Self-Care Ideas for Moms (From a Dad and Teacher)

Self-Care Ideas for Moms (From a Dad and Teacher)

These self-care ideas for moms are must-know if you are one of those people who craves alone time and doesn’t know what to do with it when you get it!

Ironically, it’s a dad who is going to share some of these essential self-care strategies with us today. Taking care of kids is the most demanding job, whether you are a mom or a teacher, Dan Tricarico is a dad, and has been a teacher for 27 years in the same school, and the same classroom. (and the first dad to be a guest on the MomUp Show!)

He loves what he does and can’t imagine doing anything else, but at some point, the stress reached a boiling point. Class sizes grew, there was less funding, the pay wasn’t awesome, and Dan needed to figure out how to deal with the pressure so he could do his job and not lose his mind. 

As he figured it out, he started sharing how to keep your cool and stay mindful as a teacher through the Zen Teacher. 

The response was awesome, and Dan realized it wasn’t just him! Teachers all over were dealing with the same issues he was, and now he’s sharing his favorite self-care strategies with us so moms can benefit from these self-care ideas too.

These self-care strategies might have been curated for teachers, but are applicable to anyone in any field, especially moms and stay-at-home-moms. 

Give yourself permission

The first thing you have to do to even begin a self-care practice and using self-care strategies is to actually give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

It is not selfish to take care of yourself. Perhaps you can do anything huge like take a fancy vacation away, but give yourself permission to take a little time for yourself to ensure that you are refilling your tank on a regular basis.

This is one of those places that mom guilt (or dad guilt) tends to creep in because we are so used to taking care of everyone else but ourselves. 

Use the 5, 10, 15 formula

This formula is such a simple self-care strategy that takes such little effort, anyone can do it, even overworked and stressed mamas. 

You just focus on spend 5 minutes, 10 minutes and 15 minutes doing something for yourself. 

One of the reasons we don’t have self-care practices is because we turn it into more than it needs to be in our minds. It’s not always about big nights out or weekends away or some grand vacation. Many times, just making sure we take these small slivers of time for ourselves on a regular basis can be incredibly helpful in our overall wellbeing.

Most kids and households run on some sort of schedule or routine. You know your children and when there might be some time to take for yourself. For example, when are your kids most happy and content to play alone for 5-10 minutes? Can you just take those few minutes to do a quick meditation? 

 

Get your parter to buy into self-care too

So many times moms turn themselves into martyrs instead of taking responsibility and ownership of their self-care, and this extends to getting our partners to buy in. So many moms complain that their partners aren’t doing enough to help them and that they don’t have time because they need their partner to pick up the slack, but perhaps this is partly due to our failure to communicate our needs.

While there are definitely deadbeat dads out there who don’t help mamas out when they are overwhelmed, there are probably plenty who just don’t really understand what our needs are.

Next time you want to complain, instead try to simply tell your partner exactly what you need. Dan describes a great idea that he calls “my hour, your hour.” It’s as basic as it sounds. When his kids were little he would watch the kids for an hour while his wife had a chance to take care of herself and her needs, and then they would switch and he had an hour to himself. 

Studies have shown a pretty big swing towards dads taking on more responsibility when it comes to parenting, spending more time than ever with their children. So just as much as we need to ensure we are getting adequate self-care in, our partners need it too. 

Not to mention that they will probably be more amenable to our needs if theirs are a priority as well.

 Reconnect with yourself

How often do you finally get some time alone, and you just end up scrolling through Facebook all day instead of actually doing something restorative? 

Dan tells a story in our chat about how when they first started playing the your hour my hours game, his wife didn’t even know what to do with her hour because she had been so conditioned to not think about herself and her own needs.

Sound familiar? 

Take the time you do have to reconnect with yourself and figure out what you want to do. It may feel weird at first, but with some practice you’ll remember what it’s like to just do things because you want to.

(Check out our 5 ways to reconnect with yourself here.)

Dan and I chat about all of this and much more! Listen in and subscribe on iTunes to get more self-care ideas for moms.

Dan Tricarico has been a high school English teacher for over twenty-five years.

He is also the author of The Zen Teacher:  Creating Focus, Simplicity, and Tranquility in the Classroom (DBC, Inc. 2015) and Sanctuaries: Self-Care Secrets for Stressed Out Teachers (DBC, Inc. 2018).  In his spare time, he enjoys writing fiction, listening to music, reading mystery novels, staring out of windows, and watching movies.  One of his first loves is writing poetry, and he has published many poems both in print and on-line.

GET “THE 7 SELF-CARE SECRETS FOR STRESSED-OUT TEACHERS” FREE at www.thezenteacher.com/start-here

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Why Breastfeeding is Important Beyond Health

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We could talk about the health benefits for mom and baby which most people point to, but there are other reasons to consider why breastfeeding is important.

