Holly Ngiam talks about creating a world where parenting is accepted and embraced as woven into our daily lives
It’s a beautiful afternoon as we visit another inspiring mum at her home. We were welcomed with a plate of yummy muffins, her specialty which she often bakes for her family.
Our Mère Inspo for today, Holly Kuzmiak-Ngiam, is a founder of Movement Labs - a unique fitness studio that offers personalised fitness training while being respectful of individual preferences and lifestyles.
Holly has recently given birth to Alexander (2 months) and also has two adorable older kids, Eleanor (6 years) and Zachary (3 years). She has already started going back to work, little Alexander accompanying her, while Eleanor and Zachary, too sometimes come to the studio with Mom.
How is Holly managing a newborn, her work priorities, and two other growing children at home?
1. Hello Holly! Thanks for having us. Tell me, what is your current state of mind?
Hahaha - that depends on the time of day. I’m a morning person, so I usually start the day feeling optimistic and excited, ready to enjoy parenting three kids and nurturing the studio and our clients.
By dinnertime, I’m exhausted - everyone needs Mom, Mom needs to send an email, and I’m not sure we’ll make it. But we always do, thanks in large part to the terrific team my husband and I make (he’s more of a night owl, so that helps!).
2. What was your birth experience like (for the third born)?
I woke up one morning and knew labor was getting close (lost my mucus plug, having erratic contractions) - but nothing was imminent. I coached my morning clients, went to the dermatologist, started cooking dinner - and then contraction intensity and frequency got serious, very fast.
Luckily my in-laws came right over to pick up the older kids. My water broke while I was helping them get ready, so we sent them off and headed straight to the hospital. Alexander was born less than 45 minutes after we arrived. Although labor progressed fast, I felt prepared and confident (thankfully this was my third delivery!) - even when the doctor hadn’t arrived but my body was ready to push - I delivered Alexander with the support of my husband, doula, and the delivery room nurses.
1. We heard you were in a different industry before you had kids. What were you working as and what made you create Movement Labs after you had a family?
I hold a PhD in Biochemistry and previously worked in academic research science, studying how different parts of our DNA are turned on and off.
When my husband and I moved to Singapore in 2012, I was burned out and already saw that bench research and parenthood wouldn’t be compatible for me. So I launched an online run coaching business (Run With Holly). My science background gave me a unique perspective on teaching and coaching fitness and helped me share science with people in really practical and useful ways.
My fitness interests evolved and changed, and for a few years, I worked online, as well as in commercial gyms and boutique studios. In 2016 I had my first child and quickly realized that the fitness industry here didn’t make much accommodation for parenthood. Time spent traveling to different locations, limited access to facilities (eg: for pumping), and the expectation that I continue to work as though I didn’t have a child left me disillusioned and dreaming of something better.
Opening the Movement Labs studio was a route for me to truly let my lives intertwine. My kids see the work we do, they can join me at the studio as needed, and I can welcome your kids into your session, as well*. This space has let me create a microcosm of the world I want to live in - one where parenting is accepted and embraced as woven into our daily lives, and something that our community supports - rather than something that is hidden and “worked around”. I am proud of what we’ve built together - and seeing parent/child pairs of all ages working out in a welcoming, body-neutral, consent-focused space gives me hope for the future!
*So yes, your children - even your cranky, crying, tantrum-throwing children - are absolutely welcome to all non-yoga sessions.
4. What are your plans for the studio once you are back to work?
Well, the beauty of owning a business is that I can choose how and how much I work. I know from experience that setting aside a little time each day to work helps my postpartum mental health - so I haven’t really ‘stopped’ working behind the scenes.
But I’ll be returning to more regular hours at the studio in August. I’m looking forward to intaking clients from our personal training waitlist, onboarding several new instructors, and launching the first round of our Postpartum Return to Yoga series.
I’ve been dreaming up this series for almost a year now - six weeks of classes to help folks learn about their postpartum bodies and untangle the conflicting information provided by well-meaning health professionals, instructors, and the internet. The goal is to educate and coach so that postpartum folks feel empowered to bring their bodies back to their favorite pre-pregnancy yoga classes.
Alongside the asana*, we’ll be building a collection of mindset and breathing strategies to help folks stay calm and present during stressful parenting moments. I’m really looking forward to this first launch and doing it right alongside participants, while I’m also in a phase of postpartum recovery and rehab.
*An asana can be performed as a still and static position that can be held for several breaths, or it can be a posture that is part of a dynamic flowing movement that lasts for less than one inhale or exhale.
5. How did you manage to juggle between motherhood and a business to manage?
I managed by dropping lots of balls! Alexander surprised us a bit early, and combined with some personnel shifts at the studio - we were a bit understaffed in June and July. Thankfully that’s our quiet season anyway, so we took the opportunity to streamline offerings, consolidate, and prepare for the second half of the year.
Practically speaking, I’ve returned to a very limited amount of teaching and coaching, usually keeping Alexander with me. And my husband will take Alexander for some time each day while the older kids are at school, so I have undisturbed time to handle administrative work.
I know this would stress some mums out - but my previous postpartum experiences taught me that I feel better when I have a little time to work on the business each day.
Like most things with the third baby, there’s not much time to think about it. Experience prepared me for the roller-coaster early days (the engorgement when the milk first comes in, sore nipples as we both figure out our system, leaky breasts, etc.), and I’m grateful that all three of my babies have had a good latch and healthy appetite.
I have no time or energy to stress over supply, timing feedings, or how much/little he’s drinking - and this is a very good thing. Alexander nurses on demand, drinks from whatever breast is full, and stops when he’s done (or when I have to run after one of his siblings). For me, less thinking = less OVERthinking = less stress.
I also have to acknowledge my husband’s presence at home as something that eased our breastfeeding journey. He cooks, helps the big kids, and does countless bedtimes so I’m available to nurse Alexander. My older kids also help out - bringing burp cloths, water bottles, or the milk collector.
Honestly, they’re practically ready to certify as lactation consultants by now - “Oh, look at his ear moving, he has a very good latch, Mommy!” I truly wish that everyone who wanted to breastfeed had this kind of support (protected paternity leave, for example) - because THIS is what has made our breastfeeding journey possible.
7. And finally, any advice you have for fellow mummies?
You need support, not stuff. Buy diapers, a milk collector and a dozen thin linen swaddle blankets. Then invest your time and research in compiling postpartum resources - a lactation consultant, a pelvic health physiotherapist, a mental health professional, a food prep service, and a few trusted friends. These are the things that actually help you when you’re struggling.
And finally - the least cringe-worthy advice I received when I was struggling postpartum with my first: You absolutely, 100% will NOT enjoy parenting every age, and that’s OK. There will be ages you love and ages that are a massive struggle - for you and your co-parent(s). Accepting that, and knowing kids will keep changing, will get you through the tougher ages.