Self Care In the Thick of Motherhood

Diana J. Smith

I’m finding it more realistic for me to write two blog posts a month if I’m writing more lifestyle & motherhood posts versus posts that dive into the science and require me to do a lot of reading on PubMed and cite references. I’d love to get back to that place in the next few months, but right now it feels better for me to write “less science-y” posts but still write (because I enjoy it) versus not write at all because I don’t have enough time. So, I hope you’re enjoying these posts. And if you’re waiting for the latter type of posts, I’ll get there at some point!

Being mama to two under two the past few months has proved to be both incredibly satisfying and at times, incredibly challenging for me. I ride the rollercoaster of “I’m crushing it …and I’m failing and all is chaos” on a daily basis.

I firmly stand in the camp of going from 0-1 being much, much easier than going from 1-2. I know some moms feel the opposite, but man not me. And I’ve still got a couple months left before Cal turns two.

I’ve learned more patience and grace and compassion for both my babies and myself over the past 12 weeks than any other point in my motherhood journey. And I’ve also learned to shift my mindset around what productive means and what self care means.


When I lay my head down at night to go to bed, I feel good about how our day went if I feel like I was able to be present and emotionally available (within my human limitations) to both boys during the day. And my heart feels most settled if I’ve gotten a solid chunk of one on one time with just Cal. To love on him and be his mama without having to simultaneously nurse or hold or soothe Teddy. Sometimes I only get 10-20 minutes of one on one time, but I try for a solid chunk every day. I’ve found we both need it.

Now with two tiny humans to care for, I’ve learned that a productive day doesn’t mean I’ve checked off my to-do list or I’ve exercised or my house is clean. But I do have to fight the temptation to make that my daily definition of productivity because that definition causes me to perceive my babies as roadblocks to my day instead of my most important work.

Instead, I’ve been working towards defining a productive day as one where I was present and engaged, gracious and patient. I want my boys to see me as a joyful mom. A mom that moves through life with a glass half full mindset. I’m learning that my attitude can really set the tone of our whole home. That doesn’t mean I’m not human and I can’t have a wide variety of emotions, but the way I handle tough or unexpected situations matters. A lot.

Self care

Self care before Teddy was born was easier to come by. I had a whole, glorious three hour nap every day where I was off duty so to speak. But now, I’m lucky to have Teddy sleeping in our room (vs on me) for longer than 20 minutes during Cal’s afternoon nap. So self care looks a lot more small and seemingly trivial these days. But I’m learning that even the simplest of things can really help me feel more cared for each day. And that has huge impacts on how I’m feeling as a mom.

1. Stretching

My body straight up aches at the end of most days. Especially if I’ve been wearing Teddy for most of the day. Between the baby wearing and nursing and carrying/picking up/chasing Cal and lugging around baby gear, this body feels tight and beaten up by the end of the day. I’ve been trying to do 5-10 minutes of stretching at the end of the day (I love using the Momma Strong stretching videos since they are focused on the stretches mamas need most) and when I do, it makes SUCH a difference in how I feel.

2. an afternoon latte

I’m trying to stick to just one cup of coffee in the morning and then one slightly caffeinated drink in the early afternoon. Much easier said than done during newborn life when I want ALL THE COFFEE. We were gifted a Nespresso machine for our wedding and it’s one of my favorite kitchen items we have. Almost every afternoon I’ll make a homemade iced latte using just one pod since that’s not a ton of caffeine (a google search told me there’s 60mg in one pod) plus homemade almond milk (I know, I’m making homemade almond milk. what in the world. but it’s so easy and so tasty) and lots of creamer and a hefty glug of maple syrup to sweeten because I’m too lazy to make simple syrup.

If Teddy is sleeping on me we go for a walk outside (Nick works from home so he’s there while Cal naps) and I listen to a podcast and drink my latte. If Teddy is sleeping off of me I’ll sit down to read or write while I drink it. Most times I also have some sort of baked good Cal and I made that week or chocolate with it. This simple coffee hour makes me so happy.

3. Ice in my water

A mom friend of mine mentioned this to me as part of her self care several weeks ago and I thought, “Wait, WHY do I make myself drink lukewarm water??” It takes five seconds to put ice in my water, but it makes drinking water 946 times more enjoyable. Especially with breastfeeding, I am always thirsty. This is so simple it sounds dumb sharing but wow, it matters to me. So ice in my water. It’s making my life better.

4. Going on a walk with both boys in the stroller

We live in a very walkable area of Charlottesville so we still have one car and our stroller serves as our second car. Therefore, I have both boys in the stroller to go places every day.

But beyond transportation, I used to feel guilty for having Cal in the stroller simply for the sake of “going on a walk” because he was confined and he was a baby and is now a toddler with a HIGH need for movement. And with Teddy, I try to avoid having him sleep or sit in the carseat as much as possible since I don’t think that position is the best to be in for long periods of time. We do have a bassinet that attaches to the stroller, but he’s not a big fan and prefers to sit upright in the carseat. Yes, I am as crazy as I sound and Nick rolls his eyes at me when I talk about this topic lol. There are obviously bigger fish to fry when it comes to parenting.

My point: sometimes I need to safely contain both babies and go on a walk not for their enjoyment, but for the sake of my sanity. Even if that means Cal doesn’t get to burn off energy and Teddy sits in or falls asleep in a crunched up position.

Maybe for you, that means you turn on the iPad or TV while you take a breather. Or you skip the bedtime bath even though your toddler is covered in a crust of Lord only knows what. Or you feed your kid two pouches you pulled off the shelf and will pay for when you check out and call it lunch as you rush through the aisles of Target (been there) because that’s what is saving your sanity.

I realize going on a walk with both my kids strapped in the stroller might seem so stupid, but for some reason I feel mom guilt when I do that and I think the guilt is misplaced so I’m working against that. Because at the end of the day when things are unraveling, strapping them both in the stroller and going on a walk outside helps me care for myself. And stay sane.

That’s how I’m defining self care in this season. Whether you’re recovering from an eating disorder, navigating pregnancy, learning to accept your natural body size, trying to conceive, making it through newborn life or any and everywhere in between – I’d love to hear how you’re caring for yourself or want to care for yourself in the comments. And as always, thanks for being here!


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