How could maternity coaching help me?

maternity coaching

by Frances Cushway, BSc |
Updated on

Preparing to go back to work after having a baby is something that's full of mixed feelings: sadness, excitement, and even a bit of guilt. Then there's the pressure to prove ourselves after we've been on maternity leave. It's a lot for any mum to deal with, which is why many people decide to try maternity coaching.

What is maternity coaching?

Becoming a mother is a hugely transformational experience, not unlike adolescence, where our brains undergo significant changes because of both becoming a mother, through the different pregnancy hormones that circulate our bodies as well as after birth through the act of caring for our babies. Added to this, we have huge upheaval to our lives and relationships when we become a mother as well as to our careers.

For me, and at The Maternity Coach, maternity coaching supports mothers in two ways. Firstly, at a top level, it supports the transition to motherhood. It helps normalise the wide-ranging emotions we experience, in particular the conflict we often feel between wanting to be with our baby and needing time for ourselves and our career. It helps us adjust to and find clarity in our new identity and importantly how we want our career to evolve both after our return to work, as our children grow and become more independent, and in our empty nest years.

Secondly, maternity coaching helps with the more practical aspects of navigating to and from maternity leave, such as: creating a handover plan, building a support network, keeping in touch with work, creating a return to work plan, contingency planning, how to stay visible while on maternity leave, and boosting and maintaining confidence while on maternity leave and ready to return to work.

What are the benefits of maternity coaching?

For me, one thing I share with clients is that for most of us (if we have our first baby around 30 as is the average age in the UK), three-quarters of our career happens after maternity leave. It is so easy for mothers, when we are confronted with the mental and physical challenges of parenthood, to make decisions that give short term gains over our own and our family's long term goals and aspirations.

Maternity coaching supports new mothers through making decisions in line with their goals and aspirations and help them prepare for what their future may hold as a working mother. Maternity leave is a natural pause in a career that gives time and space to take stock of where you are, where you want to go next and in the long term. At The Maternity Coach, we aim to inspire mothers on maternity leave to rediscover their individuality and have the courage to be themselves so they can continue to make their unique contribution to the world.

Here are some of the outcomes as a result of maternity coaching:

• maintain your sense of self and how work fits with this

• manage your emotions around your return to work

• remember your skills and strengths and the value you bring to an organisation

• regain your confidence in your ability to do your job

• feel confident in your ability to juggle work and family life

• manage the logistics around leaving and your return to work

• have contingency plans for both transitions

• make the most of KIT days

• make decisions around the practical issues such as child care (such as nursery) and flexible working

• work out what you want your new working pattern to look like

• take stock of your career to date and update your career plan

• continue to achieve your potential at work

• feel more engaged with your role, team and company

• see how maternity leave fits in with your long-term career and life plan

• look at how future maternity leaves fit in with your career plan

And it's not just you either, there are also benefits at an organisational level, such as:

• retain valued employees and help them achieve their potential

• reduce recruitment and training costs from high staff turnover

• reduce the need for costly 'returnship programmes'

• employees feel more engaged with their role, team and company

• build a healthy female talent pipeline

• narrow the gender pay gap

• create role models to attract and retain talented women

• create a diverse culture where everyone is given the freedom and security to succeed

What can I expect during a session?

Any coaching should begin with a free initial consultation, normally around 30 minutes, where the coachee can get to know their potential coach and see whether they feel they are a good fit to work together, as well as outline their issues and goals for coaching. The coach can also check whether they feel that the coachee is ‘coachable’ and would get benefit from the coaching they offer.

Maternity coaching typically supports you before during and after maternity leave, so a programme normally consists of three sessions, one at each stage in the transition, typically 60-90 minutes.

A typical session would begin with a check-in as to how the coachee is feeling and then ‘contracting’ for the session, which is where they agree on the purpose of the session and the goal(s) or outcomes the coachee wants from the session. It can cover anything that the coachee will find useful at the stage they are at, so sessions are tailored to an individual’s needs but normally cover topics such as:

• making sense of emotions/how they are feeling at the moment

• reflecting on their new identity

• managing emotions and concerns

• boosting confidence

• thinking about handover/return to work plans

• staying visible/managing reputation while on maternity leave

• the logistics of returning to work

• balancing work and home life

• career planning after maternity leave

How much does it cost?

Many organisations provide maternity coaching for their employees, so a first stop would be to approach your HR or SLT to see whether this is something your work can provide for you.

If you wanted to pay for your own maternity coaching, prices start at around £300 for three sessions for 1:1 coaching.

How do I find a maternity coach?

There is no professional body for maternity coaches, and as such no required training for a coach in general as it’s not a regulated profession. In theory, anyone can call themselves a coach, so it’s important that you do your homework before signing up with a maternity coach, and never feel pressured into signing up with someone who offers an ‘only available now’ offer during an initial consultation. All coaches should recommend that you take your time to think about whether you feel a good fit with a coach before signing up with them, and suggest that you meet with other coaches to ensure you pick the right coach for you.

Google is a great place to start your search for a maternity coach, and the number of coaches offering maternity coaching is increasing every year. Some of the professional bodies coaches can register with offer the facility to search for coaches registered with them, such as the Career Development Institute Professional Register where you can search for maternity coaches.

It’s a good idea to put together a short list of 3 or 4 coaches or organisations that you find through your search and then do your research on each one. Things to look for are:

• training and accreditation

• membership of a professional body

• full insurance

• recommendations or reviews from previous clients

Good coach training is recognised by at least one of the professional bodies that coaches can voluntarily join after training, so check their training is recognised by a professional body.

There are a number of professional bodies that coaches, coaching psychologists or career coaches should belong to, such as:

The Association for Coaching (AC)

International Coach Federation (ICF)

European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC)

Career Development Institute (CDI)

British Psychological Society (BPS)

Check the coach's qualifications are recognised by and that they are a member of a professional body. This ensures that they follow a reputable code of ethics.

You should also make sure your coach has professional indemnity insurance.

Recommendations are a great way of finding a good maternity coach, either personally or through reviews or recommendations that a coach will have on their website or LinkedIn page. You could also ask to speak to a previous client if you think that would be useful to check whether a coach would be right for you.

Ultimately, if your coaches tick the criteria above, go with the coach you feel you connect best with and feel you’d enjoy working with so you get the most from your coaching.

About the author

Frances Cushway has coached mothers for over ten years, supporting them through the different career transitions they experience in their working lives. She founded The Maternity Coach in 2019, to purely focus on supporting women through the transition to and from maternity leave.

Her knowledge of how women's hormones affect their perception of reality and the impact this can have on their careers, together with her understanding of the shape and stages of women's careers means that she can help mothers on maternity leave plan for issues that might come up later in their career - future proofing them for their life as a working mother.

In addition to hands-on experience, Frances is a licensed and accredited Career Coach and Licensed CCS Balance™ Coach with Career Counselling Services and has a Post Graduate Certificate in Career and Talent Management. She is on the UK Register of Career Development Professionals with the Career Development Institute and commits to carry out ongoing professional development. With a BSc in Psychology, she is also a member of the British Psychological Society's Division of Coaching Psychology.

Frances has two young daughters and knows how hard the daily juggle is - balancing work and family life. She understands the mixed feelings of leaving children at nursery and the pressure of leaving work unfinished at the end of the day!

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