As a kid, I’m not sure how I would have felt about having to wear a uniform to school. On one hand, it seems frustrating that you can’t wear whatever I want. On the other hand, a uniform would have taken a lot of stress off of my plate and prevented me from making some awesome fashion mistakes.
Now, decades later, I love applying the idea of a uniform to my daily wardrobe. Of course, I have more than these items in my closet, but these pieces are part of my daily uniform and are the basic staples I reach for almost every day.
Mom Must Have #1: Leggings or skinny jeans.
Ok these are a staple for any outfit, especially during the colder months. My favorites leggings are the Lululemon Align Pant or, for something a little fancier, the Spanx leggings in basically any of their styles. Trust me, they are worth the money. Thick fabric, no pilling, they keep everything tucked in and tight. No muffin top. Worth every penny.
As for jeans, styles may change every other year but I think one of the best things you can do for yourself is to find a classic style that really works for your body type stick to it as much as possible. In my case, that’s skinny jeans.
I’m tall and have zero curves which means no waist so anything other than a skinny pant look extra wide. Skinny jeans keep my outfit in proportion (as well as keep my portions in proportion, if I’m honest). So bootcut or straight legs and I are never going to be friends.
Some of my favorite brands of skinny jeans are Hudson’s High Waisted Barbara style (investment) and Articles of Society (budget friendly), both available at my fave, Evereve.
Mom Must Have #2: Casual day dress.
I think a day dress is the easiest way to look put together and still feel super comfy. What do I mean by “day dress?” A dress made of a casual, comfortable material like jersey or sweatshirt, that allows you to move freely and go about your day. It can be dressed up and down with accessories, a jacket, or shoes.
Some of my current favorites are from Athleta and Lululemon but I’ve also picked up some great ones at Sierra Trading Post, TJ Maxx and Old Navy. Look for looser fitting styles that are comfortable but also give you a little bit of shape when you want it. Dresses act as a great base layer and look cute topped with scarves too. During winter months, I always pair them with leggings and boots and often… number three…
Mom Must Have #3: A great jacketor sweater.
You really need a few jackets in your closet but, at minimum, get a great jean jacket or neutral colored blazer. Stay away from black unless you want to look like you’re headed to a funeral or court (which is basically the same thing). I have an awesome velvet blazer from Banana Republic circa, I swear, 2001, that I simply cannot part with, that is still a classic. I’ve found that if I roll the sleeves, I don’t have to worry about it looking “too small” (as though it were circa 2001) or too uptight, as though I were about to walk into a deposition. Also it helps hid the button I lost in 2014.
This beauty below? A new favorite from Evereve. Clearly I’m partial to greens. And camo. And, well, Evereve.
Mom Must Have #4: Slip on shoes.
This started out as a “survival item” for me as it allowed me to leave the house as quickly as possible after finally getting my insanely slow-moving children out the door. Warm weather months were my favorite because I could also slip into a pair of my favorite flats like Rothys (yes, they are as amazing as the Facebook ad makes them look!). But over the years I added a collection of low-heeled booties and most recently, slip on sneakers. The J Slides phenomenon was a little lost on me. Until I tried on a pair. Holy eff, were these comfy. And SO. DANG. CUTE. I immediately bought a pair and then two knock off pairs to wear around my house.
Mom Must Have #5: An “everything bag” organized with mini bags.
We could talk for days about the best mom bags out there (actually, I may need some of my favorite local fashion bloggers to guest write a post about their favorites!) but the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to carry bags INSIDE of your bags to help you organize everything. I keep a few on hand and it makes switch my bags so much easier.
I have a small bag that contains lip gloss, powder, hair ties, a mini lotion, a tampon and a few other cosmetic necessities. Another bag contains pens, a charging cable, and a small battery pack. A third contains child-related items like a mini-pack of wet wipes, some Benedryl, and bandaids. These can come and go from my bags depending on where I’m going for the day. That way, the pockets inside of my purse don’t turn into junk drawers.
And there you have it. My five current MUST HAVE pieces in my wardrobe that make getting dressed so much easier.
