Self Care Isn’t Selfish: Balancing Self Care and Motherhood

By Barbara Brosnan, Certified Personal Trainer and Health & Wellness Coach

Self care is sometimes illusive for moms. Mom guilt is strong. We juggle our families’ needs along with our own and so often we put our families’ wants above our own needs. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours to fit it all in. When I find this happening, I remind myself I am a person and I also matter. Self care isn’t selfish. We can’t pour from an empty cup. When we practice self care, we set ourselves up to better manage stress, strengthen our immune system, build positivity. We need to live healthier lives not just for ourselves but so we can have the physical and emotional energy necessary to best care for and be with them long into the future. By clarifying needs vs. wants, we can find some time in our day for self care. Schedule your exercise on the calendar in ink just as you would any other important appointment. Wellness is a journey, we need to set goals to keep ourselves accountable and live the healthiest life  possible.


I discovered a love for fitness after I had my first of four boys. I had gained over sixty pounds during my pregnancy, because, well, at the age of twenty-three, I had the misconception that there would be no lasting effects from eating for two (or more accurately, four!) and that the weight would magically fall off once my son was born. I was so very wrong. I turned toward exercise and nutrition. I did Tae Bo videos while my son napped (yes, it was 19 years ago). I discovered exercise had not just physical benefits but emotional ones as well; I began to incorporate more varied and frequent exercise into my routine. I read as much as I could about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. I learned to let go of the mom guilt and take time to keep myself healthy. Eventually my passion for fitness lead me to become a certified Personal Trainer and Health & Wellness Coach.


The benefits of exercise are seemingly endless. Exercise is my therapy, it’s my time to unwind, decompress and zone out. Exercise reduces stress, helps combat the symptoms of anxiety and depression, lowers our risk of osteoporosis, arthritis and dementia, improves cognitive function and cardiac health, prevents or lessens the impact of chronic illness such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and eight types of cancer. It increases our quality of sleep, improves our energy levels, and makes us stronger which results in less aches and pains. Improving our physical fitness will help us age gracefully, decreasing our rate of injury and helping us continue to comfortably perform activities of daily living.  


The current guidelines for physical activity ( include a recommendation that adults get at least 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week as well as strength training twice a week (stay tuned for a great 20 min. resistance workout you can do pretty much anywhere). The recommendation for children ages 6-17 is 60 minutes each day, and for the pre-K crowd, it is recommended that they engage in active play throughout the day. Get out there and play some of your favorite childhood games with your kids: tag, red light/green light, or kick the can. Schedule a family bike ride; go for a Sunday hike (for those of you on Long Island, I LOVE Avalon Park and the connecting trails). These experiences will create time to bond as a family while showing your kids that fitness is fun!


There are plenty of ways to get yourself going if you need a little motivation. Start small, set goals for yourself that are realistic, no need to go from zero exercise to 300 minutes all in the first week, in fact, that will likely set you up for soreness and leave you feeling overwhelmed. You are the expert of your own life, decide what you are comfortable doing and build from there. Feel free to join my free Facebook group Project Fitness – The Journey for support from like minded women. Use a workout journal to write your plan the night before, seeing it waiting can help you stay accountable. Make plans with a friend to go to the gym, you won’t want to be a no-show when someone else is waiting for you. Create a kick ass playlist with favorite songs that you only listen to during your workouts, or try some stations from your streaming service, Rock My Run (free version) is also a great app that has playlists geared to exercise. When you truly feel you can’t summon the energy to workout, make yourself a promise. You will go for ten minutes. If after ten minutes you still want to stop, you can – no negative self talk, no beating yourself up – however, chances are, once you get going, you’ll have the physical and emotional energy you need to continue.

