I schedule my laundry-folding sessions for the nights when my favorite show is on TV.

I think the habit grew from my desire to watch the show in its entirety—start to finish—without having to answer a million questions or fetch Goldfish or help a kid in the bathroom. So when my husband gets home from work on Tuesday evenings, I quietly excuse myself to our bedroom where I fold eleventy-hundred loads of laundry and watch my show in peace. 

The silence and chance to “escape” for an hour are heavenly . . . even if I am sorting underwear and matching socks the entire time. 

When I mentioned this to my sister-in-law, she nodded. “Same here!” she told me. “I go to my room, stick in my earbuds, and listen to an audiobook while I fold. It’s the most relaxing part of my week.”

The most relaxing part of her week. And if I’m being honest, it’s probably mine, too.

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As moms, we count on things like:

Hot showers
Solo car rides
Trips to the grocery store alone
Scrolling our phones from the waiting rooms of appointments
Sitting in quiet cars in ridiculously long drive-thru lines

We do these things—these boring, monotonous, responsibility-led things that somebody has to do—and we call them “me time.” Not because they’re activities we actually enjoy, but because they give us a tiny break from catering directly to everyone’s needs, while still being productive enough to not make us feel guilty. 

I mean, it’s kind of crazy when you think about it.

We feel like we must be doing something worthwhile at all times, but we rarely consider taking care of our own physical, mental, and emotional needs a good enough “something.”

Instead, we sneak self-care into the fine print of our days. It’s something we fit in when we can, not something we intentionally carve out a time for.

And when we finally do plan something just for us, there’s a nagging at the back of our minds telling us there are more important things we could be doing. We sabotage our attempts at self-care by sandwiching them between other to-dos, so we don’t feel guilty about the time spent on ourselves. 

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We schedule a massage, then plan to run by the grocery store, the post office, and the car wash on the way home to justify the trip.

We hire a babysitter, then spend every single second of our kid-free time cleaning or working or running errands instead of doing something that refreshes us.

We draw a hot bubble bath, then mentally prepare our weekly grocery list as the water wraps around us.

And yeah, we watch our weekly show (sometimes DVRed and three days late) while we whittle away at a mountain of laundry.

We do these things, and we call them good enough. We even go so far as to call them “self-care.”

But mama, hear me when I say errands, showers, and chores are not some kind of mom break time—they are essential parts of everyday life. The fact that we allow ourselves (and the world) to view them as some sort of privilege is why we feel so run down.

Moms need more than a 15-minute car ride or shower to preserve our sanity. That’s like running a marathon and hoping for the occasional raindrop to land on us instead of stopping to take an actual drink. It just isn’t going to sustain us. 

True self-care is doing something for ourselves, to recharge our batteries—and making absolutely no apologies about it.

I deserve that. You deserve that. We all deserve that.

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We deserve a spa day to decompress.

We deserve to go into the coffee shop for that latte and sip it slowly while we turn the pages of a good book.

We deserve a nap. A lonnnng nap, because we’re freaking tired.

We deserve to spend an afternoon binge-watching our favorite show and snacking on whatever the heck we feel like.

We deserve to dust off that hobby we haven’t made time for in years.

We deserve to do things that benefit us and us alone—without feeling guilty or like we’re letting our families down.

We deserve to fill our cup—like really fill it—not just pretend it’s full because we had an hour to fold laundry by ourselves without interruption.

When we became moms, we gave up so much of the time that used to be ours to do as we pleased. And the sacrifice is worth it, truly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not really hard sometimes. 

We can absolutely adore motherhood while also recognizing that it doesn’t give us everything we need. Both things can be true.

The only way to get through these years with true joy and fulfillment is if we slow down enough to care for ourselves so that we actually have something to give those we love.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, mama, and you deserve so much more than to try.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward