What do professionally active mums have in common? A case of Maternity Coaching

jeudi 7 juillet 2022
Have you asked yourself what changes in a person's life when they become a parent? How this event affects their values, organization, priorities, and energy? Have you ever thought about how many women redesign their careers after becoming mothers? How many quit their jobs or reduce to rate to 50-80%? How many of them experience a happy return to work after their maternity leave? And how many withdraw from their commitment and are on the edge of burnout? What makes a difference? What can employers do to make a difference and retain their female talent?

I don't have specific stats for Switzerland to answer all the above questions except the Advance Gender Intelligence report on equality in Swiss business showing clearly that women have a smaller career window than men and tend to take up more unpaid family work, especially childcare. The report recommends employers redefine careers and support parents at work by:

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My Maternity Coaching journey

Maternity coaching exists and is doing well in the UK where it is a niche service but I believe a very impactful one. According to my research, there is no one providing similar services in the context of talent retention in Switzerland, which makes me very grateful that I can be the first to design and create a value-added service to contribute to overall DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) efforts and support other women in navigating their careers and lives in this part of the world.

How did it start for me? As a rookie mum myself and as a coach, I quickly realized I needed help to navigate my new reality and identify my career goals. To get some clarity I signed up for an ICF Peer Coaching program for members when my daughter turned 6 months. I was assigned a very talented coach who helped me realize that all I wanted and needed was some SLEEP and REST. Everything else was a blur. I didn't sleep enough, I haven't recovered physically, and I was constantly tired and in a survival mode even though I had a fantastic support system, and my partner took 7 months off to stay with us.

Throughout the coaching process, we looked at my system of beliefs including beliefs around motherhood & career, and I reshuffled my priorities which I can summarize now as:

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First coaching clients

I realized that I wasn't the only one struggling with balancing my new identity of a "working mum" and my past identity of a "working woman without a child". I spoke to my friends, colleagues, and women who recently became mothers and we had the above challenges in common.

It went quickly from there. I started working with my 2 first maternity returner clients in early 2022 and we would meet every 2 weeks. What have I heard in the sessions from different clients that became a common thread? An answer to my coaching questions: "I don't know." A familiar blur.

Coaching is based on a belief that every person is whole, creative, and resourceful. Therefore I was not taking those "I don't know" for granted but as a start of deeper reflection and offered some powerful questions. Those, in return, allowed my clients to explore their situation and assess their needs. All this came to reevaluating and redefining:

1. Values

The clients dropped very quickly what was not important or not necessary. I could list here superficial relationships, people with dramas, jobs without purpose, and companies where the maternity returner didn't receive appropriate support and help from the management and the team. What has started to matter? Respect, courage, family, love, life purpose, ethics, personal growth, serenity, health, well-being, balance, and many more. What's interesting, my clients started applying these values not only to their relationships with others and their work but also to their relationships with themselves. Values serve us as inner guides in the decision-making and allow us to maintain optimism and resilience when the times are more challenging. We simply know why the change was important to us.

2. Boundaries

This topic showed up very early in the coaching process. To manage frustrations you need clear and firm boundaries. Trust me, the assertiveness kicks in when your colleagues assume after your return that it's still ok to have a late meeting at 6 pm or arrive late to it due to another MS Teams meeting and you have to collect your child from the nanny at 6 pm. The boundaries are very obvious in theory but we tend to cross them ourselves by saying "yes" when we really should say "no" and let others cross them by not speaking up about our own needs that have significantly changed since the little one arrived in our lives. By establishing clear rules about what is ok and what is not, and how we plan to handle those challenges, we created an inner code of conduct that allows us to be consistent and avoid frustrations and regrets.

Time and energy management strategies

The coaching relationship has provided a safe space for the client to explore their current situation, and their needs and clarify what support is required to continue or not their professional journey. It was a "ME TIME" moment when they could commit to their own growth and have a thinking space which is a challenge when having a few months old baby at home. By paying more attention to where their energy was being used and how they filled up their time they could take conscious decisions to stop certain habits or find the courage to start new ones and ask for help. This reflection led some to increase their emotional self-awareness and self-regulation, two key components of emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman). What I noticed, my clients became more empowered and energized. They started playing to their strengths and regain self-confidence and a real sense of calm.

All this to say, I believe there is a real need to support women already before their maternity leave or adoption leave starts. I am convinced that employees can benefit from extra support in form of coaching to make their life transition smoother and less rocky. Maternity Coaching can also provide a unique perspective on career planning and goal setting for the individual. There tends to be an assumption that women drop their ambition after having kids. I can say that I saw only the contrary in my coaching practice. The professional ambition was there but also a desire to play by their own rules. That translated into following the passion and setting up their own business, changing roles within the organization, and also finding a more suitable employer with a better company culture and values that were aligned with the client's.

Companies offering this type of support will see their talent more involved and committed and their employer's brand strengthen. DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is no anymore nice to have in a current climate of a talent war. The younger generation starting their careers look at current talent retention practices and are making their mind if they will hang around or leave. Can your company afford to neglect it?

What's next?

I signed up another 3 clients for this autumn/winter. My dream would be to work also with dads (Maternity and Paternity Coaching - MATPAT). I would like to work with any organization which believes this services can make a difference for their talent. I would also like to work with any organizations supporting women in the workplace in Switzerland and why not worldwide. I will be talking about this to all my connections and networks I am part of such as Leanin and Who runs the world Annecy. I would also need YOU my Linkedin network to help me share this post and my personal mission. Could you help me make the world a better and happier place?

Please share my post and let me know, what are your thoughts in the comments. You can also DM me here on Linkedin or drop me an email at ewa.duraj@adhemis.com. I would be delighted to hear from you

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Author: Ewa Duraj

Adhemis International Talent Development Consultant, Coach and a rookie mum.

Additional Resources :

Maternity Returner Blog by Emma Waltham

Leanin Resources - Build and inclusive workplace

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