In January 2014, I rediscovered my love of writing. I couldn’t do maths to save my life at school, but I liked English. I used to write endless essays under Mrs McCluskey’s watchful eye, but aside from that I haven’t written much since. Fast forward 20 years, becoming a Maternity Coach, and all of a sudden the solace and therapy I found in it was reignited. So it was with pure delight I accepted the invitation from MummyPages to join the panel of experts as Maternity Coach.
I’d been thinking about writing for about two years. I’ve dabbled a little, but I’ve been cautious about it. I started making excuses; sure I didn’t have time to write, on top of working and minding my kids. Doubt set in. What exactly did I have to say, and who would be interested in reading it? And once it was out there I’d get feedback, and what if it was negative? Or worse, what if I didn’t get any feedback because no one was reading it?!
Then Aoife Lee, Parent Coach on MummyPages, connected with me on LinkedIn and we met for coffee, both of us acknowledging that coffee solves many of the world’s problems. Shortly after that, it was all agreed; I would start writing regularly for this great parenting website, and a personal goal was realised.
There is a theme in this story that I see time and again in my work as a Maternity Coach; Fear, with a big capital 'F'. Happily, there is also a good lesson.
Let’s deal with Fear. First things, first; let’s knock it off its pedestal and remove the capital letter. It’s just fear - an emotion; powerful, yes, but just an emotion at the end of the day. Although every coaching session is unique and confidential, typical questions and concerns from women going back to work after maternity leave are:
“I want to work from home or change my working hours, but I’m too nervous to ask”,
“I’m thinking about a promotion; I’m worried I won’t have the support at home that I’m going to need to do this. What if I’m not ready?”
“I feel guilty working at all”
“I miss my children, but I’ll just have to get on with it because, financially, I have no other choice”
“I can’t say no at work - what would my boss think? I’ll just have to get it done”.
These conversations come up time and again in coaching sessions, and nearly every time we find a solution. Because the first step in fixing anything is admitting there is a problem; that things are one way and you’d like them to be another. Sometimes these questions come with tears. Crying is just the relief of saying out loud, "I want things to change, help me".
Look at each question again. Can you hear the fear behind each one? The worry of what may be true, yes, but also fearing something that may never happen at all. The second-guessing. The doubt. The internal dialogue telling you it’s not possible so don’t even try. We all do this to ourselves. Coaching enables you to articulate what you want, puts it all out on the table, and then works towards getting you there from a place of conscious choice, not a place of fear. It’s a safe space that I believe every woman going through the transition of going back to work after having a baby should be offered. After going through such a huge life event, it would be madness to think that you can go on exactly as you did before. Women need help finding their new normal, and maternity coaching helps them do just that.
The other lesson in my story is the power of connecting with other women. The importance of one mother supporting another; of focusing on what she can offer, rather than what she can get. It can be hard putting yourself out there, but as they say, there is power in numbers. We don’t have to do it all by ourselves, and that goes for dealing with fear too. If we keep it all in and try to keep going, eventually something will break. We have to reach into ourselves and out to others so that we enjoy the journey.
So, I have a challenge for you today: if you let go of your fear, what would you do differently?