How being a better mother includes self-care

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

As a mother, you may find that finding the balance between caring for your child or children and accomplishing other necessary daily tasks is quite difficult. Taking care of yourself may fall far down the priority list. However, self-care is important, especially when it feels like stressors are coming at you from every direction. Read on to learn how making time for yourself is a crucial aspect of healthy parenting, along with the benefits stress management can bring to your life, and some essential self-care tips. 

What is self-care and how can it make you a better mom?

While food, water, and shelter are the basic components of sustaining life, other efforts are needed to feel balanced on this Earth. For example, you can eat well and exercise for physical health, find an intellectual challenge for mental stimulation, attend worship for a spiritual boost, or speak to a therapist to discuss your emotions. According to the American Psychological Association, self-care is the regular activities you use to attend to your needs and safeguard your well-being. When you practice self-care, you may find that it recharges your emotional “batteries” and helps you present the best version of yourself to others. 

“It is an essential component of stress relief and wellness. Making time for yourself may feel indulgent or selfish, but that is far from the truth. Even small acts of self-care or self-kindness can go a long way in decreasing the feelings of exhaustion, burnout, stress, and even depression that busy mothers often feel,” quotes Kristen Bowe, writer for the Mayo Clinic

Do you push your needs aside to take care of everyone else?

Benefits of self-care

Self-care involves taking action to preserve your health. Doing so can help you cultivate a sense of healthy living that resonates to your family. Research suggests that when you participate in self-care activities, such as meditation or exercise or even just some alone time, your stress-levels lower and your health benefits. When you notice your general well-being improving on a regular basis, whether that means you are better rested, nourished, mentally clear, physically fit, content, or calm, it can help you function better as a mother and with more energy.

Spending time on self-care, in addition to improving your quality of life, can have a positive effect on those around you, including your children. By calming the nervous and immune systems, you may find you are more receptive to listening to the needs of others. Self-care allows you to honor the needs of your mind and body. For these reasons, self-care is an important part of a person’s daily routine. Below are just a few of the benefits of self-care:

  • Improve physical health and reduce the risk of issues like heart disease
  • Help you build and maintain better relationships with friends and loved ones
  • Boost your self-esteem and self-worth
  • Safeguard your mental health and build coping skills
  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms 

What makes someone a “good” mother?

First and foremost, there is no such thing as a “perfect mom”, and the concern over whether you are a good parent is a positive indication that you are an active and supportive influence in your child’s life. Since you recognize a need or opportunity for growth, consider what makes someone a good mother. The answer is usually subjective, depending on your definition of a “good” mom. However, there are some general qualities many consider indicative of a positive caregiver and role model, such as patience, affection, respect, strength, support, empathy, humility, and authoritativeness. Self-care can help you find the balance you need to be all those things and more for your child. 

Prioritizing self-care

Many people need help prioritizing their own self-care. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), there are several reasons why a person may feel their needs do not matter or are not as important as others’ needs. Mothers, in particular, may focus on caring for everyone else that they forget to care for themselves. If you find it difficult to consider caring for yourself before your children, remember that to provide the best care to your children, you must first care for yourself. 

How to build healthier patterns

There are countless self-care methods, and if you are starting your journey to better overall well-being, it may help to separate your long- and short-term goals. Short-term goals may include getting a healthy night’s sleep, relaxing in a bubble bath, or cooking a healthy meal. Long-term goals may include speaking to a doctor about sleep troubles, developing coping skills to manage stress, or establishing healthy eating habits for yourself and your family. 

Common self-care goals

  • Set time aside for socializing with close friends or making new friends.
  • Establish a daily self-care routine (i.e., relaxing tea-time or yoga hour.)
  • Designate a space devoted to comfort, relaxation, or joy in your home.
  • Take up a new hobby, art, or physical activity.
  • Stimulate your brain with a good book, crossword puzzle, or journal-writing.

