woman with a cup of tea for self care

Why self-care is a revolutionary act: advice from a life coach

Guest post by:  Lavinia Brown aka BoboMama

Cambridge is a wonderfully small place.   I am delighted to host a post specially written for you by Lavina Brown, a local Life Coach.  Lavinia came to my antenatal pilates class a few years ago.  Now, like many women, she has returned to her work with a change of focus – drawn to helping other mothers be their best selves:

As a life coach for mums who want the most from life – to be the best mama they can be AND to find fulfilment and happiness in the workplace – self-care is one of the most important items in my coaching tool kit. 

Why? Because we can’t have it all and do it all, all at the same time, without it.

Ambition is a great thing – especially when, on the whole, we women tend to seriously undersell ourselves – but it needs to be tempered with a reality check:  

First, that women are naturally empathetic and often also highly sensitive.  If we take on too much, this means we also take on too much of other people’s stuff (emotional and physical) leading only to burnout, depression and disease.

Second, that parenting takes up a huge amount of energy (whether we want it to or not). We simply don’t have the full tanks we used to pre-kids, to expend on what we choose. So we need to be careful about what we commit ourselves to and even more careful about taking time-out to replenish those precious tanks of ‘you juice’.

And that means self-care.

Yes, it’s an overused, slightly wishy-washy umbrella term that could mean lots of different things to different people, but that’s the whole point. Self-care is what makes YOU feel better about yourself, however weird and wacky that activity might seem to others. It could be picking your spots last thing before bed, going for a walk in Nature, indulging your inner neat-freak by colour-coding your wardrobe or learning to fly a plane.

I see self-care as falling into two camps: the nourishing sort (think cups of delicious tea, massage, lying in the sun, reading in bed, chats with your bezzies, steaming hot salt baths) and the revitalising sort (think sports, gardening, dancing etc). It doesn’t matter which camp is your natural self-care go-to, what does matter is incorporating at least one item from either list into your routine, on at least a weekly basis.

And there’s the rub: fitting it in. Actually doing it. Scheduling in time for yourself somewhere near the top of your to-do list rather than at the bottom underneath a myriad of chores.

Why is this so hard to do? Because as a society, we have not been taught to value ourselves over and above what we DO in the world. We have forgotten what it is like to be a human being rather than a human doing and in a world that glorifies the term ‘busy’, we have assumed that to get ahead and achieve our maximum, we should always be switched on.

But is this how we want our kids to grow up? No! So why should we fall in line with this crazy, short-termist attitude to life and health? Why not be pioneers instead?

Let’s see rest as a revolutionary act and start implementing it as though our lives depended on it! (Mama truth bomb: they do).

And if you’re still feeling like self-care is indulgent and selfish, keep my top four reasons to ditch the mama guilt close to hand:

  1. Just think how many hours you have been ‘on duty’and tally that up against how many you plan to take time ‘off’. There’s bound to be a huge imbalance.
  2. Remember that giving yourself permission to do something that feels good and gives you joy, is also allowing others to do the same. By expressing your needs and asking that these be met (something we all struggle with as remote descendants of Victorian disciplinarians), you are showing your partner how they too are worth investing in
  3. Partaking in some self-care without the kids is showing your children that life doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Hard effort deserves celebration – you would celebrate their achievements, so why not celebrate yours, however small, menial or routine they might seem to you at the time?
  4. Happy Mama = Happy Family (and vice versa) You wouldn’t want to inflict shouty, resentful mama on them, would you?

So, self-care or be square. Your kids/partner/health will thank you for it…

Lavinia Brown (aka BoboMama) is a qualified transition coach for mothers. She supports women to reach their greatest potential – at home and in the workplace – whilst successfully managing the ‘life bomb’ that is kids. See www.bobomama.net for more details or follow her on social media for daily doses of mama medicine: click here for Insta and here forFB 

Pelvic Floor exercises for really busy mums

How to find time in a normal day to do pelvic floor exercises?

