• Emma Cottam, Founder of Isabella & Us

Overcoming the lies we tell ourselves about self-care as parents



What does self-care mean to you? What impact does it have on your life as a mum?


Is it just a buzz word that is simply banded around to make mums feel guilty or is it an important part of ensuring we are looking after our mental and physical health? It can often be seen as spa days, holidays and expensive treats but self-care can be a simple practice of nourishing yourself, your mind and your body.


My journey with self-care started about five months into my journey as a mum, just after I was diagnosed with PND. I was at rock bottom, living in a cloud of darkness. I wasn’t looking after my mind or my body and I was exhausted.


Here are some lies I told myself as to why I couldn’t make time to look after myself:

  • You don’t deserve to rest

  • You’ve got too much to do

  • This needs to be done before you can sit down

  • It’s expensive for you to look after yourself

  • I will feel guilty for taking that time


These are the lies I told myself. You may have told them to yourself too. These lies make us continue to do things at full speed, forcing us to reach our capacity which can result in us being shouty, impatient and annoyed with those around us.


But what would happen if we took just five minutes each morning, or each evening, or on your lunch break to just sit and be or to do something that really nourishes us. What if we ate our breakfast mindfully, drank our drink whilst it was still hot, if we listened to a mediation before we went to sleep or read a chapter of a book before bed? How would that feel?


Self-care is now a non-negotiable part of my daily routine. These practices vary from day to day and what my needs are in that moment, whether I am on my own, with my family or whether there is a toddler in tow. Some days I’m not all that great at making time, but gosh do I feel the impact when I don’t. In these strange times we live in, self-care has become more important than ever.


What self-care means to me


Self-care is something I need to function at my best, it’s a non-negotiable and here’s why:


I’ve reached burnout more times than I’d like to admit...


I’m rubbish at resting - I’m always multitasking...


I never stop and just sit - this is something I have had to learn: how to rest and the importance of doing so.


What do I use to help me make some time for me?

  • Being creative - designing the magazine, working on new products, crafting with my daughter - all of these activities help to fill up my cup and I always feel renewed and calm when I have been creative

  • Using essential oils - by no means do I use them to their full potential, but twice a day I pop a couple of different oils in the diffuser, or if I am really struggling with my anxiety, I use one of the rollerballs with my favourite oil - Wild Orange.

  • Watching my favourite movie - Pitch Perfect is always a go too, if I’m tired and just need to sit then putting on a film is must and even better, this can be done with a toddler in tow.

  • A walk in the fresh air - This always lifts my spirits, ideally I’d like to get out each day but that isn’t always practical. So when a walk isn’t an option, I spend some time sitting in the garden, even if it is just for five/ten minutes.

  • Hugs - I don’t think I can say enough about feeling that human connection and how it can instantly lift your mood, and although the current situation may limit how many people we can have that contact with, a hug from my toddler or husband can make that bad day much better.


Whilst my list may be short, every one of these things helps me nourish my body and mind. I’ve learnt over the past three years of being a mum, that my needs matter too and if I am not looking after me, I can’t look after everyone else.


So how can you look after you?

  • Make a list of things that bring you joy

  • Plan in some time when you can do those things that bring you joy

  • When you do do those things, make a mental note or a written note of how it made you feel

Enjoy making some time for you, you deserve it!


About the author

Emma Cottam is the Founder of Isabella and Us., editor of the Positive Wellbeing Zine for Mums and host of the Positive Wellbeing Podcast for Mums.

Emma struggled with PND following the birth of her daughter in December 2017 and is on a mission to encourage mums to look after their wellbeing and mental health through self care practices, kindness and her #winningasamummy campaign.



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