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Turn ‘scream time’ into ‘me time’: Moms share their sanity-saving tips

Moms reveal the most scream-worthy aspects of parenting and their best mental health hacks for being good to themselves.

Cheerful multiracial mom friends enjoying free time together at home without kids

No one knows for sure when mothering became synonymous with self-sacrifice or often self-erasure, but it seems the more moms give up in the name of mothering, the more we feel like “good mothers.” At the same time, while on the quest for the title of “good mom,” we often forget to make time to be good to ourselves, which ultimately can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety and other mental health calamities. Working moms who are also the primary caregivers for their children take on additional stress, and the pandemic made things even harder for all of us, contributing to a mental health decline for parents, and moms especially

The responsibility, emotional labor and subsequent stress of motherhood is real, which can make it hard at times to hold gratitude in our role. Sometimes it can be hard to cope. However, most moms agree that being in community with one another can help relieve stress, and having access to various perspectives can make a difference when looking for strategies and support. One group of stressed-out moms even gathered to scream together, so moms helping moms might look different for everyone. 

For this reason, I asked 14 moms to share their biggest scream-worthy stressors in motherhood, as well as their best “me time” hacks for coping. Read on for sanity-saving tips and support for moms from moms.

Mom ‘scream time’ vs. ‘me time’: What’s hardest and what helps?

Tip #1: Block out a regular self-care hour

Karina Vazquez, mom to 7-year-old, El Portal, Florida

Scream time: “…coming home after a long day of work, tired and having to give good loving and caring attention, do homework, cook and have some good family time. It can be hard and draining.”

Me time: “I dedicate one hour per day for myself — one day for working out, and the next for drawing. Even if it has to be after everyone has gone to bed, I do it.”

Tip #2: Create your own calm and share the load

Jessica Munar, mom to an 8- and 11-year-old, Miami  

Scream time: “Never stopping to take a break is a stressor and taking on too many chores.”

Me time: “Hot tea, essential oil diffuser and actually asking my husband to do some of the chores.”

Tip #3: Read a good book

Gaby Atienza, mom to a 12- and 15-year-old, Miami

Scream time: “…Over-scheduling of activities (trying to do it all).” 

Me time: “Reading is my way to escape, and it is also a way for me to continue learning. It simulates that part of myself that enjoys being a student.” 

Tip #4: Escape with the help of a streaming service

Mayra Anguiano, mom of a 6- and 8-year-old, Banning, California

Scream time: “…having a career and being a “good” mom. The balancing and sacrificing that goes with both. My husband is supportive and does what he can although it’s challenging due to his work schedule. It feels as though I’m a single mom working.” 

Me time: “After the kids are down for the night, I watch shows on Netflix or HBO Max alone in silence until I fall asleep or my husband is home.” 

Tip #5: Get offline more and find time to move

Blislainey Pascual, mom to a 1-, 2- and 13-year-old, Miami

Scream time: “There are days when I get online to mindlessly scroll, and I find myself feeling inadequate because of a photo I see of another mom at the park with her kids or a photo of a stay at home mom thriving in her daily activities with her little ones while mine are stuck at home because I need to catch up on chores. At times social media has led me to believe that what I do is not good enough, or that I’m doing something wrong because my life doesn’t look like the ones I see online.”

Me time: “The No. 1 thing that I have found to be helpful in diminishing my stress is finding the time to move. Even if it’s going outside with my kids in the afternoon and chasing them in the yard or getting the two babies in the stroller and going for a 30-minute walk. It clears my mind and releases pent-up stress and anxiety.”

Tip #6: Play music

Ingrid Cleveland, home-school mom of a 6-month-old and a 3- and 6-year-old and founder of Honeybrown Homeschool, Owings Mills, Maryland

Scream time: “My biggest source of stress is not always being able to check things off daily to-do lists. Trying to stay on top of everything as a home-schooling mom (with an infant) is not easy.”

Me time: “I manage stress by playing music, sometimes for my children (while I have a mommy moment) and sometimes for myself because it helps get me through some of the more difficult or challenging times of motherhood.”

Tip #7: Meditate and marvel at nature

Krista Miller, mom of a 15-year-old, Miami

Scream time: “Being on a time schedule all the time (school drop-off, pickup, can’t be late). Mom guilt (balancing your life and equal time for theirs).”

