When I became a mom, taking a shower became my official reset button. It began very practically: I had a never-ending stream of spit up on me at all times, plus my own night sweats from postpartum hormones and other bodily fluids I need not mention, so regularly cleaning myself was an obvious necessity. But as time became a nebulous concept—I was awake all the time with the exception of short power naps between diaper changes—and I worked to manage my anxiety around new motherhood, the seemingly-simple practice took on new importance in my routine.
“For new mothers whose bodies often are completely entangled with their newborns [combined with] the anxiety and guilt that can sometimes come with wanting more space, a shower is a time when you can honor your body autonomously,” says licensed therapist Caroline Given, LCSW, LCSW. “Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding can leave new mothers feeling a lack of ownership over their own bodies, so making it a priority to turn a daily shower into a self-care ritual reinforces a young mother’s value as an individual. A shower ritual can be a positive step for a young mother in giving herself permission to prioritize herself outside of her parenting role and learning to trust that self-care isn’t selfish.”
I remember being so hard on myself when I was a new mom, but have since learned to carve out the “me” time I need—which is why seen years and three children later, I still consider showering to be central to my self-care routine. What used to be a quick rinse with my baby relaxing in her nearby baby Bjorn has become a daily ritual I look forward to.
“A shower might be easily written off as too mundane to be considered self-care, but consistent, regular efforts to be tender and kind to yourself accumulate in a way that can end up meaning more to your everyday existence than a vacation you take every few months,” says Given. “We already need to shower, and instead of viewing it as a chore or something to rush through, we can use it as an opportunity for self-love.”
As someone whose day revolves around to-do lists, writing deadlines, and shuffling my children from one building to another, I don’t often give myself space to let my mind wander. Showering gives me a chance to do exactly that.”For many people, a shower is the best excuse to completely unplug from technology and be fully present within yourself,” says Given. “Researchers are finding that having mental ‘idle time’ helps us maintain mental sharpness for future complex tasks. If you feel like you haven’t given your brain time to wander aimlessly without a Slack message or email disrupting your thoughts, a shower gives you the license and time to do that.”
The process helps me recharge so that I can end the day with a positive mindset instead of feeling drained (pun intended), so now, after the bedtime stories are read and everyone is asleep, I turn on some Mariah Carey and take care to transform what could be a basic shower into a luxurious experience. This means using eucalyptus to give the space a spa-like feel, using indulgent products like Nécessaire Body Wash ($25) and Ouidad Clear & Gentle Shampoo ($24) and Conditioner ($24), treating my face to a full skin-care routine and masking session, and changing my sheets on a weekly basis so that I can get into a fresh bed.
To be clear, this isn’t the only, or even the most critical, form of self-care I need or value: Equal pay, body autonomy, and reproductive health are at the top of that list. But there’s something to be said about closing out the day with a ritual focused on prioritizing yourself, and it doesn’t have to require scheduling time at the spa or shelling out for professional treatments.
I’ve never had a role more complicated, joyful, and rewarding than being a mother, but by the end of the day, the sheer exhaustion is real… especially if bedtime is running two hours behind and my toddler is thirsty and has “one more question.” In this season of life, there’s an expectation to put everyone else’s needs before your own and it’s easy to forget the person you once were—which is why taking the time to prioritize yourself and seeking out your own self-care, whether in the shower or elsewhere, is essential.