Breastfeeding is a complicated topic in mom culture today. While we are in a sort of renaissance when it comes to breastfeeding with breastfeeding rates on the rise, formula feeding is still the norm, and extended breastfeeding is a rarity.

The gains we have made with breastfeeding rates is surely due to pushes from moms, organizations, and places like hospitals to encourage moms to breastfeed. Plus, moms have more access to information and support than they have in a long time.

However, we are also in a time when everyone wants to be sensitive to respecting each mom’s choice to feed their baby as they see fit and to refrain from shaming moms for making a choice that is not the same as our own. Inevitably most posts about breastfeeding end up with at least one mom commenting about how not all moms can breastfeed and formula feeding is ok.

We are muddling our way through promoting a dying art that also happens to be widely viewed as the healthiest choice without making the majority of moms feel inferior or less-than. This is not an easy task. How do you tout the benefits of breastfeeding without making moms who use formula feel like they are wrong? It’s complex and takes a gentle hand, which most of us don’t have quite frankly.

I have been guilty of being insensitive to formula feeding moms’ feelings. It wasn’t on purpose. I feel like I was in the right at the time, and while I might have technically had the correct information, the way I shared it wasn’t always kind.

But it is still essential to continue to talk about breastfeeding and advocating for all moms who choose to breastfeed to be fully supported. Here is why breastfeeding is important and needs to continue to be encouraged for moms who want to.

Breastfeeding is Cheaper

While this number can vary widely, and of course there are intangibles like the time it takes to breastfeed/pump, but when just doing straight math using averages, you can figure out how much cheaper breastfeeding is.

According to this article, the average yearly cost of formula feeding is $1,733.

Perhaps for some moms that number isn’t a huge one, but what if you have a baby that requires a more expensive variety of formula? Or multiples?

Nearly $2,000 a year is a huge number for a lot of parents right now, and while there might be *some* costs associated with breastfeeding and/or pumping, it is much lower than the cost of formula.

Equality for Moms Depends on It

In many ways, it was actually formula which helped moms find more equality in this world, and more specifically in the workplace.

With the ability to have their children more easily fed by someone else, moms were able to leave their children for longer periods of time. Of course, wetnursing was an option for some, but not all, and many moms might not feel comfortable with this option.

We are in a new era now though. As long as there are moms who desire to breastfeed, we must ensure they are able to do so, and that their work does not interfere with their ability to provide nutrition for their children.

Obviously, the more women who feel empowered to demand their rights on the job are respected when it comes to breastfeeding, the more likely we are to protect those rights and win more. And when women’s right to breastfeed/pump are respected on the job, it is much easier for moms to be able to continue to breastfeeding after returning to work.

This is an issue for all women in the workplace whether they breastfeed, use formula, or are even moms at all.

In order for women to succeed in the workplace for many years now, they’ve had to assimilate into a male-driven culture. But this environment is one in which women are only respected and praised for conforming to male expectations.

This is why breastfeeding is important for us to have true equality. We should be respected and valued for all that we bring to the table, including experiences and qualities that are unique to womanhood and motherhood.

It is Better for the Environment

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, without pumping or using bottles, then you are producing exactly zero waste.

By now you’ve probably seen the floating garbage islands floating around our oceans? Pretty gross, right? Reducing our use of plastic and consuming more, in general, is essential for cutting down on the waste.

Pumping can produce waste as well, but there are more eco-friendly options for milk storage and even in bottle choices out there. Milk can be stored and even frozen in mason jars, and you can even get nipples that attach directly to the jar. (These would also be a great option for formula mamas too!)

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented for both baby and mama, but there are many reasons why breastfeeding is important.

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Teaching Kids to Cook, Getting Started

Teaching kids to cook has a ton of benefits for parents and kids. While it may seem daunting to let your little ones take on the responsibility of helping prepare meals, it is totally doable.

Most parents make sure that the entire kitchen is baby-proofed and safe for children, with the right tools and mindset, teaching kids to cook can be a fun bonding experience that’s also educational.

Why is learning to cook important?

Have you ever had a quick look at the ingredients list on processed or prepackaged foods? Chances are you don’t even know what half those ingredients are.

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children in the US is considered obese. While many different body types are perfectly healthy, it is also important to ensure we are helping our children learn about what foods are the healthiest to eat to ensure they stay healthy as they grow into adults.

Cooking your own foods is the best way to know exactly what you and your child are consuming and in what quantities.

If you involve your child in the process of creating meals, then they will have those skills for the rest of their life and will be able to properly nourish themselves with healthy (and delicious) foods.

What age should a child start cooking?

As soon as they are ready! This isn’t a hard and fast answer, but rather includes some nuance based on age and each individual child’s development.

The ways a 5-year-old can help in the kitchen is not the same as a one-year-old, but you can still include a precocious toddler into your cooking.

