Maternity not Eternity
An interview with Rachel Morris on Maternity Coaching
I recently had the chance to catch up with Rachel and ask her a few questions about the work she’s doing at the moment on maternity coaching. As a mother of two young boys herself, and a highly esteemed coach, I know this work has been of particular interest to her…
HR: So, how are you finding the maternity coaching that you’re doing at the moment?
RM: I’m absolutely loving it! Having the chance to help women as they try to juggle pregnancy, work and the looming prospect of an addition to the family strikes a real chord with me. It’s a challenge I’ve experienced first-hand, and to be able to support others is really special.
HR: Tell me a bit about the people you are supporting?
As you might guess, I’m working with women in a range of roles, typically involving management, who are about to go off on maternity leave. I support them over a series of 6 conversations, but it’s really flexible in terms of when they want these sessions. Typically we will have a few in the months leading up to the maternity leave. Then again as they are preparing to come back and the first few months as they are back in work.
It’s a huge challenge for women in this situation. Everything that they have known is ‘changing’ – home, work, and even their identity that’s associated with these places. It affects confidence and typically challenges the individual’s perception of what matters, what’s important, what goals now look like to name just a few things. It’s not difficult to see that some focused coaching at this time can be really beneficial to help them see the wood from the trees.
In my experience, women feel all sorts of conflicting emotions during this period; they don’t want to leave their jobs, they have the concern of handing it over to someone else, concern about how they will be viewed when they return. Their confidence is often challenged as indeed it is during times of transition, and they will find themselves working out how to ‘juggle’ some extremely important things; partner, work, career, family, own identity… They leave the workplace with one ‘life’ and return to it with a very different one. And their workplace will most likely have changed drastically during the time they are away too.
And on top of that they have the challenge that the workplace may view them differently too.
HR: Why do you think maternity coaching is so important for organisations?
There are all sorts of reasons maternity coaching can benefit organisations. A lot of talent is lost when maternity leavers don’t return, so any organisation looking to retain their talent should undoubtedly think of this option. Experience is showing me that often even those who ‘return’ feel displaced, and therefore immediately question whether it remains the right place for them. They question lots, including whether they are still ‘entitled’ to try for upcoming promotions having been out for a period of time; whether they are fully contributing if they have to leave at a fixed time… The list of questions is really quite long.
At the same time organisations are recognising their duty of care for the employees, and supporting and promoting the wellbeing of employees is a business responsibility.
I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of offering maternity coaching. When organisations demonstrate that they care, and show that they value individuals, those individuals are willing to work even harder for the organisation on their return.
HR: What do you cover during the sessions?
As with all my coaching, the sessions are led by the individual. However, common areas that we might look at include:
- Letting go, even if only temporarily
- Handing over to your maternity cover
- Retaining your confidence – recognising that you might be different, but still as good, if not better than you ever were
- Balancing your new work-life priorities – juggling better than you’ve every juggled before
- Dealing with other’s reactions to your new approach
- Controlling your own mind and the space it requires
- Communicating your mid and long terms goals and aspirations
Overall the sessions are about supporting the individual, and giving them the chance to face their workload and working environment with confidence and reassurance.
HR: Does your approach differ from your normal coaching methods?
Not much. I still start by being completely open, honest and non-judgemental. We also take an outcome focused approach, agreeing the “road map” – where we’re heading, the areas we want to cover along the way, and what the coachee wants to get out of the process. Then we keep this in mind every session. I’m happy to share my own experiences when they’re relevant, but it’s always about the coachee.