I’ve read about a thousand posts about self care for moms. And I always get anxious that taking care of myself means sacrificing quality time with my kids, or time to clean up and get work done. There are so many great ideas out there, but I feel guilty when I think about leaving my toddler crying on the floor so that I can sip my coffee while it’s still hot. I can’t enjoy my alone time with some of these extravagant ideas… and some I just plain can’t afford.

So here’s what I’ve done: I’ve looked at my own life and what works for our little family. I’ve looked at things which make me happy and recharge the batteries of my soul. And I’ve looked at things which are easily doable on a regular basis, when (gasp!) the kids are around. What’s made it into this article are the things which fit every one of those qualifications.

The result? Self care for the busy mom. These tips won’t make you feel like you’re a horrible mother, because your kids won’t suffer. You can take care of yourself while taking care of the kids, too.

Just remember: you can’t serve others when your cup is empty. It’s taken me years to admit this, but it’s true. So take care of yourself and be well, my friend. I’m in the trenches with you, but I’m still smiling!

Self Care for the Busy Mom - Real Simple Mama

I do have affiliate links in this article. I’ve chosen the items that I bought which help me achieve my goals of self-care, and I appreciate you supporting my little family!

Self care means you’re taking care of your body, mind, and spirit; self care can also mean that you’re bettering yourself as a mother, woman, or human being. My goal here is to give you varied ideas to achieve all of those aspects, while your kids are around. 

Beauty Tips

Take care of your skin

If you’re like me, having kids has made your face look like a thirteen year old all over again. (Seriously, what the hell?!) And since I was just staying at home raising the very humans who did this to me, I didn’t bother really taking care of my skin. This is their fault, so they have to see it.

Now I’m trying to put forth a little bit more effort, and I really love it. I found a skin regimen which is working for me (and is safe for breastfeeding); I’m doing a few other things like a one-minute clay face mask once a week. These things don’t take much time, and I can do them with the munchkins at my feet; but they make me feel more beautiful, and that feels great.

Paint your nails

My son loves bright colors and he’s fascinated by the nail polish displays at the store. I wasn’t brave enough to try a bright purple, but I got a soft pink for less than $5 (I’m not spending a lot of money on this stuff!) and painted a few of my nails. It made me feel girly, and plus it was something I did just for me. Even if it did look like I painted with my eyes closed.

If your children are old enough, you could paint each other’s nails, too! I know it’s only a matter of time before we try this in our house. May I suggest a pastel color… or perhaps clear?…

realsimplemama.comPut on some makeup

I used to feel silly about putting on a bit of concealer and mascara if I was just staying home all day. Now I’ve found that it’s more of a subliminal thing: I’m taking 30 seconds in the morning to do something just for me. It’s not about anyone else – like I’m trying to impress a 3-year old anyway – but it makes me feel more special. Like an “ooh la la” type feeling when I catch myself in the mirror.

I’m really cheap on everything if you haven’t noticed already; you can either buy some inexpensive makeup at your grocery store or pharmacy, or wait until a pricier brand like Clinique has a freebie with purchase.

Additionally, if you’d like some quick-and-easy beauty tips for the “real” mom, check out my guest post from Morgan here.

Grab some lotion

This time of year, my hands feel like alligators from washing them 100x/day. So I get some lotion (lately I’ve been obsessed with the eos brand, which I bought myself for Christmas when it was on sale at Target); toddlers and preschoolers can learn how to rub in lotion, too. In fact, it helps calm my son when he’s getting worked up. Just give them a little dab and tell them to rub it in until it disappears.

Health Tips

I have been so absolutely awful at taking care of myself. And I’m trying to crawl back out of that pit I’ve dug for myself over the past few years. Here are a few simple self care things I’m doing to boost my physical health.

Drink some tea

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… I don’t drink coffee anymore. Like, at all. The creamer I liked was costing me money and precious calories, so I’ve switched to tea. I’ll have a cup or two of plain ole decaf green tea before the kids nap.

And the last time we were at my beloved Target, I picked up a cheap box of chamomile lavender tea for the afternoons and evenings, when I don’t want any caffeine in my system.