For example, maybe your toddler can help you mash up some avocado for guacamole or avocado toast! While your preschooler could help cut fruits and vegetables with safe tools like these crinkle cutters.

What can a child learn from cooking?

Most obviously a child will learn about the actual food they are eating. Instead of just being handed a bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce they will learn all the different ingredients it takes to create that meal.

Not only is this helping them to learn about the actual items in the dish, but also gain a sense of appreciation for the effort that goes into cooking the things that they eat.

Cooking (and baking too) is a great way to introduce some practical math skills with children. The counting out and measuring of ingredients is a will help math lessons sink in more easily than workbooks and formal lessons.

Plus, the stirring, pouring, spooning, measuring and more is great for developing little ones’ motor skills!

Spending this time in the kitchen together with you is a great chance for bonding and learning from each other. Just as your child will learn from you how to cook, you will learn some life lessons too, like patience and letting go of perfection.

What are some fun things to cook with kids?

A fan favorite is pancakes! Most kids love to eat them, and the preparation is super simple. Our favorite recipe is this one, but we add a little dash of cinnamon and vanilla. Just be sure a grown-up takes care of the actual cooking on the stove. (You can also use this to make waffles!)

Two Waldorf education inspired items to good are stone (vegetable) soup, and baking bread!

Baking bread is basically like playing with playdoh for kids with all the kneading, and if you use safety knives or crinkle cutters, they can help cut up veggies for soup!

We love these YouTube tutorials for bread making and stone soup from Sunday’s with Sarah.

You can also follow us and check out our Pinterest board “Teaching Kids to Cook” for more ideas and easy recipes.

Is it safe to cook with children?

Use common sense here. Little children should probably be kept at arm’s length or more from hot stoves and ovens or sharp knives.

The best way they can help cook with the prep work away from the heat and only using tools that are age-appropriate. Check out these awesome tools that allow children to safely cook with grown-ups.

There will be some messes in your cooking journey, but teaching kids to cook is well worth the effort. Before long, maybe you’ll finally get a little time for self-care when your tiny chefs can put dinner on the table themselves!

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Mom Hack: Knowing Baby Developmental Leaps

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Dealing with cranky kids is rough, but if you want to take those extra fussy baby days in stride then knowing baby developmental leaps is essential!

We’ve all been there. Our sweet little squish is the most calm and cool kid ever… until they’re not. You wake up one day, or more likely night, to cranky cries that aren’t easily soothes. What gives?

Not hungry. Not teething. Diaper is clean. They’re swaddled just like they always liked. Even the favorite swing isn’t working!

Chances are your baby is smack dab in the middle of a developmental leap.

The absolute greatest hack a mom can have in toolbox of hacks is knowing about developmental leaps, when they are, and how to deal.

There is a totally free app called Wonder Weeks that keeps you up to date as your baby grows, and there’s also a book!

But here are the basics to get you started.

All babies’ brains develop at a fairly predictable rate. At certain points throughout their first year or so of life, statistics can tell us when they will make huge steps forward in their development.

This is the developmental leap, also just called a leap. The point in time when your baby leaps forward in their development pretty rapidly.

It’s pretty disorienting.

When babies are first born their skills and ability to comprehend the world around them is almost nonexistent.

With each leap they become more and aware of the world around them, who the people are them are, and they begin to form their own identity.

Imagine one day you just woke up and realized for the first time that you are a different person, a separate being, from your mother. That would be pretty freaky if up until they you just kind of felt melded with her, right?

Needless to say, one of the main reasons for this crankiness is just baby getting used to their new reality every time a leap happens.

So how do you deal with it? How do you keep your sanity, while helping your baby make these transitions?

The most important thing is to know when it is going to happen and that IT WILL END.

My kids all have woken frequently in the night, but usually they just have a little milk and fall back asleep. They also fall asleep fairly easily. No colic. Except for one time…

The four month leap. This one is a doozy. My twins would just cry and scream for like 20 minutes at bed time every single night during their period. Nothing soothed them!

But I was able to just go with the flow and not allow it to stress me too much because I knew why it was happening and that it would end soon.

(Of course use your intuition and if you feel like something so really wrong, of course talk to your doc.)

So read the book, download the app, and prepare yourself.

Knowing when the baby developmental leaps happen is a game changer, but don’t forget to be prepared to ratchet up your patience a few knotches.

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Want to know how to give birth naturally without pain? Awesome! It IS possible to greatly reduce discomfort during birth. These are the five best ways.

Before we dive into specific natural childbirth techniques for relaxation and feeling more comfortable in birth, let’s talk about your mindset.