Everyone knows that pregnant and postnatal mums are supposed to do pelvic floor exercises (also often known as Kegels).  How do you fit them into a busy day???

You need an exercise habit

Muscles develop best from being made to perform regularly  to build neural connections and to move their function from something you have to conciously ‘think about’ to something you do spontaneously without needing to apply mental effort.  Think of something as simple as wearing your seat belt – you learned to put in on initially but now you automatically reach for it and plug it in before you set off – that’s a learned habit.  We need the pelvic floor to learn to automatically get involved as a support system when we sneeze, cough, and more importantly lift and carry.  Anyone noticed how much lifting and carrying mums do???!!?!
How to build a habit
There are many gurus who write about the power and value of habits and how to form them.  Relevant to us with pelvic floor training are:
  • Find a trigger.  A really specific one.  Not just ‘today’ or even ‘this morning’ rather ‘when I clearn my teeth’, …… ‘when I am waiting outside pre-school’…..  ‘whenever I put pasta on to boil’……’sit down to watch……..’
  • Be short & specific.  If it takes too long your brain will find a way to sabotage your intentions.  So though the pelvic floor booklets traditionally suggest you first do the longer holding type pelvic floor squeezes  followed by the quick ones – in practice I actually tend to start beginners off with the shorter ‘quick’ squeezes, done on their own as  This only takes about 35 seconds (see My favorite Standing Pelvic Floor exercise ever for the detail).  Get this habit going first then later once you have a routine established add the longer task of doing the slow holding ones.
  • repetition…repetition…repetition……  you will probably have heard of the 10,000 hours of practice needed to take you from good to outstanding piano player, tennis player, tiddly wink champion.  Fortunately, the pelvic floor doesn’t do that many different things (fast contractions, endurance (slow) holds, and relaxation).  You just need to DO them.
  • Practice Deeply.  Researchers into ‘talent’ have identified what makes best practice. One key thing is being mindful and noticing what you are doing.  Doing less but with more sincerity and awareness.  Try to block out everything (and everyone) when you practice so that you can really tune in and feel what you are doing for better results.

REAL examples:  for real busy mums 

# 1     Teeth cleaning:  Multi-task your morning rituals 

 Even busy new mothers, who might not have brushed their hair or had a shower, remember to clean their teeth! 

Pelvic floor exercises while you brush your teeth

First stand still (no actual teeth cleaning yet) and focus on the pelvic floor muscles.  These are the soft muscular tissues around the opening of the bladder, bowel and vagina.  A pelvic floor squeeze is when you pull up around the back passage (like stopping wind) as well as the vaginal/bladder opening (like stopping a wee). Concentrate on 10 really good strong squeezes of the pelvic floor muscles in a row, focusing on making every squeeze a good one.  Remember to RELAX the pelvic floor properly between each contraction.  It is possible to overwork the muscles causing tension and tightness in the pelvic floor.  Some people experience pain and discomfort during sex because they find it difficult to relax their muscles. Make sure you notice what both a contraction and a relaxation feel like.   

Then try to sustain a medium hold of your pelvic floor muscles while you are cleaning your teeth Perfect mum-multitasking!  You will find you can only hold the pelvic floor contraction for a few seconds to start but with practice you might manage to clean the whole  top row of teeth before you fatigue!

