10 Effective Habits I Practiced to Become a Happier Mother

As young mothers, we often hear people say to us, “Don’t forget to take care of yourself.”

But to be honest, I didn’t know what that looked like until I struggled with myself and my two kids at the start of the pandemic. 

As young mothers, we often hear people say to us, “Don’t forget to take care of yourself.”

But to be honest, I didn’t know what that looked like until I struggled with myself and my two kids at the start of the pandemic. 

The Impact of Covid-19

Work-life Balance

During the pandemic, people started questioning the need to have a better work-life balance. The so-called “Great Resignation” whereby people started leaving their jobs as they reconsidered their career options despite the pandemic reflects how people wanted to have a life that was more meaningful. 

Maternal Mental Health 

However, during the pandemic, women, especially young mothers were greatly affected by lockdowns and the accumulation of professional and domestic work. Based on a self-report survey, 72% of 500 women reported that they experienced moderate to high levels of anxiety during isolation. 

How I Struggled during the Covid-19 Pandemic  

My second child was born right before the start of the pandemic. 

When Malaysia imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March, my son was only three months old. My eldest daughter had only turned three at the time. During this time, we were not allowed to leave the house unless absolutely necessary such as buying groceries. 

I remember enjoying the restriction movement at first because that meant that we could spend more time at home as a family. 

It seemed ideal to me because I love having my husband and children around. But I later realized that I was unprepared for the challenges of prolonged home isolation with two small children.

Blurred lines: work, kids, and chores

As the days and months passed, my husband’s work started to demand more of his attention and time. He’d start working in the early mornings and continue until late at night. That meant that I had to take care of the kids while my work was kept on hold.  

Don’t get me wrong. 

My husband is very involved as a father. But the pandemic really brought about the lopsided responsibilities of women within a household. 

Tiredness and a roller coaster of emotions

The tiredness, frustration, and mom guilt that was tied in one package seemed to weigh on me heavily during the early days of the pandemic. 

I was exhausted and overstimulated at the same time. 

The invisible mental load

On most days, my body was aching, but my mind could not shut down. There were many nights when I would wake up in the middle of the night, tired, but unable to sleep. A lot of things were on my mind that kept me awake such as:

  • Did I keep the food?
  • Will I have enough time to finish my work?
  • Do we have enough diapers?
  • Do we have enough food for the week?
  • How is our financial situation?
  • Did I overreact with my kids?
  • Am I a bad mom?

As I struggled to take care of myself, I observed that my husband had no problems falling asleep. Somehow, he also found time to exercise. 

I looked at him, marveling at how he could fall asleep the second his head landed on the pillow. Although we were both working and managing the children, he didn’t seem to get anxious or allow intrusive thoughts to affect his sleep.

Then I said to myself, “Why don’t I just carve out some time for myself?” 

My husband supported my efforts to include self-care into my daily routine because it was a necessity for my mental and emotional health.

10 Things I Did to Put Myself First

# 1 Exercise

I remember having a conversation with my husband about when it was a good time to start exercising after the delivery of our second child. He suggested that I don’t wait too long to ease back into it. 

It wasn’t because he wanted me to lose weight. It was because he was beginning to worry about my mental health. 

We both knew that exercise helps to regulate moods. I just wasn’t sure whether I was mentally ready for it. The thought of exercising only seemed to be more tiring at the time. 

But I gave it a try. 

I started with simple stretching and aerobic exercises. 

And when I got the hang of it, I started doing high-intensity interval training (HIITS). I did this in our small bedroom apartment, in front of my laptop. Nothing fancy. 

Once I began to exercise regularly, I noticed that I had better quality sleep. 

# 2 Water, Water & More Water! 

This might be a no-brainer. 

But if you have small kids with you the entire day, it is highly likely to you will forget to drink enough water. 

I had to make sure that I drank 1-2 cups of water a day before I took my coffee and this is a habit I practice until today. 