Birth is beautiful and life-changing, but it is just as challenging, and it can also be downright scary. One of the keys to successful natural childbirth without much pain is to have confidence in yourself, your body, and the team you have chosen to support you in your birth. The more comfortable and confident you can be in these things, the more likely you will be able to find the physical and mental space needed to use these natural childbirth relaxation techniques.

And while I don’t think we should dwell on the pain or the fear of childbirth, it is also something that perhaps we should look at head on.

Instead of ignoring it, let any emotions that come with the idea of pain or childbirth bubble up to the surface so you can look at them and release them long before your birthing time comes. Most times when we lock our fears away instead of facing them, they just becoming scarier.

It’s also important to keep in mind that part of the reason a lot of women experience severe discomfort and pain in childbirth is their resistance to the process.

We’ve been conditioned by movies and pop culture depictions of birth to expect screaming and extreme pain. If I’m being honest, it isn’t exactly an easy process, but through having the right techniques you can learn to relax into the process which also makes it more comfortable. The more you resist and tighten your body up, the more painful it is.

(Not to be too explicit but…) Think about pooping or throwing up. If you strain and try to control the process too much, it isn’t very comfortable. But if you just let your body do its thing, it isn’t so bad and you usually feel so much better after.

Another point to keep in mind is not all of these techniques will work for everyone, and there is no way to know what will feel good to you until you are actually in your birthing time. Perhaps take a few notes and prep for as many eventualities as possible so you can have access to all that you need for an awesome birth.

(Side note: I am a mom of three, and am also currently in training to be a doula. These recommendations are based on a mix of personal experience and research. I also recommend some products that I am an affiliate for, which means I get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase through my link. Of course, you should always check with your doctor or midwife.)

Water.

Even when you aren’t pushing a tiny human out of your vagina, water is so relaxing. There’s a reason us moms love to include bubble baths on our lists of self-care practice musts-do’s.

There’s something soothing, not just physically, but also emotionally to being submerged in some comfy warm water. It’s like we ourselves are back inside the womb and in a safe space.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a tub though. Not all birthing spaces have tubs available. Warm washcloths or compresses on the lower back and even warm showers can be just as comforting and relaxing as a full on bath. (And don’t forget to drink water as needed to stay hydrated too!)

Hypnosis and/or meditation.

Our mind is incredibly powerful. If we are able to relax our mind, our body will follow.

I have personally used Hypnobabies to relax and be pretty comfortable and at ease for most of the duration of my births. I even credit Hypnobabies with helping me to have an epidural-free twin birth in a hospital, no small feat!

I can’t say that I had absolutely no pain, but the techniques I learned and the hypnosis tracks I was able to listen to kept me relaxed enough to go with the flow and manage what my body was going through with a fair amount of ease, considering the circumstances.

A mantra.

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me…” That first line of Let it Be from the Beatles replayed over and over and over again in my mind while I was at about 8-9cm with my twins.

During every contraction, it would float through my brain as a kind of mantra. I felt the presence of other moms who had given birth before me and were even giving birth at that moment.

I didn’t plan on this, it just came to me in the moment, but I think having a mantra or something to focus on can be incredibly helpful! Many mamas even print out banners or photos with quotes or mantras on to focus on during contractions.

Massage and pressure.

Having some hands-on help is amazing for both physical and emotional comfort. Some women may not want to be touched at all while birthing, but for me having some massage and strong pressure on my lower back was a lifesaver.

I had a lot of intensity in my back during both of my births, and the pressure from my mom, husband, and doulas during both births helped alleviate some of the pressure.

A team for emotional support.

The most intense part of birth for many women is during transition just before they are ready to start pushing that little squishy baby out. It was in this period that I felt like maybe I couldn’t do it. Maybe it was just too hard for me.

A little thought in the back of my mind reminded me that in almost every birth story I read, the point at which you feel like you can’t do it anymore is the point at which you are almost there! But I also told my doula that I was feeling not so confident, and I was able to cry and just let it all out to her. Once I did, it eased my tension.

Don’t underestimate the value of a good cry. This is an emotional process and no one expects you to be robot! Remember, the key is to stay relaxed, and a big release of emotion can be super helpful, even necessary for how to give birth naturally without pain.

In addition to these five tips, you also want to set yourself up for success. This means researching more options, watching natural birth videos for inspiration, getting that birth plan done, and consider hiring a doula! (maybe even a postpartum doula too so you can rest easy knowing you’ll have some help)

The key to how to give birth naturally without pain though is to first and foremost believe in yourself and your body. If you are able to embrace the process and trust, then you are in the best place possible to give birth naturally without pain.

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Nourishing Your Body (Simple Self-Care Part 3)

Nourishing Your Body (Simple Self-Care Part 3)

How often do we think about our body as either a baby-making factory or something that needs to snap back into pre-baby shape? We are either feeding our bodies to feed our growing babies, or trying to morph it into something it resembled before a human incubated...