We recruit the help of coaches to boost our health, wealth and careers - but what about parenting?
Crystal Allen, 32, had a high pressure job as a conference producer before having kids. Lists, structure and KPIs were all tools she used to be successful in her career. When her two children were aged three and seven months, she made the decision to apply those same principals to her family life.
“I was struggling to find balance between being a stay-at-home mum and creating time and space for my own personal growth," she says. "I knew I needed guidance in sorting through all my fears and anxieties around having a second child."
Dina Cooper is a professional coach for mums, and she says that Crystal’s reasons for seeking the services of a coach are common. She says many women have a difficult time navigating what it means to be a mum in 2014.
“We all come to parenting with an unconscious pattern of learning which we’ve adopted from our own upbringing, but things are much different now; when we grew up there weren't the same expectations. Mothers had defined roles and today we don’t have that same definition as so many mums are now out in the workforce. The problem occurs when there’s still such a large part of us that unconsciously thinks things have to be done a certain way,” she says.
Dina says she offers her clients real-time feedback of their own thoughts in a non-judgmental environment. “It’s not up to me to come up with the answers. I believe my clients have the answers they need inside them already; sometimes they just can’t access that answer because of limiting thought patterns. Once we get some rationality around those blocks, they find that where they want to go comes very easily.”
A typical coaching program runs for four months and involves fortnightly 90-minute sessions which can be conducted via phone, Skype or in person. There’s no set program, as Dina recognises each mum has her own unique set of circumstances, but a series of individual goals and expectations is established at the first visit to help steer the rest of the program.
“At the end of each fortnightly coaching session we co-create a task to put into practice, something new that’s been learned in the session. I’ll check in via email for progress updates before we reach the next appointment,” says Dina.
Sally Wiseman, a client of Dina’s, says the experience was challenging but rewarding. The paediatric occupational therapist and mother of two says she now has a perspective on her life she didn’t have before. “I'm able to slow down and enjoy special moments with my children, and I've learned how to handle myself in situations that I previously found challenging across all aspects of my life," she says. "I've become a happier person through the process and my relationships with my loved ones have grown stronger as a result."
But is it only women who need a parenting coach? Anton Buchner, 42, thinks not. With a 12-year age gap between three children from his first marriage and a new baby with his second wife, Anton thought it was a good idea to check in again from a parenting perspective. “I was mainly looking for tips and advice on juggling a split family, and the rollercoaster challenges of the first year with a newborn baby,” he says.
Anton sees parenting coaching as a way for men to open up to understanding emotional intelligence without coming across as 'fluffy'. “There are a lot of men who suppress their emotions or who simply don't know how to really understand women's emotions. No one has taught us! Most men need to be given a visible pathway to follow, rather than go around in circles on topics. So a parenting coach is a great way to get some clarity,” he says.
“Although there may be different approaches to connect with men and women, at the end of the day the solutions and outputs are very similar. We all want less stress and ultimately happy, healthy lives."