# 3 Cut Down on Caffeine

I used to function on 2-3 cups of coffee a day. But when I experienced insomnia, I started to cut down on my caffeine to just one cup a day. 

It was hard for me to adjust in the beginning without that buzz I got from caffeine, but it was much easier for me to fall asleep at night and that improved my mood and energy levels overall. 

# 4 Started Blogging 

It was during the pandemic that I decided to continue blogging and create content to help young mothers like me. 

No matter how busy you are as a mother, it can be very isolating. 

I knew that if I had all these challenges while navigating the stresses of motherhood, writing about how I managed it every day may help other mothers. This also gave me a renewed sense of purpose. 

# 5 Reduced My Use of Social Media 

I also made a conscious effort to reduce my use of social media. 

My consumption of unnecessary news – whether it’s national news or pop culture was beginning to affect me. I then decided to limit my screen time, especially before bed because the blue light sources can distract us from sleeping.  

# 6 Dealing with Mom Guilt

Yes, I grappled a lot with mom guilt. 

I felt inadequate because it felt very difficult to manage both of my small kids at the same time while not being able to allow them to do their usual activities as their routine was disrupted. 

My daughter watched a lot of television at the time because I was busy with my younger son who needed my attention while my husband was working. 

I felt guilty about always being tired. For not being able to cook a decent meal. I was on survival mode.

But eventually, I learned how to manage my guilt. I told myself that the things that I do or don’t do, do not define my worth as a mom. The most important thing is that I’m trying my best. 

#7 Honest Conversations with My Husband 

We had to have honest conversations that were often uncomfortable — things that worried and troubled us.

I couldn’t juggle everything at the same time. 

My son who sometimes took to the bottle before the pandemic ended up rejecting the bottle entirely. This meant that he was stuck to me and often wanted to nurse all the time. 

When I decided to wean him, my husband had to sleep with and care for him at night because my son sought him for comfort after our breastfeeding relationship ended.  

In hindsight, it was hard but my son ended up loving him more than me (it’s true!)

We also talked about the things that we thought of letting go. 

As a freelance proofreader back then, I had an honest conversation with my husband that if I am the one primarily caring for the kids, then I won’t be able to take in any clients – and contribute to our finances. 

Like most young married couples living in an urban area, we earned just enough to get by. But whatever small earnings I made also went into paying what I could. 

So he agreed to give me a few hours in a day where I could also focus on my work while he tried to work around the kids. 

We just had to make it work. 

# 8 Spent 10 Minutes Reading a Book 

Gone are the days when I could just lay down on a couch with my feet up, enjoying a good book.  

I didn’t want to spend too much time on social media or watching Netflix so I aimed to read a book for at least 10 minutes whenever I could.

I wasn’t able to read every day but when I wanted to, I tried to read for at least 10 minutes. 

I was desperate to get back to my old self and doing these small habits allowed me to feel like myself again. 

# 9 Woke Up Before Anyone Else  

During the pandemic, I remember I craved solitude. 

I was surrounded by too much noise – the crying and the constant pleading of “Mommy!” 

I realized once the kids woke up, I had no time for peace and quiet. 

As a result, I made the decision to wake up earlier than the kids. The 30 minutes I had to myself in the morning was amazing. Being able to make coffee and drinking it alone felt like the greatest thing ever. 

#10 Tahajjud Prayers

O believers! Seek comfort in patience and prayer. Allah is truly with those who are patient.”


Growing up, my father would always remind us of the importance of prayer and how Allah loves it when we pray and ask to ease our affairs for even the smallest of things. 

It was really during these hard times I decided to perform Tahajjud prayers. I really felt I needed to wake up in the middle of the night just to express myself to Him. 

Relearning to Take Care of Myself 

Putting myself first seemed unnatural at first; it even felt a little selfish. 

At the time, it felt like I was in a dark hole, and I had to slowly crawl my way out of there. 

As I slowly practiced these “selfish” habits, I noticed how I became calmer and happier. 

Of course, I still experience low points occasionally but this process of self-care is a journey I am willing to take – for myself and my family.

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