Do you have a uniform? What are your “must have” pieces in your closet?
I may have put my foot in my mouth when I claimed that “strolling the aisles of Target didn’t constitute self-care.” Or maybe I just haven’t been doing it right this whole time. Because, recently I managed to completely turn my mood around with a quick trip to the bulls eye and an off-the-cuff mantra chanted in my car.
The weekend had been hot and rainy and basically miserable. So my husband decided that it would be a perfect weekend for a bbq. I immediately started panicking and thinking about all of the dishes that needed to be washed, things that need to be prepared/purchased/hidden/thrownaway/remodeled/reupholstered/repainted/ etc.. And that was just in the kitchen. The thought of a party immediately started causing me stress and anxiety.
I’m a great though often unwilling hostess so it was going to require a titanic-sized pregame mind shift to change my mood. And quickly.
The morning of the bbq my children and husband were driving me insane. The mood was not good. I was crabby and complaining and biting everyone’s head off. So, what did I do? I ran from my house as fast as womanly possible, grabbed my favorite new apple AirPod earbuds, and headed to the place where moms go to be understood, see friends, and restock every inch of their lives with “necessities”: Target.
So how did I get myself from bitchy to badass in a quick trip to Target?
Turn on the tunes to improve your mood.
My mood was foul. I put on my “New Mood” playlist. It’s basically my Rachel Hollis’ inspired list of “songs that make me feel like a badass” and blasted them as loud as I could take it. I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot into that Target with my (totally fake) badass attitude. I walked up and down the aisles picking out hamburger buns and tortilla chips as if everything was exploding around me, like the most awesome movie you’ve ever seen, the loudest, angriest, music I could muster from my playlist, blasting in my ears.
When I got back into my car, some 20 minutes later, I realized that I was SO close to flipping my mood but it just. wasn’t. quite. there. I was so frustrated. And still irritable. The party was in a few hours and I had another 10 minutes before I was home. I didn’t want the day to be a bad one just because I was in a funk! I had to do something more.
Fake a smile. A great big, cheesy grin.
Years ago, I used to force myself to fake smile when I need a mood change. It was SUPER cheesy but I read somewhere that when your face is in the shape of a smile, it triggers something in your brain to make it think it actually IS smiling so you actually feel like you would if you were smiling. Meaning that I could basically fake myself into a good mood.
If that had worked in the past, I figured smiling AND telling myself that I was in a good mood would work even faster.
Talk to yourself.
I sat in that car in the parking lot and plastered the biggest, fakest grin I could muster on my face. And then I started to talk.
“I want to be in a better mood.”
“I want to be in a better MOOD.”
“I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD! I WANT to be in a BETTER MOOD.”
That turned into, “I’m going to be in a good mood. I’m GOING to be in a good mood. I’m IN a good mood.”
“I am in a GREAT mood. I AM IN A GREAT MOOD!”
I started talking to myself. In my car. Out loud. And I talked. And talked. And I repeated the same phrases over and over again. Fake smile and all. Until my words began to change. Became more positive. Stronger. Happier. My voice got louder. Stronger. Happier. Exactly what I wanted my mood to be. I said what I wanted to feel as though I was already feeling it.
And, then, maybe because I felt so ridiculous, at which point I no longer could feel irritated and annoyed, I actually started to feel good. Better. It was working. It HAD worked. Woah.
I pulled into my driveway ten minutes later and felt different. So much better. I hadn’t really done anything that extraordinary and I hadn’t been gone all that long, but I was changed. And I felt good. And the rest of the day was a lot of fun.
It’s a amazing thing, isn’t it? Mindset. How’s your mindset today? Maybe you need a quick run to Target? You don’t even have to buy anything. Just walk those aisles like you own the B and tell me you don’t feel better.
Motherhood is a journey and there ain’t no refunds.
Have you had enough of all this self-care talk? Thinking to yourself, “Ok, all this talk is nice and all, but I don’t really need any of this stuff. I’m good. I feel fine. I take time out for myself. I see my friends. My kids are sleeping through the night. We eat healthy, most… ok some of the time. I’m fine. I don’t really need any of this self-care thing.”
