my children.

95. Fresh flowers and indoor plants all around the house

96. Stop listening to the news, enjoying the silence in the car instead of the loud radio

97. Setting up my clock to remind myself to stop and take 5 deep breaths every hour

98. Burn some incense

99. Screen detox

100. Having guests in my house who help us!

About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.