Self-Care for Busy Moms on a Budget


self-careRecently, I’ve become incredibly interested in self-care for busy moms on a budget. I’ve been reaching out to people I know, mostly busy moms on a budget. As I ask them about self-care, I’ve been greeted by variations of one of three answers.

  1. Laughter, typically followed with, “Who has time for that?”
  2. A quick, visible transformation including widened and brightened eyes, a visible relaxation of their bodies, and an animated description of their self-care practices. 
  3. A gentle look and the explanation that self-care is for everyone, regardless of financial means or amount of leisure time available.

For years, I was solidly in camp number one. When asked about self-care, I would sheepishly laugh. Who has time for self-care? I am by no means proud of that reaction.

For almost a decade, at my annual physical, my doctor gave me the same recommendation. Handwritten, in sloppy script, capitalized, and with an exclamation point, she wrote just one sentence. EXERCISE IS GOOD! For years, I would smile at her, laugh nervously, and respond, “I know.” Still, when I returned the following year, she would hand me the very same one-sentence recommendation. I had no time, or so I said.

This same doctor also told me I probably didn’t drink enough wine and that several glasses a week would be good for me. That was in response to the question about whether I drink alcohol and my then answer, “very rarely.” She even recommended her favorite local wine bar. Again, I had no time, or so I said.

Today, I’ve moved fully and completely into camp two. I love my own version of self-care!

For me, self-care begins with a morning routine – a yoga video, followed by a long walk with my dog, and then a warm cup of coffee. I haven’t actually changed all that much in my mornings.

For the past seven years, since my daughter left for college, I’ve walked the dog. (That had once been her job). Initially, those walks felt like a chore, something else to accomplish on already packed mornings.

Now they feel like a gift, part of a daily morning mini-vacation. No longer am I walking my dog, but rather my dog and I are walking together. As we walk, I strive to take in the views, sensations, smells, and sounds of the changing seasons. Many days I am treated to a magnificent sunrise. It feels like an escape.

I’ve always had a morning cup (or two) of coffee. The difference is now I aim to sit and savor it. Even if I don’t, drinking as I get ready on rushed days, I focus on enjoying it, making it an integral part of my morning routine.

Up to this point, I’ve changed nothing in my morning routine but my mindset.

I have added something to my morning routine that would make my former doctor proud. Each morning, I practice yoga at home. I aim for twenty to thirty minutes, typically with a video from either YouTube or Amazon Prime. On rushed days, I can still get in five to ten minutes on my own. I now feel I am taking a mini-vacation every morning for no additional cost and minimal additional time. 

Were I to still go to my former doctor, who has since moved her practice to another state, I would, with a smile, be able to say I do at least 40 minutes of moderate exercise every day! Walking the dog and yoga has me covered. It no longer feels like a chore. It is a joy; an act of self-care. 

The benefits of thinking about small moments for self-care extend through my day and sustain me. Listening to a podcast or music on my short commute to work, feeling the warmth of the water as I shower, savoring a meal I would be eating anyway, lighting a candle while getting chores done, or pausing for a breath at moments of stress are all moments of self-care. All are quick and either free or very affordable.

And, with a nod to my former doctor, I do indulge in a glass of red wine several times a week. It’s part of another self-care practice and includes my new interest in Mediterranean cooking. I’ve begun to train myself to transform things I need to do or feel I should do into hobbies and possibilities to practice self-care. Cooking dinner and striving to eat more healthfully is now not a chore and a diet, but a new hobby – Mediterranean cooking. It’s all about mindset!

While I’ve journeyed from camp one (who has time for self-care) to camp two (animated excitement about self-care), I’ve been most transformed by those in camp three (self-care is accessible to all).

Self-care need not be about fancy spas or decadent use of time for people not overwhelmed by life’s many demands. It can occur for all of us in the in-between moments and during the course of the regular day, briefly and for free; a walk, a shower, a bite of food, a talk with a friend, listening to a song. Self-care for busy moms on a budget is achievable. It’s not a matter of material resources or time but is all about mindset.

What are your recommendations on self-care for busy moms on a budget?

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The mom of two children who are now in their twenties, Shira is the CEO and founder of Discovery Village, a premier childcare center and preschool in Tarrytown, N.Y. Known for her expertise in educational leadership, project based learning, and character education, Shira is co-author of the book The Coach Approach to School Leadership: Leading Teacher's to Higher Levels of Effectiveness. She served for twenty years as elementary school principal of schools throughout New Jersey, Westchester, and New York City. Shira holds a Ph.D in Education and serves as an adjunct faculty member and dissertation advisor for doctoral students at Northeastern University's graduate school of education.