You know everyone says that their lives change when you have a baby. I don’t doubt that’s true for absolutely everyone who says it, though the way life changes may be different for different people. For me, my life on the outside changed a little – more people, responsibilities, diapers and diapers, for sure – but on the inside – everything about who I am, how I see the world, and my purpose in life changed. And I didn’t see that coming at all.
The last time I was truly confident in my skills and knowledge of parenting was sometime before I had kids. We are all really good theoretical parents. But when my daughter was born I discovered that all of the assumptions I went into this with were just a little bit flawed. I had a picture of who my child would be, I had a picture of who I was going to be (perfect, by the way) and I discovered two things:
- My daughter showed up as a totally unique individual not at all who I was thinking. She is a spirited girl, extroverted, with a totally different sense of values and sensibility. And this could not have been a better gift to me.
- Who I thought I would be as a parent – authoritarian, didactic, and right… turned out that wasn’t even who I wanted to be. Not only was it not effective in the relationship, it was exhausting. But the person that I came to see as a great (though frequently flawed) mother was thoughtful, nurturing, and accountably human, complete with apologies.
This journey of becoming was ushered in with my daughter’s arrival into my life, but the catalyst was really the overwhelming barrage of expectations that showed up along with her. From the beginning – what do good mothers do? Epidural or natural? Breast or bottle? Cloth or disposable? Homemade and organic or jarred. Daycare or stay at home mom? Career trajectory or alternative work schedule? Montessori or traditional? Public or Private? These continue – every day, every year, and I don’t see an end in sight. It isn’t just a series of choices. It was a series of defining moments and it was high stakes. My decisions showed whether or not I was a good parent. And the results of poor decisions would hurt my daughter. Not just hurt – I mean, it’d be permanently disastrous. According to me. And this, as you can imagine, was truly exhausting. Totally not sustainable. Something had to change, and it was going to need to be me and my attitudes, behaviors and habits not so much around parenting but around who I was as a parent. The parenting would change along with it.
I was introduced to coaching while I was pregnant with my son. I was already on the journey, I just didn’t have words for it yet. I was introduced to coaching in a corporate leadership context but here’s the thing about personal development and transformation… the context in which we operate is narrow, but the landscape of our being is vast. When we develop who we are it impacts every aspect of our being. Our awareness broadens in every relationship we exist in – whether that’s at work, with our spouses, or with our children. And when we change, when we change who WE are and live fully in our greatness, we inspire greatness in others – our coworkers, our employees, our spouses… our children. THIS is the case for coaching parents.
For me, and in my family, coaching helped me confront the expectations I had for myself in parenting my spirited daughter. And then there’s my son, who is also a beautiful gift to me. He is the proof that everything I learned in raising my daughter so far had nothing to do with anything except raising my daughter. My applied lessons didn’t matter. I remember saying to the pediatrician, “I’ve done everything I was supposed to this time – natural childbirth, exclusive breastfeeding, making my own baby food…” and here he was, anemic and chronically ill resulting in hearing loss and…” and my pediatrician said, “imagine how much worse it would’ve been if you hadn’t done all of those things.” Great reframe, right? But there I was, working so hard at doing the right things and still, new needs appeared and I felt… I felt less than. Even being in the work, in THIS work, I still show up feeling less than from time to time. As a parent, I need continuous support, though I am often loathe to admit that.
I talk to parents who struggle with issues of discipline, ADHD, autism, divorce, adoption, anxiety, fear… How we show up as parents is about our attitudes and expectations around parenting. It’s also about our attitudes and expectations around our children and their individual situations. What does my son’s struggles say about me as a parent? How will that influence the decisions I make as a parent? How am I supported in that? How am I being supported? Am I leaving day to day? How often do I say, “I’m doing the best I can!” versus how often do I ask, “Am I being the best I am?”
Coaching is all about developing the awareness to observe reactive habits and attitudes, introducing people to the best possible versions of themselves, and building tools, actions and practices to sustain that best possible version in the face of adversity. Coaching results in expanded possibilities, powerful relationships and both inspired and inspiring leaders. Coaching supports people as they are and where they are. This is the case for coaching parents.