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When is the best time to have maternity coaching?

The term ‘maternity’ is related to the time of pregnancy and giving birth. A huge, life-changing transformation as a woman becomes a mother. Depending on the length of leave she can take to nurse and care for her baby, her maternity leave may last for several months, possibly more than a year. When the time comes to return to work following maternity leave, another big shift occurs – this time, the reality of re-connecting with her professional self and fulfilling this alongside her new role of being a mum. 

Coaching is beneficial at every stage of this transition – and beyond. 

Coaching is beneficial at every stage of this transition – and beyond. Being a parent and learning how to parent alongside work demands is an ongoing and evolving journey, and research shows that the impact of maternity leave can have an effect for many months, even years, following the return. 

In my coaching practice, I advocate a full-service wrap around approach where women are offered the opportunity to engage with a coach before they even start their maternity leave. Some women are taken aback by this idea – the concept of giving birth and returning to work at this stage seemingly unreal and hard to imagine. However, investing time in the months and weeks before the start of leave can be hugely valuable. Women can focus on whatever feels most important to them, but areas that I notice tend to arise are around handing over work, how to keep in touch whilst out of the office on leave and working through any anxieties about being out of the workplace and the impact of this on career development. I also encourage women to look ahead a little to the return, beginning to turn their minds towards what that might look like and how they want to manage their re-integration. 

Once on maternity leave women tend to be absorbed in their home lives and although they may arrange to connect with work using a Keeping In Touch day, I tend not to be in contact with them until the end of their leave is on the horizon. At this stage a whole range of issues, questions and concerns may arise, and coaching offers a safe space for her to reflect on where she is in her life and how she sees herself as a working parent. Preparing for returning to work and how to return is an important consideration. Every situation is unique, but for some women – especially first-time mums – they may not realise how much of an adjustment it can be moving from being at home full-time to being a working parent full-time. 

The first few weeks and months back at work can be complicated as values have often changed, priorities have shifted and the sense of feeling ‘behind’ because of a substantial amount of time away from the business – especially if a lot has changed at work in the interim – can threaten to derail the return. Furthermore, things have changed at home and figuring out how to manage the shift in dynamics, the new demands and the emotional pull of being the ‘best mum’ can create stress and tension. Building confidence in her ability to adjust to the changes and develop new strategies to help her bring a renewed focus to her work are just some of the ways I might support a client at this time. 

Every woman’s experience is different 

Of course, the return may be more straightforward and smoother than I have articulated here. Every woman’s experience is different – shaped by her own personality, personal circumstances, role, line manager relationship and work context. Similarly, the coaching needs to be as unique, adapted to fit around the needs of the woman so that she has access to coaching at the time she most needs it. This may be to have all the coaching on the return to work, or to have more coaching later in the return (for example, even six to twelve months post-return). 

Ideally, I’d encourage a programme of coaching (i.e. more than one session) as coaching is a relationship, and this is built over time. Giving birth and becoming a parent is one of the most amazing yet overwhelming life experiences, and a time when women are at their most vulnerable. Therefore, developing the coaching relationship is even more important, ensuring that trust, confidentiality and safety are paramount.  

We are passionate about supporting women (and all parents) as they navigate the journey to working parenthood. If you would like to find out more about our programmes, 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.

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