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Self-Care For Parents That's Realistic And Affordable

Taking care of yourself doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming.
Just pretend you're at the beach.
JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
Just pretend you're at the beach.

Is there a more fraught term than self-care right now?

On the one hand, there are real benefits to taking care of yourself. But on the other, self-care seems to have become synonymous with treating yourself: to spa visits, weekends away, and other time-consuming and expensive endeavours most parents simply can’t indulge in.

Many have also pointed out that simply telling a burned-out parent they need self-care is unrealistic and unhelpful. If a mom is exhausted and at her wit’s end, a fancy facial isn’t going to do squat.

So, while we’re calling bullshit on what most might consider self-care (sorry, we don’t have time for drinks and pedis, KAREN), we also think parents need to take care of themselves however they can.

Here are some realistic self-care tips for parents that you can actually accomplish without investing tons of money or time.

Run errands solo

"I could do this all goddamn day."
d3sign via Getty Images
"I could do this all goddamn day."

OMG, is there anything better than running errands without kids in tow? Well, probably a vacation without kids, but LOL to that happening any time soon, so in the meantime, there’s solo shopping.

You know that feeling of freedom when you enter a store sans ankle-biter, and know you can take your time? Grab a fancy coffee as you peruse Joe Fresh? Leave when you decide you’re done and not when your kid is in meltdown-mode because you didn’t buy him a chocolate surprise egg (WHY DO THEY KEEP THEM BY THE CASH REGISTERS, ANYWAY?!)?

Well, try to do it more often! If you have a partner or a family member who can watch the kids for a few hours, treat yo’self to a few hours of bliss. It may not be a beach vacation, but with the right mindset, it can feel like one.

Go to the dentist/doctor/chiropractor/whatever

If you have young kids, chances are you’ve put your own health on the back-burner. And, while you’ve been dragging your children to their various medical appointments, it’s likely you’ve let some of your own slip.

For busy parents, self-care can be as simple as booking your dental cleaning (and actually going!), finally scheduling your physical, or seeing someone about that clicking sound your hip makes when your kids ride you like a pony.

Get your eyes checked. Get that toe fungus looked at. Whatever you’ve been neglecting, deal with it — finally!

Embrace (occasional) screen time

"Mom says if I stay still and barely speak, we can watch Netflix until bedtime!"
Hoxton/Paul Bradbury via Getty Images
"Mom says if I stay still and barely speak, we can watch Netflix until bedtime!"

Yes, yes, we’ve all read the studies about screen time, and we’re all being very good parents by trying to cut down how much time our kids spend zoning out in front of laptops, iPads, TVs and the like.

But every once in a while (like Friday evening, when you are just done and so are your kids), what if we gave ourselves permission to relax the rules for once. Put on your kid’s favourite show or a special movie, eat pizza on the couch, and just veg out together. You get to sit and eat a hot meal, and if that’s not self-care we’re not sure what is.

Make it a treat instead of a regular occurrence, and your kids will love it as much as you do.

But also: take a night off from screens

OMG, remember books??
Hero Images via Getty Images
OMG, remember books??

Right, we know we just touted the (completely unscientific) benefits of the occasional screen-time night with this kids. But after the kids go to bed, instead of collapsing on the couch with Season 3 of “The Crown,” try collapsing with a book, instead.

Not only is watching too much TV as an adult bad for your physical and mental health, it can also decrease the amount of sleep you get each night because you’re pushing back your bedtime to catch one more episode.

So, pick up a book, a magazine, or a newspaper, and enjoy the benefits of the written word, instead. Make some tea and catch up on all those stories you meant to read for the book club you never actually go to (but really should!).

Declutter something

"And then I'm going to take a pile to Goodwill... without the kids!"
Maskot via Getty Images
"And then I'm going to take a pile to Goodwill... without the kids!"

Oh parents, let me tell you a tale. I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and live in a small two-bedroom townhouse with my three-year-old and my husband. Thinking about where I am going to fit this baby (a drawer? It might be a drawer) was keeping me up at night, on top of my general anxiety about adding another kid to this family.

Decluttering the space we do have and getting rid of shit we don’t use has helped me more than you can possibly imagine. We started with what I call our “shame closet,” then tackled the “shame basement,” both projects leading to carloads of donations to Goodwill. Then, my husband and I each downsized our wardrobes (let’s be real, I am never going to wear bar clothes again), and voila, the baby can sleep in the closet. Kidding. Kind of.

You must have a shame closet of your own. Or a junk drawer. Or maybe an entire room that needs to be exorcised of junk (um, toy room, anyone?). Pick an afternoon and declutter! Be ruthless! You’ll feel amazing after.

Buy something for yourself (not your kids)

"Helloooo, leggings!"
Panuwat Dangsungnoen / EyeEm via Getty Images
"Helloooo, leggings!"

Sure, you just de-cluttered, but adding one little item for yourself won’t hurt. When’s the last time you bought something just for you? Remember when you used to see a 40-per-cent-off promo at Old Navy, and didn’t automatically think “perfect, I can stock up on toddler underwear and get him some pants in the next size up?”

You don’t need to buy yourself something big or pricey — just something that makes you happy. Maybe it’s a new book (you are trying to read more, after all), or a nice scarf for the office Christmas party. Maybe it’s a fancy coffee. Maybe it’s some new fabric if you’re into sewing.

And don’t you dare add on some items for the kids. Unless it gets you free shipping. That’s legit.

Give yourself permission to nap

"Fuck the bake sale."
Tabee via Getty Images
"Fuck the bake sale."

So, your kid is finally napping, or grandma took her to the museum for the afternoon, and you think, “Ah, finally some peace and quiet. Time to tackle the laundry/meal-planning/cleaning food off the walls/cookie exchange.”

Or, and hear us out, or — you say fuck it and have a guilt-free nap.

Parents are chronically sleep-deprived. If you have an opportunity to nap, try taking it. Your bed misses you.

SLIDESHOW: Gifts for self-care.

Gifts For Self Care

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