Why is Self Care so Hard? | Are You a Mommy Martyr?


I know I can’t be the only mom who struggles with self-care, or the elusive “me time.”

Are you a mommy martyr, like me – do you sacrifice your well-being for your family? How did we get here, and how do we get out? Why is self care so hard?

why is self care so hard?

Letting Myself Go

My mother reminded me today that my youngest is turning one in exactly one month. So soon! All the bittersweet “baby no more” feelings rushed in, but very quickly were replaced with dread. Birthdays mean photos, and I know I will hate how I look in them. How fat I have gotten (I’m at an all time high), how far I have let myself go. I have my goals for 2016, but I haven’t worked very hard on the ones that involve self-care.

Letting myself go was a self-fulfilling prophecy as I used to joke about it all the time when my husband and I got engaged. It was a favorite joke and I used it often. “I can finally let myself go!” And I did. And it’s not a joke. It’s a deep disappointment I feel in myself. I feel like I have let down not just myself, but my husband, and even my children.

One of my husband’s best friends recently got engaged. My first thought – “oh no, we will have to go to the wedding.” Followed quickly by: The wedding will be in public, with other people, people with eyes who will look at me! I don’t have anything to wear, I don’t feel good about myself, and I’m embarrassed for my poor husband who has to bring me as his date. Oh yeah, and congrats to the happy couple!

The Typical Frumpy Mom

It’s incredibly cliche, but as a mom of two, I don’t find the time to shower some days. Some days the baby spits up on me and I wipe it off, but I don’t change clothes. Or I’ll change the baby, but not myself. I definitely have not made working out a priority. I eat most of my meals standing up in the kitchen while feeding someone else. I compare food labels for my children to find the better choice but I do not make healthy choices for myself. I will fill my toddlers cup 12 times but not drink a drop of water all day.

I have reminders in my calendar to call and make appointments for both of my children. But I can’t remember when I was last at the dentist or eye doctor myself (hint: it’s been years). The last time I had my haircut, I asked for a “healthy trim” and the hair dresser took off eleven inches! I didn’t even notice it getting so long, as it’s always up in a bun out of the reach of baby fingers.

Quiet hours

There are quiet hours most days, where I am able to be alone with myself. They usually come at night, after the dust of bedtime has settled. The quiet hours are not really hours, they are sometimes mere moments. I’m using them now to quickly write this blog post. To pour out these feelings, to get this off my chest.

Should I make better use of the quiet hours? Maybe. Should I go to bed and get the rest that I truly need after almost three years of steady sleep deprivation? I should. But there is a toddler on my side of the bed, sweaty in his fleece footed pajamas, drooling on my pillow.

Should I use the quiet hours to write out a plan for a better life? A schedule, a goals list, a way to find more me time? I should. But as soon as I begin, my baby will cry, ready for his late evening feeding. The pediatrician says he should be sleeping through the night by now but just like my firstborn, he’s not.Β (*with perfect timing, he woke up as soon as I hit “publish.”)

There are no quiet morning hours. The baby eats again between 4 and 5 am most days and my early rising toddler is typically up by 6. We hit the ground running with juice cups that need to be filled, diapers to be changed (oh the endless diapers), train tracks to be repaired and boo boo’s to be kissed. I have a baby to nurse and a mountain of laundry to slay. I need to grocery shop and keep the kitchen from looking like a complete disaster.

The Baby Always Cries Louder

Why do moms so often become martyrs? Why is self care so hard?

Because the baby always cries louder.

Babies know what they want and demand it immediately! “I’m hungry, feed me! I’m hurt, console me! I need to feel loved, hold me!” Somewhere along the way, we lose that ability, even though we still have those same needs. I long to be fed, to be consoled, to be held.

The baby always cries louder, than the crying I am doing on the inside. The baby (and the toddler) cries louder than my hurting husband who has stated (lovingly) “you’re more of a mom than a wife.”

No Regrets, JustΒ Room for Improvement

Do I regret having children? Absolutely not. When I spend a large portion of my day getting my toddler to do deep belly laughs by making a silly face, or walking funny, I know I’m making the right choices. When I am “stuck” on the couch because the only thing that comforts my teething baby is to lay on my chest while I stroke his hair, I want time to stand still.

Do I wish there was a better way? Absolutely. I wish for more discipline to take better care of myself. And for less guilt when I want to choose myself and my marriage before my children. I wish for more time in each day, because as much as I want my old self back and my marriage back, I don’t want to miss a second of this sweet phase of life.

How are you doing moms? Are you taking care of yourselves?


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  1. My daughter likes to come in and guilt me when I’m working on my blog, or skimming a book, or unloading the dishes. I can literally have played with her for 2 hours and get “You never play with me” as I make dinner while her dad sits in his chair watching football and offering to play.

    It’s still better. At 5, she can entertain herself, albeit reluctantly. I get 30 minutes to myself while she takes a bath, and precious hours while she’s at school. And I know that it moves quickly, and soon enough I’ll be missing any time at all with her.
    emily @ JohnJaneDoe recently posted…11 Ways I Satisfy My Book Addiction Without Going BrokeMy Profile

  2. YES! We focus so much on the littles that we have very little left for ourselves. I’m the same way, after my baby goes to sleep, that’s when I sit down and start messing around with blog stuff. Shouldn’t I go to bed instead and maybe get some rest? But no there’s always so much to do and I steal away any time I can get. You’re right that the baby cries the loudest. We’ve forgotten how to ask for help, but they aren’t shy about demanding what they need or want.
    Julie S. recently posted…Our DIY Swing set projectMy Profile

  3. I’ll be waiting for other moms responses on how they do it. I just washed my hair for the first time last night in over a week! I’m also going to put on real clothes today after a week in a hooding and sweat pants. I actually have to forces myself to shower because I get so tired. Great post btw.
    Healing Mama recently posted…My Experience With A Doula Part 2My Profile

    • I’m too tired to shower a lot of days too! I totally get that. And wearing “real clothes” is a special (rare) occasion for me!

  4. My daughter (I have one) is six, so she doesn’t need me for as many basic things as babies and toddlers do, but she still prefers to be with me (or my husband) most of the time. (We’ve learned that the downside of having only one child is that they look to their parents for entertainment and playmates!) I have gotten better over time about balancing time with her, with doing things that I want for myself.

    I’m 41 (?!?) now, and I’ve become much more focused on my mental and physical health. Sometimes it feels like I’m being selfish, but I know I’m more available to my daughter (and husband) when I’m taking care of myself. As a result, several of my goals for 2016 – mediating, meeting my daily steps goal, and meeting my daily stairs goal – are focused on helping me feel my best.
    Amy @ DebtGal recently posted…2016 Meal Plan #4My Profile

  5. Only recently have I realized that I need to start taking care of myself more . Its definitely a learning process. When you are so used to putting everyone’s needs before your own, it is difficult to switch gears. Still a work in progress, but I’m getting much better!

  6. It’s such a relief to read this! Now that my ‘baby’ is 15 months, I feel like I should have it more together, should be better presented and taking better care of myself. I must admit, it’s not really the baby’s fault, it’s more a collections of bad habits I picked up when life with a little on truly was overwhelming and have carried on as I’ve stayed at home and mostly out of the public eye. This was written so beautifully and truthfully. I loved it, thanks πŸ™‚

  7. My children are 13 and 14, and I still feel that I do not have any time to do the things I love. On a work day, I get home at 5:45, at least 5 days out of 7, I cook dinner, then clean the kitchen (teenagers do not help nowadays) and by the time I am able to sit down…it’s already 8-9 o’clock. By that time I am whooped! Who wants to work out then? So, I tell myself, just get up at 5AM instead of 6AM and workout then. Alarm goes off at 5AM…and I don’t get up…then I start the same routine all over again. But, I am crazy about my kids and although there are times when I do hate that I did not create a space for me…I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  8. Taking time for self-care is so important! Have you read The Fringe Hours? It’s an easy read about just that. I’m sorry you’re having a rough time now. My kids are a bit older (6, 3, 2), so they are able to entertain themselves more and play together now. However, it would be nice to sleep in some Saturday morning! πŸ™‚
    Sarah@TheOrthodoxMama recently posted…My Frugal DIY Experiments: Homemade Glass CleanerMy Profile

  9. Absolute truth in this post! I post weekly goals each Monday, and when I get to the “personal goals” section every week, I always say “Didn’t meet these goals….again.”

    My youngest is 2 and finally starting to somewhat sleep through the night on his own, and I still can’t let go and make time to read or exercise or any of the things that I truly think are important.