# 2      A private moment (possibly): when you have a wee
Everyone has to wee……eventually.  No matter how busy you are.  Mostly you are by yourself (even if the door is open).  Finish your wee.  Clothes up, hands washed etc but just before you are about to return to the fray, STOP, stand still.  Do My Favorite Standing Up Pelvic Floor Exercise Ever.  35 secs start to finish.  Done.  Go.  You will forget all about them in between……but then you will have to wee again sometime…..Repeat………see ….roughly every 2-3 hours…..which is 5-6 x a day……..so Getting Them Done. If you work – make this one a priority on work days.  There is a satisfaction in getting paid to do your pelvic floor exercises and one less thing to think about when you get home.
# 3      Tap into tech on your phone
If you are a gadget kind of girl, you might enjoy working with a  reminder app on your phone, or a pelvic floor exerciser or tracker device. NHS Squeezy app reminds you to do your pelvic floor exercises The Squeezy app is a simple reminder device with lovely visuals to help you focus when you practice. You can set the app to remind you at 3 personalised times of day.  Think about when that might work best for you?  You want the app to send you the reminder text at a time when you WILL be able to follow through.  So when does the morning actually, truly get a bit of a lull in it?  As you get home from school/pre-school run?  Does the baby have a morning nap routine? Then think through the rest of the day for true windows of opportunity.  They don’t have to be evenly spaced.  You just need 3 times in a day.   Lunch time?  Just before your partner gets home (or is that max-chaos??!), roughly just before you have supper? Or follow the Tweets of the hilarious Elaine Miller of GussetGrippers.
# 4     Little Ones TV time.   Follow a video yourself.

Exercises after a Caesarean led by a specialist physiotherapistIf you are better with supervision  – join me for an exercise session straight from your computer. I will keep reminding you to focus on your pelvic floor throughout!  You can follow the  “Pilates for your pelvic floor” sequence through online exercise host pactster.com  Use the code PhysioPostnatal to access all their videos free for a month (try HIIT workouts from the team at & Breathe Postnatal too) .

Little ones?  If they are having their TV time…..good time to have yours.  Set up your device nearby and follow a video – you will only need very low sound once you are familiar with the exercises.
# 5     Anytime they are awake.
Yes AWAKE. Not asleep. Truly.  My sister (mother of 4) mantra – never do anything when the baby is asleep that you could have done when they were awake.  All a baby needs is entertainment.  What is more entertaining than you doing pelvic floor exercises!?  You can count out loud – that’s educational (in French if you feel the need to be really educational).  They could hold the phone (see Squeezy App above) or join in the video (see above).  If they enjoy the whole thing they will also remind you to do it again.
# 6   Bath Time: theirs  
You have to be there to prevent drowning and flooding but otherwise once they are safe sitting  and floating about independently this can be a bit of a dead time for you.  There is only so much bathroom cleaning and laundry sorting to be done.   Pelvic floor exercises can be done in any position.  Standing, sitting on the toilet, kneeling beside them.  If you are really tired lying on the bath mat can be nice……..
# 6   Bath Time: Yours
Private, quiet, contemplative.  Also a good time for pelvic floor massage if you feel that your muscles can get tight or tense through the day.  It is important to relax pelvic floor muscles as an exercise too.  This helps to empty the bowel and bladder well and makes sex more comfortable.
#  6  Kids bedtime: 
Story time.  Hold your pelvic floor muscles and read one page, relax completely and read the next.  Repeat for whole book!   The challenge is not to hear your voice change, or forget half way through the story.  Very good exercise for not holding your breath. And pelvic floor exercises can be done in the dark….   when you are on ‘corridor watch’ (as we used to call it for our hopper-upper), or up in the night with a teether, or winding after a feed, or kneeling beside their bed patting their back…………….
#7   Your bedtime
Rather like your childhood prayers, the rhythm of pelvic floor contractions might lull you to sleep..zzzz Or actually 2-3 minutes of pelvic floor squeezes will bring lots of blood flow to the area and might just put you in the mood for something a little more romantic……   Pelvic floor exercises not working for you?

If you feel that you are not making progress with your pelvic floor exercises by yourself, do ask your GP to refer you for a full assessment, examination and guidance with a specialist pelvic floor physiotherapist.  She will help you establish whether pelvic floor weakness or tightness is your main concern, as well as explore other factors like pelvic alignment and joint issues which could be making your efforts on your own ineffective.   Read more about how to find a specialist physiotherapist on our resources page.