Except that you do. Because self-care isn’t a destination. You don’t actually ever arrive anywhere. “Fine” isn’t the end goal. Motherhood is a journey and there ain’t no refunds on this ride.
Consider it like packing for vacation. Getting ready to leave can be pretty stressful for me. I love to travel but the packing of outfits, and jewelry and shoes and hair products and chargers and ALL. THE. THINGS. Into a tiny suitcase. It takes days of preparation which I always leave until the four hours before my flight.
But, the moment I get on that plane, woah! I immediately start to feel different. Relaxed. Calm. I begin to unwind. The vacation is here! I’m nearing my destination! I can finally breathe.
But taking care of yourself is not just about lying on a beach on some beautiful island and getting a massage. Or even having a weekly manicure or standing date night with your girlfriends. That’s not to say that that’s not a lot of fun and important too. But, it’s not enough. And if you don’t establish self-care into your daily routine, all the spa treatments in the world won’t help you be the best version of you.
Self-care is more like packing for the vacation. It requires a little bit of work like deliberate consideration, the creation of a plan and, perhaps most difficult of all, discipline. Laying on the beach and getting a massage can feel incredible, but it’s generally not a long-term solution.
So, how do you start integrating self-care into your daily life?
First, let’s take some time to consider your routines.
Do me a favor and skip Netflix tonight. Instead, do this little exercise with me. Find some paper and a pen that you like and squirrel yourself away in a comfy chair on your deck or living room. Grab a cup of tea or maybe some wine.
Spend the next thirty minutes or so writing down all of the things that stress you out or make you unhappy overthe course of a day or the week or in this past year.
No rules on how to do this, just brain dump. Whether it’s how rushed and chaotic your mornings feel with your kids, to the state of your living room, or your difficulty of staying on track with healthy eating at work, or troubles in a relationship, it’s okay if you fill up the page. I almost always do with this exercise.
Getting these thoughts out of your head and onto paper is a great place to start identifying where you want to begin making some changes.
Once you have this list take some time to review it.
I don’t mean just glace over it, I mean really consider what you’ve written. Do you notice any patterns or themes? Are there any connections? Does anything really stand out to you?
Next, circle three or four things that are most pressing on your mind right now.
Follow your heart when selecting these. And if your heart is quiet and nothing is speaking to you at the moment, select the first thing or things that came to mind.
For the record, these don’t have to be life-altering or world-changing things. It could just be that your cluttered countertops are making you bat$hit crazy every day. Or that dinnertime is a disaster every night, which makes you yell at your kids and resent your husband every night. Or perhaps you hate your commute and want a promotion so you can work from home more often. Maybe you’ve just been in a funk lately and want to get out of it. Listen to your heart. Check in with your gut.
Now, look at the stressors that you just circled. If you were able to eliminate one of these of these stressors with the snap of your fingers, which one would it be? What would have the biggest, positive impact on your life? Select that as your starting point for self-care.
Now it’s time to create a plan!
You thought it was going to be easier than that, didn’t’ you? Snap your fingers and let’s make some change, am I right?
Well, as my fave girl, Rachel Hollis would say, “girl, wash your face.” That means it’s time to brush yourself off, put on your big girl pants and take responsibility and ownership over your life. $hitty things are going to happen. Life is unfair. It can be ugly and hard. But it’s up to you to make it what you want. To find beauty. Create your happiness. Make it exactly what you want. And don’t stop until you succeed. This applies to your career as much as it does to clean countertops. What do you want? Go. And. Get. It.
You 100% control your own actions. Which means that you can create the change that you’re looking for. You can teach yourself pretty much anything using Google and YouTube. Did you see the video where the mom taught herself how to build a freakin’ house using YouTube videos? Your power is infinite, mama. You just have to want it bad enough.
So, ask questions, find the experts, talk to friends, get on Pinterest if that’s your jam. Just. Do. Something. Create a plan to change the crappy parts of your day.