    All that said…now that we are getting past the baby stages and even some of the crazy toddler stages, I’m noticing pockets of time when I can do a little more. Not a lot yet. But it won’t be much longer until the baby can dress himself and use the potty. So there is light at the end of the tunnel! Big hugs for both of us!
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…Wondering what to do with pennies? Here’s why they are powerful.My Profile

    • Jamie, you have more kids than me and you get more done on your blog! You’re basically superwoman in my eyes! πŸ˜‰ Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

  10. In the am, I make my boys breakfast before school, but often don’t have time to have it myself before we leave! That’s ok. I eat when I get home.
    Lana recently posted…Weekly Doodle ChallengeMy Profile

  11. Hi Erin, motherhood is not easy however, I think the problem is we put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect mothers! If we love are children, feed and protect them then we are doing a great job. I think it is so important to have some time to yourself without feeling guilty. Happy 1st birthday to your little one. xx
    sue recently posted…Happy 1st Birthday to my Sizzling Towards 60 Blog!My Profile

  12. It’s so important to take care of ourselves, yet often we don’t. What’s worse is if we get into a cycle of thinking that everyone has to come first and then we begin to resent our role and/or the people we’re caring for.

    You shared some wonderful reminders here. Thank you.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…Want to Be More Productive? Start Your Day the Right Way!My Profile

  13. Your thoughts are so poignant for me right now! With a fifteen month old that is CONSTANTLY clinging to me I often feel like I can never get time to myself! The time I do have I use to go to the gym…yay for at least one thing. But I can totally relate to the choosing healthy choices for your kid but not really for yourself. We love our kids, but these years when they are young and rely on us so much are ROUGH! Thanks for your honesty and transparency! I hope you can care for yourself soon!
    Lori recently posted…A Second Chance at Life and LoveMy Profile

    • Good for you for getting to the gym Lori! πŸ™‚ I went twice this week and that’s pretty epic for me. I know my boys need a healthy mommy! <3

  14. Yup. Self care is super hard. The part about being a mom more than a wife really hit home too. My husband and I have had a hard time transitioning since our second baby and finding the time for each other. Often I feel guilty whenever I try to do something for myself because I feel like I should be spending it with the hubby! Such a hard balance that is rarely discussed. Thanks for bringing it to light.
    Tori recently posted…Formula Feeding BasicsMy Profile

  15. I can totally relate to this. My youngest is 2 1/2 and I just recently started taking better care of myself. I think you have to be creative and find what works for the season you’re in. My girls are finally sleeping late enough that I can be more consistent with my morning routine. But I certainly couldn’t do that when my youngest was getting up for the day between 4:30-5am!
    Mandi @ Most of the Mist recently posted…Conquer Your Social Media Habit in 2 Simple StepsMy Profile

    • Oh yes, I’m in the wrong season for sure! πŸ˜‰ My kids are not sleeping through the night, not napping at the same time, and waking up before 6! πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading Mandi

  16. Great read Erin. I don’t think there is a mother out there who hasn’t had these feelings. It is hard to make yourself and your spouse a priority when they are so young. Thank you for linking up and sharing at Brag About It! Pinned and tweeted to share.
    Laurie recently posted…Snickerdoodle Sunday #116My Profile

  17. I think no matter how much time anyone has, they always want more. There are never enough hours in a day. Parent or not. I often feel like I could do with a few more and I don’t have any little ones to take care of (yet!) You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting a few moments to yourself.

    Sally @ Life Loving
    Life Loving recently posted…Gravity MaidstoneMy Profile

    • You’re so right Sally, we are all given the same number of hours in the day and we just need to make the best of them! πŸ™‚

  18. I decided to make this year more about me and self-care because, yes, it’s hard! Thank you for sharing this awesome post at the #SmallVictoriesSundayLinkup!
    Echo recently posted…Start Your Morning Off Right with Chocolate Banana Pancakes!My Profile

  19. ACK, I had so many tabs open on my browser that I LOST this post, and just realized I never commented on it from Friday Frivolity… so sorry!!

    Oh my gosh, *HUGE HUGS* I can certainly imagine what you’re going through, though I haven’t been there myself yet….

    An idea, do you know any homeschooled pre-teens or teenagers (younger = you pay them less, at least in my own personal homeschooled pre-teen experience ahahaha) who you could have come do a “Mother’s Helper” kind of thing during the day once or twice a week? They could either help with housework with your supervision or watch the munchkins while you take a few minutes for yourself, but without the stress of having to leave your kids completely alone with someone else… If you don’t already know any homeschoolers you could see if friends do, or just google for homeschooling groups / co-ops in your area and send a message to the leader saying you were looking for some Mother’s Helpers… maybe a good option without getting too expensive?

    It’s going to get easier! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you can find some good opportunities to sneak in self-care going forward… thinking of you!
    Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom recently posted…Friday Frivolity Valentine’s Day Edition – Love and Cynicism! ;P Plus the Linky Party for All Things Fun, Funny, Happy & Hopeful!My Profile

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