I was quoted in a Moneywise article this month, explaining briefly why more employers are supporting women to have maternity coaching. Pregnancy and maternity are protected characteristics under the Equality Act, meaning employers who want to retain talent and enable a diverse workforce are increasingly turning to coaching. Research by Claudia Filsinger into the impact of maternity coaching at law firms showed that women felt more valued by their employers, more confident and better prepared for the challenges of returning to work. Employers said the coaching resulted in more realistic flexible working requests. And as the Moneywise article points out, this can be just as relevant for new fathers too.
When I think back, there have been several life-changing decisions when coaching would have been incredibly helpful. For example, leaving home to go to university following a major bereavement wasn’t actually what I wanted, I’d just never realised there were other options (had the gap year really not been invented then, or had the concept just not reached my home town?) But the biggest transition, when I would most have appreciated the clarity that comes with coaching, was becoming a parent.
I went on maternity leave, like most people, with absolutely no clue how things would turn out. When else do you leave work, not knowing who you will be when you go back? I had some extremely unrealistic expectations about how life would be, including the vague idea that I would ask three family members to look after my baby for one day a week each (I seemed to think this was roughly equivalent to asking someone to feed my cat). We also moved out of London during my maternity leave, but I didn’t think a commute was a big deal at the time. At no point did I really confront the idea of going back to work, or take time to think about what options might be open to me going forward. It just became increasingly obvious that I wasn’t ready to leave my child in one city while travelling to another.
Noone I talked to about my situation could listen without judgement. Family and friends all had an opinion (whether they admitted it or not) about where I ‘should’ be. I’ve worked for some extremely supportive employers, but they obviously had their own agenda and couldn’t be expected to provide the time and support to listen to me muddle my way through the maze of uncertainty.
Both times I had a baby things turned upside down, and landed a new way up. And both times it kind of worked out fine in the end. But how I would have loved to have felt I had some handle on what was happening, and some dedicated time to consider what my options were, what I really wanted and what was right for me.