Because you’re not going to wake up one morning and find that things have magically worked themselves out. I’m still working on that invention…
Let me show you how this exercise can work:
Since having children, one of the many things I’ve struggled with is cooking. I love to cook but I do not love to cook for my children. It’s a major stressor for me because feeding a family is, as you know, never f*&king ending.
After identifying the major stressor(s) in your life, jot down the ways that you could alleviate the pain for yourself.
Don’t worry about how realistic the solutions are right now. And don’t worry about money or feasibility. Just write them all down.
Me? I could use a meal delivery service, order take-out a lot, subscribe to a meal planning service, meal plan on my own, simplify my menu, prepare meals in advance, buy some ready-made meals, or enlist the help of my husband. There are likely many more but they are the first that came immediately to mind.
Now, identify which ONE of these solutions could you most quickly and easily implement in your life?
Select the one that would make the biggest impact on the problem. And don’t discount the “expensive” solutions. It may not be as expensive as you think if the end result is less stress, a calmer state, and increased happiness. Think of it as an investment and then consider the return on that investment. It’s likely that you can shift your spending a little bit in other areas to make the solution more affordable.
In my case, I love love love grocery delivery and pick-up services. Online shopping, local delivery, all of the above. A good friend of mine even gets Binny’s delivered to her house! Genius! Because shopping with three kids makes my head explode. I never get everything I need because I can’t think while my kids are shopping with me. And when I go alone it takes FOR EHHHHH VERRRRR because I saunter through the aisles as though I’m on a vacation.
Delivery costs extra BUT saves me the time and stress of getting the kids into a car, to the store, through the store and back home. It also saves me from a lot of random extra purchases and impulse buys. So, while there is a cost, the ROI is significantly worth it to me.
This is a form of self-care. Taking care of yourself by eliminating stress from your life. And what works for me is going to be different than what works for someone else. So do yourself the honor of thinking through this with some sincerity.
You may have no problem handling your three kids at the store at once (I’ve seen you, unicorn mama, galavanting through the store with your brood like it’s no thang. Respect.) In your case, a grocery delivery service isn’t worth it. But maybe, if cooking is a stressor, you’d gladly pay extra for pre-chopped vegetables. Hmm, now that I think about that, I may add that to my solution toolbox as well.
The point, again, is to come up with a plan that addresses and alleviates your biggest daily stressor(s). If your counters are cluttered and it’s making you bat $hit crazy every time you look at them, it’s time to address them. Clean it off, get rid of 90% of the stuff, and come up with a system to prevent yourself from putting it all back tomorrow. Maybe you need a table by your door, maybe you need a place for your purse, a desk to sort mail, etc. Look at what is piling up and why and figure out a plan for what to do with it.
A critical component in coming up with your solution is to understand your values. What will implementing a solution free up for you? Time? Mental anguish? Freedom to spend more time doing what you want and love? In my case, having the grocery shopping under control makes me feel more prepared at home and thus more easily able to handle my responsibilities.
In order for any of the above to work, you have to actually stick to the new routine that you create for yourself.
Discipline is truly where most of us meet our demise. Setting yourself up for success means taking baby steps, one day at a time. Every. Day.
There are a lot of theories out there about how long it takes to form a habit and what it takes to achieve “success.” Obviously, you have to be the judge of what exactly that is for you, but, forming a new and positive habit is a great start.
The most compelling research shows that habits take approximately 66 days to form. That’s not exactly a short period of time but it’s not an eternity either. It’s just over two months. If you break that up into ten, one-week increments you’re working with something that’s more manageable to attain.
Also, when coming up with your solution, stay off your phone or computer. I often get caught up in researching “the best organization system for…” or “the best way to…” and I come up with something that doesn’t work for me personally. It seems like a great idea on paper but I never actually end up implementing a solution.
You are a smart woman, you know deep in your heart what it’s going to take. So think about the best solution to your stressor and then plan the steps to putting that solution into action.
In my family meal planning example, I’m going to do more meal prep on the weekends but with SIMPLER recipes in order to make the week flow smoothly. I’m creating a basic list of recipes and we’re going to eat the same damn thing for two weeks, at which point I will rotate the menu. I can do that for ten weeks. I was pregnant for 120 weeks with three kids (it seems like it was 120 weeks in a row) so I can most definitely try meal planning this way for ten.
