Paternity Coaching Still in its Infancy
We’ve worked with and supported mothers through the transition into parenthood for a number of years now, but we’ve always been mindful that fathers need support too! To understand more about the paternal view we conducted some research with almost 50 fathers contributing their thoughts and feelings.
Here’s what we found out:
Offer of Parental Coaching and Parental Leave
Not one of our respondents received an offer of parental coaching from their organisations, but 87% were offered parental leave.
However, only 14% took up that offer! The most often cited reasons were linked to the adverse financial implications and the father’s wife/partner wanting to take their full leave, or be a full time parent.
The challenges for our respondents of being a father ranged from lack of sleep, balancing work and home life, in particular getting home before bedtime and being at home for illness, managing time and workload and making the right decisions about priorities, and supporting their partners.
“You suddenly have a second job to do. You're always on call, the hours are awful and the boss shouts at you constantly. Managing the time between your paid job and parenting is difficult.”
The biggest challenge of all though, with over half our respondents reporting that it was a significant issue, is finding time for themselves. Very few mentioned this issue in discussion though, perhaps because it could be perceived as selfish…
Impact on Career Progression
More than half of our respondents felt that becoming a father hadn’t impacted upon their career progression. Of those that did, many said the impact had been positive.
“It helps to make you a more rounded individual and makes you realise what’s really important in life.”
“It drives you forward. You find the time and the only issue is the short term impact whilst you and the family adjust.”
For those who experienced a downside, the reasons fell into short and long term impact. A number of people mention sleep deprivation and stress as an immediate by-product of parenthood, whilst in the long term others mentioned being more mindful of taking on new challenges or career risks. For some not being able to travel so readily has hampered their career choices.
Of most concern for us to hear was that one or two fathers felt others’ perception of them had been adversely affected.
“A manager (of mine) remarked that he didn’t think I was as committed as I used to be”
“I feel like my career stalled as I chose family first”
Impact on Performance
In addition to the positives already noted, almost all our respondents felt that fatherhood had a positive impact on their work and performance.
For many there was a practical influence on time management and focus on goals:
“It made me prioritise more effectively and stay focused”
“I became more results oriented and focused on key priorities”
Father’s also saw the significant impact on their emotional intelligence:
“I’m more enlightened as a professional and leader”
“I’m more balanced, reflective and empathetic”
“It’s given me a broader perspective/deeper understanding/more empathy”
Interestingly, for a number of fathers it also boosted their confidence, and desire to succeed:
“It’s given me the belief to better myself”
“I definitely have an increased drive”
The Offer of Coaching
80% of our respondents said that they would take up the offer of paternity coaching if it had been provided, with most stating that help, advice and support was always welcome.
“It can feel like a lonely place when your life changes. Any help and support would be brilliant. It would encourage more fathers to speak out about their own mental health.”
Many respondents mentioned trying to balance work and family life, and recognised that they would benefit from help with this.
Perhaps because, as mentioned earlier, none of our respondents had been offered parental coaching, the majority were unsure of what it would involve, and so found it hard to see a range of benefits.
Our respondents identified immediately after the baby’s arrival as the key stage for coaching support, with 93% feeling it would be very helpfulor helpfulin the first 6 months.
The majority also felt that the coaching would be best over a six month period rather than longer.
4 out of 5 respondents would want face to face coaching, although a third would also consider skype calls.
Two thirds of respondents felt that having a coach who is a parent themselves would make a difference, although many noted that it shouldn’t . For many respondents it was a matter of credibility, shared experience, empathy and solidarity.
The clearest conclusion from our research so far is that for many, paternity coaching is an unknown quantity.
Father’s acknowledge the challenges they face, and many would be willing to consider support from their organisations via coaching, but few have a clear idea about what that coaching would involve, and even how it could help.
As coaches we see the need and recognise the value that effective coaching can bring. We’re intent on bringing the benefits of coaching to fathers as well as mothers. We’re going to continue our research, but if you’d like to know more about the results so far, or our approach to Parental Transition coaching, please do get in touch.
If you are one of the fathers who contributed to our research, thank you and good luck!