How making yourself a priority makes you a better mom

When you feel guilty for locking the door and leaving your partner with the kids for an hour to take a relaxing bath or have some quiet time to decompress, remember that taking that time for yourself makes you a better you and, as a result, a better parent. If it helps to change your perspective about prioritizing your self-care as a mother, consider explaining to your kids why mommy needs some time alone. Normalize the practice as a part of their lives and teach them it is important to take care of themselves. This practice will likely make it easier for them to continue the habit as they grow and may help them express their needs. 

Tips for self-care

  • Use sensory input (the five senses) and the related sensations to help manage stress.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy for yourself.
  • Complete a project you have wanted to finish.
  • Meditate, pray, or spend time in nature.
  • Develop your emotional intelligence so you can recognize your feelings.
  • Get regular physical activity.
  • Stay connected with your social network.
  • Prioritize sleep, nutrition, and relaxation on a daily basis.

Common self-care strategies

Finding positive ways to manage your stress can help you find the balance necessary to be a stable, attentive mother. When you strengthen your body and mind, you may find you have more energy for your family (and more patience.) The following strategies can help you begin your journey in preserving your health and general wellbeing:

Time management and prioritizing your time

Start by accepting that you are only one person and that there are limits to what you can accomplish within a given time. Plan your schedule and prioritize time for the critical tasks first. Set a reasonable standard for yourself with attainable goals, especially when you feel overwhelmed.

Cultivate positive coping skills for multiple situations

Find what works to help you relieve stress and the challenges of the day, whether you take a walk to enjoy nature, read a book, or spend quality time decompressing alone. Building and maintaining a repertoire of positive coping strategies may benefit you in many areas of your life. 

Modeling healthy, positive behavior for your child

One of the beneficial aspects of self-care as a mother is that it allows you to model healthy, positive behaviors for your child, and children learn to prioritize their own self-care as a result. They will see you place importance on self-care and grow up believing it is a natural part of life, potentially helping them to build resilience strategies for their future.

Develop a self-care plan

As with many things, starting with a plan is an effective way to build self-care into your daily routine. Identify the stressors in your life and rank them by severity, noting anything you have previously done to deal with that conflict in the past. Choose a few short- and long-term goals, then start planning for ways to implement them. If you are stuck on where to go after identifying your stressors, consider speaking with a therapist to develop an in-depth self-care plan.

Becoming the mother you want to be

If you are working to become the mother you want to be, here are some simple places to start:

  • Stop comparisons.
  • Identify the cause of issues making you unhappy.
  • Find and implement solutions.
  • Ask for help.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Maintain social connections.
  • Remember that your kids are not keeping score.
  • Check in with your kids frequently.
  • Celebrate your successes.
  • Remember your strengths.

Try parenting classes

If self-care alone is not making enough of a difference, consider enrolling in a local or online parenting class to pick up some additional skills and advice. You are likely to find a group of parents experiencing the same issues you are facing and can lean on other moms for support and advice. 

Reach out for help

When things get complicated, and you notice that you are not taking proper care of yourself, reach out to your support network and ask for help. Reaching for help can be challenging but can result in the assistance you need. Therapy is also a valuable addition to your resources, as working with a licensed therapist can help you change your perspective on self-care and how crucial it can be. 

Do you push your needs aside to take care of everyone else?

How therapy can help support self-care

Making self-care part of your regular routine can be challenging, especially when you are busy with the chaotic day-to-day tasks of motherhood. Working with a therapist can provide the support and guidance to shift unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. Talk therapy can help you develop an array of practical coping skills, build healthy habits, and find ways to work self-care into your daily routine at your own pace—all of which help you become a better mother. Work with a licensed therapist without leaving home using an online therapy platform like BetterHelp. Many patients enjoy the flexible appointment formats, reduced costs and waiting time, and increased convenience. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been a valuable tool to help people identify and correct unhelpful behaviors and make positive life changes with the assistance and counseling of a licensed therapist. Recent studies show that online CBT treatments are a viable, effective alternative to traditional in-person therapy.


Learning how to take care of yourself is a crucial component of healthy parenting. The strategies outlined in this article may make it easier to develop a self-care plan and show your children how important it is to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Working with a therapist can help you develop a self-care plan.
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