As I step down from my soap box here, I want to give you the confidence and a little kick in the a$$ to take action towards what you want in your life. Whether it’s a change or the creation of a system or a new habit. Whatehver. Because that, mama, is taking care of yourself.
The thing about the glorious journey that is motherhood is that there’s no getting off this ride. There’s no refund, no do-over, no rewind. You wake up every day and get ready to run. Hard. You work hard, love hard, and hopefully manage to laugh and play hard too. But there is no destination to reach. You’ve already arrived. So make this the best place you’ve ever been.
Self care doesn’t have to be complex or expensive.
Four letter words are the best. Short, not-that-sweet, always to the point. But not all of my favorites are the salacious ones.
Two of my favorite four-letter words? Self-Care.
Unlike some of their naughtier counterparts, the meaning of these four-letter words isn’t always as understood. Does self-care mean taking a fancy barre class? Getting a weekly manicure or massage? A standing “date night” with your best friend? An extra five minutes in the shower? And for moms especially, what does self care look like?
Sure, those can be ways to take care of yourself, but self-care doesn’t always require a babysitter or extra money. It just requires planning, a little discipline and a desire to take care of yourself. Three things YOU absolutely possess and can implement today!
Now, don’t punch me, because you’ve actually heard all of these suggestions before. The thing is, you’re not doing any of them. Ergo you are overwhelmed, stressed, feeling burned out and disconnected from your life. Stop it. And start doing these things instead. Right now.
1. Fine-tune your evening routine to crush your morning one.
I really hate this one, but damn it if it doesn’t work. Every. Single. Time. The idea here is that every night, in some way, shape or form, get yourself ready for the next day. That will inevitably make your morning run 100 times better than a typical morning.
For me that means cleaning up my kitchen as much as possible before I go to bed: washing the dishes and running the dishwasher, clearing the countertops and kitchen table, and sometimes packing lunches packed or prepping breakfast (something like overnight oats).
Trust me, the last thing I want to do at 8pm after my kids go to bed is to stand in a room where I have been standing all damn day long. Every ounce of my being is screaming for me to RUN away from the dishes. “It can wait ‘til tomorrow,” the she-devil in my brain coos, luring me towards Netflix or mindless Instagram story scrolling. Every single night, I never ever EVER want to do this.
But, since I’m in charge of the morning routine at our house, setting it up the night before always makes my morning easier.
Can you think of a way that you can simplify your morning by doing something the night before?
2. Take care of yourself by getting sweaty.
Sex, yoga, meditation, running, taking the stairs at the office, whatever gets you huffing and puffing. Several times a day. Every day.
I know that I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. And while you might say, “oh but I work out,” I bet you could probably still benefit from a little more heavy breathing. Consider adding meditation to the mix. Or taking a bike ride with your kids. Are you having as much sex as you’d like? Be honest with yourself. (And then with your partner.)
You don’t have to spend your day sweaty, just get more in touch with your body. How it moves and feels. What it likes and dislikes. What it responds to and shies away from. Start to pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it responds to the actions you’re taking. Or not taking, for that matter.
Consider the state of your sex life. Is it in a good place? A satisfying place? Just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it has to remain there forever. But, as favorite person of mine always says, “hope is not a strategy.” You can’t HOPE for things to one day get better. You have to take action.
So listen to your body and then make some changes. You deserve it.
3. Be the first person in your house to wake up every day.
This tip also really sucks. I mean, getting up in the dark? What in the hell? (This self-care thing is super fun, right? No wonder no one is actually doing it.)
Getting your a$$ out of bed is by far the hardest part. Once you’re out of bed, it gets exponentially easier to be awake at what probably is an insane hour. When I wake up, I repeat to myself, “I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy…” to trick my body and brain into thinking that this early wake up stuff is something we actually want to be doing and not some bizarre circadian rhythm mixup.
