Parental transition coaching – coaching that takes place around the time of becoming a parent, is a particular kind of coaching. It takes place at a uniquely special and hugely transformative time in the client’s life. For many, the journey to becoming a parent is anything but straightforward and after the baby has been born, the shift that new parents experience in their values, priorities and identity can be profound.
Three key transition points to consider when working with parents-to-be
There is the period of time before going off on leave, when the individual knows they (or their partner) are pregnant, or in the case of adoption, that they have successfully been approved for adoption and matched with a child. A coaching session held at this time will typically focus on supporting the client to prepare for going on leave and may cover topics such as handing over work, keep in touch whilst on leave and looking ahead to their future as a working parent.
The second key transition point is whilst the parent is on leave. This tends to be a time when they are fully consumed by taking care of their child, and work is rarely on their mind – if at all. This can be a period characterised by feelings of overwhelm, isolation and disconnection as new parents make sense of their new world and their changed role. Towards the end of their leave, coaching provides support as the client begins to work through how they will integrate their changed home life with their professional life.
This may involve practical questions such as working hours and days, or more emotive ones such as how they feel about leaving their child and returning to work. As coaches, we offer a safe empathic listening ear for our clients as they reflect on how they can re-establish themselves at work whilst creating some boundaries between their home and work demands. Often, we find that self-confidence has taken a hit, or changes have taken place at work which results in uncertainty, prompting questions in our clients around the implications of this both for themselves and their career.
Once they have returned to work, those first few days, weeks and even months can be a roller coaster ride. Babies in childcare often get sick, and their germs are frequently shared with their parents. New parents find themselves trying to perform at work just like they did before they had a baby, yet now they are operating on less sleep, with less time and flexibility and invariably doing so whilst fighting off some infection or another. Furthermore, they may have returned to a changed work environment in which their colleagues have been promoted, or new people have joined. The pressure may be on to deliver and be productive, and new parents try to apply their previously successful strategies feeling frustrated when they don’t work as they did before. Before having a baby, I describe the working day as ‘elastic’. In other words, the individual can work the hours they need to work to get the job done. Post-baby their days become book ended as they need to collect their baby from daycare or want to travel home to spend time with their child.
How coaching can support returning parents
Everything changes when you become a parent. It can take time for this reality to dawn, and it can be difficult to accept. Working through this with the support of a coach enables the new parent to discover the new version of themselves as a working parent. They start to give themselves permission to do things differently and relate to their career in a new way. For some, this may be the difference between them staying with their employer or leaving. For others, it may be about renegotiating with themselves about what they really want at this time, and what they need to let go of. It is a complex transition, and one which demands a sophisticated level of support from an experienced coach who is a parent themselves.
Things to consider when choosing a parental transition coach for your organisation
If you are working for an organisation keen to support working parents, coaching can be highly impactful and can form part of your broader Equality, Diversity and Inclusion strategy. When you are looking for a provider, our advice would be to ask your network and look for a partner with a strong reputation. Coaching new parents is different to other forms of Executive Coaching, and being able to have flexibility in how you offer support is crucial. We offer a range of options from on demand coaching, to coaching programmes, group coaching and line manager training. Consider the overall journey and include the time before going on leave in addition to the return. Finally, I always describe parenthood as a journey, not a destination. If your provider is skilled in Executive Coaching as well as parental transition, you’ll find you can cultivate a long-term partnership where your colleagues can return to their trusted coach time and again as their career develops and their life changes.
If you would like to find out more about how we can support you and your working parents, please get in touch.
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.