Me time: “I try to watch the sunrise or sit by the water. It reconnects me to the earth and the beauty of nature and gives me a moment to myself with prayer and journaling. It refreshes me. I also do breath exercises and yoga.”

Tip #8: Find a support group

Nia Norris, mom of a 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old, Dekalb, Illinois

Scream time: “I dread bedtime every night. I usually just end up letting the last kid standing sleep in bed with me. Before we got divorced, my husband was in charge of bedtime, and they behave differently for me. I’ve got my older two on a decent bedtime routine by promising dolls if they fill a star chart. But my 3-year-old is immune to this.” 

Me time: “I try to remind myself in the moment that difficult moments aren’t permanent. It actually helps. I also go to a weekly support group and maintain my friendships.” 

Tip #9: Set boundaries

Brandi Riley, mom of a 4- and 12-year-old, Oakland, California

Scream time: “My biggest source of stress is trying to be fully engaged with all of the different parts of parenting (emotional and physical) AND maintain relationships with folks outside of my house, my job, social life, etc.” 

Me time: “…figuring out how to set thoughtful boundaries for myself with my children has helped so much. I’m super overt about what I need from my family for my well-being, whether it’s quiet at a certain time, help around the house or something else. If you want folks to adhere to your boundaries, you can’t be passive about it.“

Tip #10: Outsource important tasks

Dele Lowman, mom to a 10-year-old, metro Atlanta 

Scream time: “Finding time to attend to my daughter’s evolving needs while working full time and maintaining a household.” 

Me time: “I have different groups of friends to whom I can reach out and find support when I’m stressed out and struggling. I couldn’t maintain my sanity without outsourcing important tasks like housekeeping, laundry and some meal preparation.”

Tip #11: Vent with friends

Veronica Castillo, mom of a 7- and 9-year-old, Miami

Scream time: “My two biggest sources of stress are time management (or lack of time) and decision-making. Having to consistently make decisions/choices all day can get exhausting.” 

Me time: “Stress relief for me is the people I surround myself with. My friends are a huge support system so we try to go out, just the girls, a few times a month. The disconnect is helpful but so is being able to talk about our daily issues. Seeing that others experience the same or similar stressors makes it a bit easier.”

Tip #12:  Show yourself grace

Tonya Abari, mom of a 5-month-old and 7-year-old, Nashville, Tennessee

Scream time: “Not having enough time to get through an endless list of things to do.” 

Me time: “I show myself grace by repeating affirmations like: ‘I am progressing one task at a time’.”

Tip #13: Put yourself first

 — Latoya McCoy, mom of a 5-, 14- and 17-year-old, Midlothian, Texas 

Scream time: “The two biggest sources of stress for me are managing my kids emotions along with managing my emotions. I have two emotional teen girls and a very stubborn and emotional boy. We all struggle with ADD/ADHD and big emotions, and it can be overwhelming.”

Me time: “I manage stress by being selfish and putting me first, but this is easier as they are older. I do things that fill my cup. I exercise. I read my Bible and listen to Christian music. I take much-needed shopping breaks or travel with friends. I anticipate their needs and get things they need before they need them. I make sure I have free time for me and fulfill my needs, so I can take care of their needs.”

Tip #14: Find your thing

 — Malorie Reid, mom of a 2- and 4-year-old, Altamonte Springs, Florida 

Scream time: “The tension of needing alone time and time to work on my art (writing) and feeling like I’m not doing enough to entertain/enrich my kids when they are home (re: almost all the time) and feeling like I have no extended time to myself.”

Me time: “I would say that moms need to find *their* thing they can commit to (and commitment feels impossible, especially with small kids, but you are worth it!). Find your pockets [of time] when you can be alone with just you and take advantage of any support you have — partner, family, friend — your kids will be OK and will benefit from you being in a right frame of mind.”

When to seek help

Even though there are many things moms can do to relieve stress, like exercising, taking a long bubble bath or taking time out to breathe, there may be times when nothing seems to help. And it can be hard to know when you are coming close to crossing the line of feeling overwhelmed in the moment to feeling like you are constantly treading water. If feelings of overwhelm and sadness persist, moms should put their mental health first and seek out the help of a trained professional.

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