5 Key Steps to Help Moms Prioritize Themselves


Let’s face it. Being a mom is a 24/7 job. The responsibilities you have as a mom vary based on your personal circumstances, but one thing is for certain, the workload is demanding. And, it is not just about the number of things you have to do and the physical toll it can have; being a mom can drain your emotional and mental capacity, as well.


I suspect you know Ralphie’s mom in the movie A Christmas Story. I found a particular scene to be a perfect example to depict the essence of serving others. Remember the part where Ralphie’s mom has just finished making the holiday dinner of turkey and mashed potatoes? She sits down to eat her meal after spending all day in the kitchen, but before her fork reaches her mouth, her husband asks for a second serving of cabbage. She gets up and dishes out more cabbage. As soon as she sits back down to try and get a bite of her meal, Ralphie asks for something, too. Then comes the voiceover, the adult Ralphie speaking. “My mother hadn’t had a hot meal for herself in fifteen years,” he says. I watched that movie multiple times over the years, but only recently did I realize the significance of that scene and how much I can relate to it. And for some women, this motherly approach of caring for others can creep into the workplace. It might come in the form of taking on responsibilities from co-workers or your boss, volunteering for opportunities to “help out”, and providing much-needed emotional support to colleagues, which research shows was evident during the pandemic. Many days it can feel like all you do is serve the needs of everyone around you, leaving little for yourself – if anything.


The way couples divide their time remains unbalanced as well. According to recent studies conducted by Pew Research Center, women carry a heavier load when it comes to chores in the home and caregiving responsibilities. For women of color, the gaps are even wider.

The result? Stress, feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm, increased potential for depression, lack of recognition and reward. Even resentment, to name a few.

It is important to recognize that there are systems in place that don’t necessarily support moms. Take, for example, bias in the workplace toward working moms, or lack of access to affordable childcare for women who work outside the home. And, of course, pay inequities. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in these areas, but there are many people who are fighting the fight to create structural change.

Still, it is important to recognize what you have agency over and to identify what change you want for yourself, and even generations of moms who will follow. There are, after all, some things that are within your span of control. It is up to you to decide what you want to change for your own well-being.


How do you start prioritizing yourself? Some of you may even wonder if that is even possible. I am here to tell you it is. But it will require you to do the challenging work and potentially change how you operate and think about things. Below are the five R’s, as I refer to them, which are core to the five principles outlined in my book, Moms Eat First: 5 Principles to Prioritizing Yourself to Create the Change You Crave. These provide a framework to begin creating the change you want. Are you ready to elevate yourself?

  1. Reflect: Take time to step back and assess things. Think about who you are and what you value. Evaluate what is on your plate and how you are feeling. Identify patterns of behavior and trends that are not serving you anymore. This is about identifying what is truly important, and acknowledging what things you may be holding on to that don’t align.
  2. Rediscover: Envision your ideal future. What would it look like if you truly prioritized yourself? What do you need? What do you want? Be sure to remove any constraints and reframe your negative thinking. This is about rediscovering possibilities and what could be without barriers.
  3. Reset: Once you have clarity of what is important and what you want, you can reset priorities. What is most important? What needs to change to achieve your vision? This might require you to stop doing things a certain way, or it might require you to do things differently. This is about identifying your focus and taking action to move toward your vision.
  4. Reclaim: Change is difficult. Amid adversity, people often give up or lower their expectations of themselves. This is your biggest opportunity to reclaim what is important to you, but it will require you to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. What will you do to stay strong and fight for what you want? The biggest opportunity for growth occurs when you are faced with a choice. You can take the path of least resistance, or choose the more difficult route that will lead you to the desired change.
  5. Release: We cannot control everything in life. Even when doing the hard work, we do not always get what we want exactly the way for which we had hoped. Sometimes you have to let go of the need to control outcomes and trust you are right where you are meant to be. Even then, things often have a way of working out for the best.

As with most change, it isn’t linear. We do not move from point A directly to Z in a straight line. There are many highs and lows, but if you keep your focus on the direction you want to go and iterate along the way, you will be that much closer to what you want and who you want to be.

Elevate yourself, moms. You are worth it!

Kathy Sullivan is the principal and owner of Talent Principles, a coaching and organizational development consultancy, and author of Moms Eat First: 5 Principles to Prioritize Yourself and Create the Change You Crave. She works with organizations, teams, and individuals to facilitate positive change. She designs and facilitates customized leadership programs, including programs that support the advancement of women in the workplace. You can find more information at www.talentprinciples.com.

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