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How is Maternity Coaching Different Early in My Career VS Later in My Career?

Maternity coaching is a specialised form of support for women as they navigate the complex transition to becoming working parents. Increasingly, the focus is shifting to include all parents as this life change affects both the parents of the child, although the impact may be experienced differently. This blog post is focused on the experience of women as the impact of having a baby on a woman’s career can be huge.



Many women, before they commence their maternity leave, believe that having a baby need not drastically change their relationship with their career. However, after spending a substantial amount of time learning how to be a parent and bonding with their child 24/7 whilst on maternity leave, the reality of combining both their home and work commitments can feel overwhelming. Research by That Works for Me found that despite 98% of mums wanting to go back to work after they have children, only 13% thought it was viable on a full-time basis.


Depending on your age when you become pregnant, the impact of being a mother on your career may vary 


Of course, everyone has different circumstances and backgrounds, and each person’s experience is unique. However, those women who have children earlier in their career, say, within the first ten years, may be earning less and in less senior roles than those who delay starting their family. There is no right or wrong time, there are pros and cons to both, and it goes without saying that it is frustrating that we are not able to plan when we get pregnant, and so it is very much out of our control.


The purpose of this blog post is to consider how maternity coaching may be different earlier rather than later in one’s career. I wanted to explore this as I often hear organisations assuming that a woman earlier in her career or in a more ‘junior’ role may not need maternity coaching at all or may not need a full programme of coaching.


This suggests that the challenges women face is different depending on their level of professional experience. That is true. But it is also true that a woman’s experience of returning to work is more complicated than this. It will depend on several factors; her financial position, her relationship (if she is in one), her support network, her commute to work, her childcare options, her level of wellbeing and her mental health (and others that I have missed).


The nature of returning to work can be like a roller coaster 


Some women return and appear to find it relatively straightforward. Often, they will have a support network to lean on and the finances to be able to pay for the childcare they need. However, research commissioned by Pregnant then Screwed found that on average, mothers earned 24% less an hour than fathers in 2023. This “motherhood pay penalty” is £4.44 an hour.


Joelie Brearly, the CEO of Pregnant then Screwed said that the increased cost of childcare and inflation since 2000 has made it even harder for women to have children and earn a living. Many women may look at the cost of childcare and their salary and conclude that it just does not make financial sense to return to work. Or they may choose to return anyway, even if their take-home pay is low because they want to maintain their professional expertise so that they do not become out of date. Alternatively, many women believe they are not cut out to be at home full-time and are hungry for the intellectual stimulation their work provides. 


Choices, choices…


These are all choices. Sometimes they are difficult and sometimes the impact of making compromises like these can provoke an emotional response. Becoming a working parent prompts women to reevaluate their priorities, their values, and their relationship with their career. Irrespective of where they are in their career trajectory, women will be faced with these decisions and more that I have not mentioned here. Maternity is a complex transition. It does not matter who you are, what your role is or your level of responsibility in your organisation. 


Having a baby can slow down career progression


Again, the This Works for Me research found a 32% reduction in women in managerial roles after starting a family, with a corresponding 44% increase of women in admin roles. Offering coaching to women as they navigate this transition provides them with a confidential space in which to work out what their options are and what they really want.


I often support women to take a step back and look at a wider timeline as they go through this process. Giving themselves permission to slow down a little if that feels right for them, whilst acknowledging that they can speed up again later can be comforting. Equally, it is often valuable to empower women to recognise they can make choices that may be different to those their parents made or that their friends are making. These are not easy decisions, and left to their own devices, many women may feel they have no choice but to either struggle in their role or leave and find something else – or stop work altogether.


So, let us stop trying to differentiate between women and accept that maternity is a nuanced personal journey. All women deserve to be given equal access to maternity coaching, whatever their level or stage of career.


Please get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about the coaching solutions, we offer which includes one-to-one, group coaching and line manager training.


My colleague Sarah Turner and I have been busy creating content highlighting the importance of organisations providing support for working parents. As part of this, we created this video series exploring the entire journey of maternity leave, from before the leave starts, through to preparing to return and then the first few months back at work. If you or your organisation would like to understand more about how to support your employees as they take parental leave, please get in touch.  


This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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