Healthy Food Choices


  • Skinless chicken breast
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Tilapia
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Beans (Not a complete source)


  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Beans
  • Various fruit
  • Oatmeal (not instant)
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa


  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Most nuts & seeds

Though exercise has many benefits, weight loss is 20% exercise, 80% nutrition. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. If you need to dial in your nutrition, My Fitness Pal or other similar apps can help keep you on track. Log everything! Try to plan ahead and log what you will be eating, especially if you know one meal won’t be as healthy as you’d like. When trying to lose body fat, use a food scale to weigh everything. We tend to underestimate calories when relying on sight. Many vegetables are nutrient dense and very low in calories, so load your plate with a colorful variety to help you feel full. A balance of lean protein, healthy carbs and fats will help keep you feeling satisfied, your energy up and cravings down. For me, avoiding cravings is essential for success. Make sure you hydrate! As a general rule you should aim to drink at least one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight plus eight ounces for every 20-30 minutes of exercise; add even more if you are consuming a high protein diet.

Why Hydrate?

  • Improve metabolic functions
  • Increase the % of fat used for energy
  • Help prevent overeating (when you think you’re hungry, you may actually just be thirsty).

Try drinking 8 ounces of water 15-20 minutes before each meal and another 8 ounces with your meal. It will help you feel full sooner.

Mini Band Workout: This workout can be done virtually anywhere, takes only 20 minutes and uses just $10 worth of equipment. It’s basically excuse proof!

Warm-Up – do exercise #1 & 2, then repeat for a total of 3 sets each.

  1. Jumping Jacks – 3 sets of 20 reps
  2. Push-Ups (from toes or knees) – 3 sets of 20 reps

Mini Band Body Blast  – do 1 set of each exercise, repeat for a total of 4 sets.

Movements should be slow and controlled with a 1-2 second isometric hold.


  1. Mini Band Lat Pulldown (10 per arm)
    • Grasp light mini band in both hands and make a fist,
    • Raise both arms straight overhead,
    • Keeping your left arm still, pull down and to the side with your right arm until your fist is alongside your shoulder
    • Return to starting position and repeat pulling your left arm down.
  1. Mini Band Lat Raise – (10 per arm)
    • Wrap the mini band around your left thumb and hold it with your hand at your side. Hold the other end in your right hand, near your navel.
    • Keeping your right hand still, lift your left arm up in a lateral raise. Hold for 1 second, repeat the movement with your opposite arm.
  1. Mini Band Bicep Curls – (10 per arm)
    • Hold band with both hands, right palm facing up and left palm facing down. arms straight at sides.
    • Curl your right hand towards your shoulder, keeping your right elbow tight against your side and your left arm stationary.
    • Lower your right hand back to start. Complete 10 reps, then repeat with opposite arm.
  1. Mini Band Tricep Pushdown – (10 per arm)
    • Grab an end of the band with each hands and hold your left hand near your right shoulder. Hold your right elbow at your side and bend it 90 degrees.
    • Slowly press your right hand toward the floor, until your right arm is straight at your side while squeezing your triceps. Pause then return to starting position.
    • Keep your shoulders back and chest up throughout the exercise.
    • Complete all reps, then repeat with opposite arm.
  1. Mini Band Squat Jacks – (10 reps)
    • Place a band around both ankles.
    • Stand straight, then jump your feet out to the sides and into a squat.
    • Jump your feet together and into standing position.
    • Repeat for 12 reps as quickly as can be controlled, keeping tension in the band throughout.
  1. Lateral Band Walk (10 per leg)
    • Place a band around both legs just below your knees.
    • Stand in a 1/4 squat position, with feet slightly wider than shoulder with apart; toes and knees pointed straight ahead.
    • Be sure your knees are inline with your ankles.
    • Take 10 wide steps to your left, then 10 to your right to complete 1 full set.
  1. Forward & Reverse Band Walk (10 per leg, per direction)
    • Begin in position described in exercise #6.
    • Take 10 steps forward per leg, followed by 10 steps in reverse.

Repeat exercises 1-7 for a total of 4 rounds.


Cool Down

Stretch for 15-30 seconds each: shoulders, biceps, triceps, glutes, quads and hips.


About the Author

Barbara Brosnan is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Health & Wellness Coach, offering customized training in clients’ homes and online; and Health Coaching via telephone or Zoom.



Call or email to setup your complimentary consultation.    

Phone: 919.590.0405

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