Once you’re awake though, YOU get to choose what to do with your time. Journal, read a book, catch up on some work. Usually, I work out and then read or write with a cup of coffee. But, that doesn’t have to be what you do. The key is to find what will motivate you to get yourself out of that deliciously cozy bed. Maybe it’s meditating, maybe it’s catching up on folding that laundry you just couldn’t will yourself to do the day before, maybe you want to write in a journal or catch up on a show, THIS TIME IS ENTIRELY YOURS!
The trick here, and something I struggle with, is knowing when to stop with the morning me-time and switch into “midweek morning routine crazy mommy.” It’s almost like getting out of bed: “Don’t make me leeeeaaavve!” It’s a journey not a destination, right? I’m working on it. So get up before your people tomorrow. You’re going to be tired regardless, so you might as well do something for yourself.
Self-care doesn’t require you to leave your house or have to cost you a dime. It just requires a little discipline and maybe some planning. And all the coffee.
As I’ve started to settle into life with three kids under five, my new favorite word has become “minimalism.” The nesting stage of pregnancy turned into a full blown tirade to “throw away all the things.” Basically, if I hadn’t used it in the last 10 minutes or if it remotely annoyed me, into the trash/donation pile it went.
On my journey of discovering ways to implement self care into my life, I discovered that it starts at home. I have been drawn to the teachings of two great but really different women: the young and trendy Allie Casazza and the not-as-young-or-trendy FLY Lady. I quickly learned that having less at home most definitely meant more at home. More time, more freedom, more sanity, more happiness, more self love and care.
I began to minimize areas of our home in as many ways as I could find. I got ride of multiple sets of dishes, tons of clothes, bags and bags of toys, aged home decor, excess paper, and on and on and on. It was liberating to purge the clutter but it actually began to make life easier too.
Instead of a giant mound of dishes to do every night, I now had a manageable pile. Rather than getting out a new clean glass every single time someone wanted a drink, the cup had to be washed or even reused. Less clothes in the closest meant smaller loads of laundry that wouldn’t sit on the floor for weeks before being put away. Ok, we’re still working on that one…
Perhaps the best improvement? The elimination of toys! I’m not joking when I say that I’ve taken at least ten garbage bags of toys out of my house over the last few weeks. And my kids have barely noticed.
Ok they’ve sort of noticed. The “You want a Lego mini-figure? Here’s a wooden block!” conversation didn’t go over as well as I had hoped. But they’ve significantly cut down on the bickering now that mama’s garbage bag makes a regular appearance.
And, importantly, mom is (becoming) happier! There’s less to clean up, the kids are actually playing with things, world peace is on the horizon my friends! If you’re familiar with Montessori teachings, this sort of “less toys is more toys” concept is not new. I’m hoping that soon we’ll be down to just rocks and sticks as play things. Ok, and the occasional ball, I mean, I’m not a monster.
My husband was mostly supportive of my newfound outlook on clutter… except when it came to his personal things. Suddenly, he became very protective of his clusters of tiny “important” papers, loose pocket “treasures,” and piles of unworn-in-years “favorite” shirts. Weird how a tiny scrap of paper can sit untouched next to a bathroom sink for weeks but the moment you try to throw it away or ask them to put it anywhere else, it becomes a priceless artifact necessitating preservation.
I continued to clean and declutter the rest of the house without him and just collected all of his “valuables” into a laundry basket. I then gifted him the basket and asked him to find a home for the stuff. He stared at me blankly, sheepishly realizing that the majority of stuff was junk. I’m happy to report that today he is fully on board with the garbage bag project and even volunteers a few pieces here and there.
We are by no means living a barebones lifestyle, not even close. But our mindset has begun to shift ever-so-slightly and we’re making conscious decisions about things we keep in our home. THAT is the key. Nothing stays or new comes in unless we really want or need it.
So if you want an easy way to add a little self care to your mom life, get out the garbage bag. Stop organizing the stuff. Step away from the Dollar Spot at Target. Put down the cute baskets. Pick up a garbage bag and just get rid of it!
Now excuse me while I get my own bag. It’s time for another sweep of the house.