It’s incredible what a warm sip of lovely-smelling tea will do for your soul.

You can't fill anyone else's cup if your own cup is empty. - Real Simple Mama

Coconut oil pulling

This is a rather obscure health tip I found on Pinterest (my favorite post about it is here), and I’ve been trying it for the past few weeks. I actually do the pulling while the kids are napping (and I’m writing), but I think most people do it when they’re in the shower or when they wake up in the morning. Essentially you’re just swishing around coconut oil in your mouth for 15 minutes or so. It promotes oral health and can even whiten your teeth!

Here was my thought process on this: I love the taste of coconut oil, and already had some unrefined virgin coconut oil at home anyway (I use it for cooking); so if this oil pulling thing doesn’t work, no wasted money on my part.

And if you do it around your kids, it gives you an excuse to not have to talk to them for 15 minutes. (Baby sign language, anyone?)

Get some exercise

Stop grumbling… I hear you! I’ve had to really get out of my SAHM comfort zone to fit a workout into our daily routine, but I’m loving how I feel. I’ve lost about 10 pounds in a month, and I’m doing things which my kids can participate in, too. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • 21 Day Fix DVDs
  • Zumba on YouTube (I stream it onto the TV from our Apple TV)
  • Wear the toddler and walk the park with preschooler on his scooter
  • Do walking/lunging/squatting laps in the driveway while the kids play with chalk
  • Do lazy workouts (like the ones I’ve pinned here) while kids are sleeping in the morning, or during nap time

Not only am I feeling more limber and healthy lately, but I’m losing baby weight and taking care of myself. And my kids see that example, which is so so important.

be the example of self care that your kids deserve: Self Care for the Busy Mom - Real Simple Mama

Meal plan for your family

Doesn’t this sound fun? Actually, it is! I love that I meal plan for my family and that we’re eating more varied, healthy foods. My son helps me choose what to make, and he looks through recipes with me (as well as helping me at the store, and helping me cook too!)

I have my complete free guide here; also, I find that meal planning helps me stay on-track for the week, and puts me in control of what goes in our bodies. Mwahaha…

Track what you eat

You may not need to do this, but I for one am trying to lose weight. And so I finally broke down and started tracking what I eat every day on My Fitness Pal. The app and an account are both free, and it syncs with everything. While the kids are eating, I take a moment to log everything I’m consuming, too.

Not only does MFP track your calories, but it keeps other things like protein or sodium intake into account as well. And I’ll admit, once I made it a daily habit, it doesn’t take more than a minute to use!

meal planning and eating healthy as a busy mom - Realsimplemama.comDiffuse some oils

I’ve quietly used essential oils for years, and I can vouch for the benefits; from healing an ear infection to calming and soothing a coughing child, I’m a believer! But I’ve found that if I use my oils in a diffuser, even when no one is sick, it just really brightens my mood. (And if you’re just diffusing, you can totally use the cheaper brands you find at the store; I save my Young Living oils for topical applications, e.g. the kids have a fever.)

I had an expensive diffuser for years which finally crapped out, and I’ve been perfectly happy with this one I found on Amazon (spoiler alert: I picked it because it was the cheapest one, and I actually love it!). Bonus: the light changes colors! Hooray for easily amused kids. And moms.

If you’re curious about essential oils, feel free to contact me or look for some of the helpful Facebook groups/Pinterest posts about the oily life!

Meditation and Yoga

I know you think “how in the hell can I practice meditation while I’m watching my kids?!” The key is, get your kids involved, too! I have a few free apps (Calm is my favorite) and I use Breathe on my watch when the kids are laying down. Even if they’re not actively participating, the soothing voice and quiet sounds help them to relax. And I love that they’re watching me practice this, day after day. My 3 year old has a mantra he uses when he gets agitated or excited: “I am calm.” I tell him that this is the same thing.

Yoga is also great, and I’m hearing more and more about kids practicing yoga, too. Even a YouTube yoga workout is fun to do with your kids! You can get some beginner ideas on my Pinterest board for yoga and meditation here.

For your soul

These ideas have the power to recharge your spirit. Bonus: they’re all really easy to do with your kids around.

