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Is it useful to have coaching after my second or third child?

I often highlight that maternity coaching as a term isn’t always particularly helpful. The word ‘maternity’ refers to a specific point in time – the dictionary definition states that maternity is “the period during pregnancy and shortly after childbirth” – but the impact of becoming a mother is complex and long lasting. Yes, coaching is invaluable during maternity, but it is also useful far beyond the maternity leave and the first few weeks post return. Not only does it often take a while for the dust to settle and for women to adjust to being a working parent, having subsequent children and returning to work can present new and often unexpected challenges. 

The ‘elastic’ window

Having settled back into work and adjusted to the rhythm of co-parenting, women who want to have another baby find themselves in a strange kind of interim period. I refer to this as an ‘elastic’ window as the length of time they are back at work for is unknown because the timing of a future pregnancy is so difficult to predict. Depending on their own personal circumstances, this could be relatively short, or it could be longer than they wish. It can be fraught with complications if falling pregnant again is not straightforward, and if work is not fulfilling women can find it particularly difficult to maintain levels of motivation when their attention is being pulled in so many different directions. The additional pressure of needing their next maternity leave to be financially viable can lead to feelings of being trapped with limited career choices. 

I was coaching a new mother the other day who had been back at work for a few months and had just finished breastfeeding her baby, which felt like a big milestone. She was grappling with some career decisions and trying to work out when to start trying for another baby. For her, this ‘elastic period’ in between returning to work after having a baby and then going off again to have another baby was joyful in that she could enjoy a brief interlude of having her body back for a while yet overshadowed by the anxieties associated with the prospect of taking yet more time away from work. 

Coaching during this time is crucial

Supporting women to untangle their thoughts and clarify their priorities helps to ease their stress levels and bring clarity. It is also a useful time to reflect on their career and consider how best to utilise this ‘elastic window’ to gain knowledge, skills or experience that will benefit their career in the long term – thinking beyond their next maternity leave(s). For those women who are struggling to conceive again, the coaching may focus on their wellbeing such as reducing stress levels and seeking support. Coaching can also benefit organisations in providing a safe non-judgemental space for women to share their innermost thoughts openly and honestly. Depending on the topic being discussed, coaching may offer women a different perspective enabling them to make decisions that feel difficult or insurmountable alone. 

For me, it is a real privilege to support women at this time. The trust that women tend to establish with their coach during maternity and beyond is particularly special. Research by Jane Moffett (Adjusting to that new norm, 2018) found that mothers who had maternity coaching for more than one baby, asked for the same coach given the level of trust they had already established. I have several clients for whom I have consistently provided coaching throughout their first, second and third maternity leaves. It may seem unnecessary to have coaching between babies, however just as the reality of becoming a parent for the first time is often overwhelming and surprising, becoming a parent of two, three or more children can present unexpected challenges. 

Becoming a parent is one long transition

For me, it is a constant unfolding. As each new stage in a child’s development occurs, it presents a shift in what that child may want and need from their parents. Add another child, and the family dynamic shifts again. Meanwhile, careers also develop, and life events occur. Learning to adapt to changing circumstances whilst navigating the complex reality of parenthood deserves a specialised form of coaching support. This is not simply maternity coaching, but Executive Coaching for Working Parents. 

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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