By now most people have heard of life coaching. In fact, it seems that every other person has become a Life Coach. Life Coaches usually specialize in an area of life coaching – a niche. My niche is coaching mothers. I chose this area because, as a psychotherapist, my specialty is working with pregnancy, fertility, adoption, mothering (parenting) and postpartum issues.
Perhaps you are reading this blog because at some point you may have wondered what it’s like to have your own mother’s coach. What exactly is a mother’s coach, you may have asked yourself?
In this article, I am going to show you how useful and effective a mother’s coach can be by describing a scenario and showing you how it would be handled by a coach vs. a consultant, a mentor or a counselor / psychotherapist.
SCENARIO : Kathy is a first-time mom who is having trouble getting her baby to fall asleep. She is exhausted from nursing him to sleep but cannot stand to put him down and listen to him crying, as she leaves the room.
Her first call for help is to a baby sleep consultant who assesses the situation and advises Kathy to use a technique in which she is to put the baby down and leave the room for progressively longer periods. The consultant reassures her that the baby will not suffer from this, and that he should be falling asleep easily after 3-7 nights.
Kathy tries this technique but is unable to follow through. Her baby’s cries upset her to the point of tears and she is unable to tolerate any crying. Even though the baby may not be suffering, Kathy is!
Next Kathy talks to her psychotherapist. Together they explore her feelings. She describes terrible guilt when he cries and says that she feels as if she is abandoning him when she does not respond to his cries. Talking about her feelings reminds her of the time her mother was hospitalized for 7 weeks when Kathy was 5 years old. She recalls crying herself to sleep at night, and missing her mother. She feared that her mother was gone forever. Kathy realizes that her son’s crying evokes this painful memory that was, until now, forgotten. This is a helpful insight for Kathy, though it does not immediately change her actions with her son.
A few days later, still exhausted, she makes a call to her birth instructor, Mary. A woman in her 40s with 5 children in adolescence and older, To Kathy, Mary appears to know everything there is to know about birth, babies and parenting. Mary seems to be the epitome of the kind of mother Kathy would like to become – calm, wise and clear about her ideas. She arranges for Mary to visit her the next week.
Kathy is excited to show Mary her baby and hopefully talk about her difficulties with sleep. She feels sure that wonderful Mary, with all her knowledge and experience can help her. Without thinking about it, Kathy has reached out to someone from whom she wants to learn about mothering, someone who will function as a mentor to her.
The following day, surfing the web, still looking for sleep solutions, Kathy stumbles upon the site of a Life Coach who specializes in working with mothers – a Mother’s Coach. The coach offers a free trial session and Kathy decides to give her a call and set up a session.
During this trial session the coach invites Kathy to talk about an important issue she would like to solve. Kathy says she would like to be able to get her son to fall asleep without having to nurse or rock him for 1-3 hours. The coach asks Kathy what she has tried so far and how it has worked for her. Kathy describes the last few months and the coach listens without interruption. After clarifying a few things and asking some more questions which get Kathy to really think deeply about her values, her strengths and her vision for herself as a mother, the coach asks Kathy what she feels would be the right thing for her and her son.
Kathy is quiet for a moment, and then reaching from somewhere inside her, she realizes very clearly what it is that she wants to do.
“I am prepared to decrease the time I spend nursing him to sleep, but I do not want to leave the room if he is crying for me, she says. It might work for others, but it’s just not for me. I can’t do it. I realize why I cannot from my psychotherapy, and maybe I could do this one day, but not now. Not with this baby. I am clear about that. So, perhaps, what I will do is..”
In the following sessions, the Mother’s Coach and Kathy put together a plan of action and some supportive structures that will help Kathy towards her goal of getting her son to sleep more easily. As they work together, they discover other areas in Kathy’s life that she is neglecting and would like to work on changing. They work as a team, helping Kathy fulfill her potential in all the different areas of her life.
Their work together does not interfere with Kathy’s work with her psychotherapist. Unlike psychotherapy, coaching is practical, future-looking, goal-based, and action-oriented.
As a result she feels less helpless and chaotic in her mothering and can set time aside for other areas that are important to her, such as friendships, her health and her marriage. She has a plan for going back to work and feels calmer and clearer about it.