Listen to music

We don’t use the TV nor other devices much on a daily basis, and as a former music teacher I have tons of music. So I’ve made a few playlists just for the kids and I. Whether we’re cleaning up or playing, it’s nice to have something in the background.

And don’t limit them to “kids music”! I know that there is a huge market for music geared towards children, but my kids love everything from Michael Jackson to the Beatles to ACDC. It’s so cool that they’re being exposed to all genres.

Get some sunshine

What’s free, gives you Vitamin D, and is guaranteed to lift your spirits? The sun! Every chance we get, we’re outside. No need to buy expensive toys or go on an exerting hike; just let the kids play with chalk or the water hose. Hell, you can even make bubble solution with water and a little dish soap.

You’ll soon be laughing and smiling.

kids in the sunshine - Self Care for the Busy Mom - Real Simple Mama

homemade chalk table and some sun!

Use a planner and get organized

This is another thing which may sound like a chore, but in the long run it will save you time and lessen stress.

Take the kids to the store and pick out a pretty planner; alternatively, you can find some free apps on your phone. Having a plan and getting things done is a great feeling!

Here’s my guide to make your to-do list work for you, so that it doesn’t end up making you frustrated.


I’m serious! Coloring is relaxing and fun, and plus you’ll have something beautiful to show for your time. I’ve started coloring with my kids, and we all really love it. Toddler is in her high chair with a crayon or some finger paint; preschooler is at the table (and he can also practice writing, using his ruler, using scissors, etc.) and I’m next to him with my book and colored pencils. I’m a huge advocate of grown ups coloring and I wrote about it here.

Watch something with your kids

I know that we’re always told that TV is not a babysitter, and you’re a horrible mother if the TV is ever on in your home. Well look, we can’t be Super Mom 24/7. And that’s ok. I recently had to watch the kids alone while hubby put in some weekend hours, and I was beyond exhausted. So we made popcorn and cuddled on the couch.

Plus, if you’re showing your kids something educational like a nature documentary (“Life” on Netflix is my personal favorite for kids), you can get in a little lesson, too! Hell, if the dialogue is too advanced, just turn the volume all the way down and talk through it yourself.

But like I said earlier, watching something funny has the added magic of making you laugh, and hearing your kids say some funny stuff. Believe it or not, my son’s new favorite is Mr. Bean! We also love Story Bots and  Turbo Snail. You can see my updated faves from Netflix on my kids’ guide here.

If you don’t have Netflix, may I suggest YouTube. You can look for the Muppets, the really great old-school Dr. Seuss animations, and our newest obsession, Simon’s Cat.

Take care of yourself too, Mom. Self Care for the Busy Mom - Real Simple Mama

Treat yourself

Uh oh, now I’m suggesting that you eat something unhealthy. Yes, yes I am. Damnit it’s ok to have some chocolate or frozen yogurt every once in a while! Especially if it’s a special treat you share with your kids.

My personal favorite to keep stashed away in the pantry is the Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Nuggets (either with or without almonds). They’re less than 50 calories each and they are just the right size. I also like having a little sugar free chocolate pudding, which is 70 calories and something I don’t mind sharing with my kids.

If you’re going to go out, those frozen yogurt places are really fun; we also like to hit up Nothing Bundt Cakes when our son has something to celebrate (like being potty trained yay!); their little bundlets are fantastic, and they often have a “buy one, get one free” sale. They’re only about $4 normally, anyway. Just don’t look at the calories on these, ok?

Last but not least? Cook something with your kids!

The easiest thing is to make “banana ice cream” by freezing chunks of ripe banana, and then blending them. You can add a little milk to make it extra creamy, but that’s it!

I also have lots of recipes I love on Pinterest; my favorite, and ironically one I found when I had random ingredients laying around, is for the coconut chocolate chip cookies. Holy crap, they’re good.

My kid loves helping me create things in the kitchen: get your child a high chair or a stepstool and let them stir, taste, and experience the magic of cooking!

Here’s to you, Mama.

Tell me how you recharge as a mom. And I hope that you can use at least one of the tips I’ve given you! All of my other “Just for Mom” articles can be found here.