One to One Coaching

I offer free 30 minute telephone/Skype consultations for people wanting to find out more about coaching on the 'baby decision'. Email me at mailto:beth@ticktockcoaching.co.uk and assistant Laura will respond and arrange an appointment with you. Visit http://www.ticktockcoaching.co.uk/ for more information about my coaching services.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

It won't always be that way

One of the fears that women who come to see me is that they might suffer or experience post-natal depression after the birth of their child.  Sometimes a client might have experience of depression or perhaps they have seen a close friend of relative who has suffered from post-natal depression.

Post-natal depression affects up to 10% of women so the chances are that you won't experience full-blown post-natal depression.  I came across this excellent first person report from a woman who discusses her experience post birth.   A Zen Yoga Teacher Gets Real about PostPartum Depression

In this article, that describes an experience of post-natal depression, the author describes some of the experience that many women have after the birth of their child.  The challenge to your identity and the shock that motherhood brings.  Says the author Rachel Meyer,

'I mourned every aspect of life that had disappeared overnight: urbanity and autonomy, cocktails and solitude. Sleep. Teaching. Quiet mornings reading the news over coffee. My sanity-sustaining asana practice, the long creative hours alone, my previous monastic-ascetic writer’s life. The freedom to shower, to brush my teeth, to leave the house.'

I believe that this mourning is often part of having a child and becoming a mother - and it can be a shock, particularly when, as the author points out, you weren't expecting it.

'I was a yoga teacher. I was supposed to weather the storms of parenthood with grace: be positive and perky, measured and resilient, lose the baby weight in a flash, thrive on green juice and quinoa whilst wearing my baby like a kangaroo.'

Yet, what is important to know is that this isn't a state that will last for ever, it is impermanent.   I often work with my clients on helping them access their sense of trust and intuition that they can whether difficult times, even if they do not know what it may be like.   For Meyer, the phrase 'It won't always be that way'  helped her though her post natal depression, allowing her to know that there would be a next stage in her journey once she got through this difficult and stressful period.  This is something that can provide us with reassurance - knowing that even if we are feeling down and worried, that it will not last and that we can move through this.  When we have a sense of this possibility, it can make the decision to have children much less difficult.  


Friday, 13 January 2017

Imaginary Children

I was at a drinks evening the other night for people working in the charity sector.  Although the main thing I do is coaching, I still do some work in the charity and not-for-profit sector to 'keep my hand in' and it also makes a nice contrast from working one-to-one

Everyone was enjoying the free wine and chat. As the evening wore on and people found out about my niche coaching women who were trying to decide whether to have children or not, people began to open up about their stories of making the decision to have children or not.  Two of the people I spoke to spoke very powerfully not having children even though they had always thought they would have children.  One because she had never met the right partner and the other because of infertility.   I often coach women who find themselves in a similar position and then need to decide whether they want children enough to explore options like having children on their own as a single parent, adopt or try more invasive IVF methods.

One of the most thoughtful pieces of writing on this topic is an essay by Bella Boggs called Imaginary Children.  Boggs writes about the the pain of not being able to have children.  As a secondary school teacher, she also explore  how child-less people and couples are portrayed in literature and plays and what impact that has on her students.

It occurs to me how many of the female characters we have talked about most—Hester Prynne, Miss Havisham, Sethe—have been defined by their relationship to children, a subtle reinforcement, for my students, that who they are is at the centre of someone else’s life, their very identity. In reality, this is both true and not-true; some have doting parents, while others have parents who have disappeared into work, addiction, or other relationships. Still, even the most neglected cannot seem to imagine a life that does not involve parenthood as a milestone.

Literature holds up a mirror, reflecting our views on society including women and the family.    And, literature can also influence the views and present an alternative view to the norm.  I'm going to be thinking about finding examples in literature of child free women who present a more positive and affirmative view of people without children.



Friday, 6 January 2017

Are your brain and heart pulling in opposite directions?

Happy New Year to one and all!  Although I do love the laziness of the Christmas holiday's, it does feel good to be back working again.  This week, I've seen several new coaching clients who all have the intention to resolve the 'baby decision'  in 2017.    And a common theme that I have explored with all of my clients this week is their feeling of being conflicted within themselves, as if they are being pulled in two or more directions at once.

This is a very common issue for most of my baby decision clients and it can feel like an overwhelming jumble of emotions.  (A few years ago, I found an article which described this tension very well, it's mentioned in this blog post Why does anyone have children? In  order to help people make sense of this jumble, one place I like to start with my clients is to explore the tension between our head (brain), heart (emotions/feelings) and our core (also known as our gut, in this schema we say that the core is the seat of our confidence and power).   It's a technique I learnt from my teacher Wendy Palmer helps to pull apart the tensions and arguments with us particularly when we are trying to make a decision.

Last month, I came across this write up on the great site Upworthy which was reporting on a comic which was exploring the very issue of tension between the heart and the brain.  The article, describing the work of comic Nick Seluk, creator of The Awkward Yeti 17 comics that illustrate the tricky relationship between your heart and brain. beautifully illustrated the the conflict between these parts of ourself.   As the article points out:

 'When your heart and your brain aren't on the same page, it can feel like the worst thing ever. How can you make a decision when your heart and your head want different things? The escapades of Heart and Brain in Seluk's comics often reflect his own experiences and will likely reflect some of yours too.

I've included one of his comics below that was featured on Upworthy and you can see more by going to his website at The Awkward Yeti.





 '




Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Christmas Time and Not Having Children

Christmas has been and gone for another year.  I hope wherever you are you have had a restful and relaxing time. I've been enjoying having a complete break for a few days after what has been an exceptionally busy few months for me.   I am aware I haven't been posting on this blog as much as I have been intending.  One of my New Year Intentions will be to write weekly posts again - I know from the messages I get that people do appreciate and read the posts here so I will be redoubling my efforts in 2017.

I'm very aware from working with coaching clients that many people making this decision can find this time of year to be a challenging one.  If you are in the midst of trying to decide whether to have children or not, being surrounded by others in traditional family arrangements can be stressful.

As I wrote in a blog post last year, you might have found yourself in an uncomfortable and 'less desirable' sleeping arrangement in the family house (see my post Relegated to the worst room in the house ) than siblings with children.   Adverts on the TV focus on traditional families with parents and children abound.    It can feel like the only way to be a 'proper' member of a family is to have a child.  And yet, many people around the world and throughout time do not have children - either though choice or through circumstances out of your control.

It's a particularly difficult time for those people who do want children but find themselves in a situation where this will be a challenging choice.  I have clients who constantly find themselves on the receiving end of advice and pressure to have kids and at Christmas, this pressure combined with the prevailing view of conventional family arrangements can be overwhelming.

I was recently talking to a woman who really would like to be a mother but she is finding herself 'Childless not by Choice'.   One of the topics I will be exploring more of in 2017 will be the challenges facing this group of women.  Whether because of fertility or because of having partners who do not want children, being in a situation where you find yourself childless not by choice is one of the most challenging positions I think it's possible to be in.

If you have felt out-of-sorts this holiday, I encourage you today to go out and embrace something you LOVE to do!   What is the one thing that you enjoy more than ANYTHING else?   Go do it today and remind yourself how fantastic you are!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Stop asking us when we are going to have children!

A common theme I hear from most of my clients is how difficult it is to deal with intrusive questions about children. It is very strange that someones parental status seems to be an area that seems to be fair game for others to comment on.   It's a particularly painful question for those people who do want children but whose partners don't.  Many people will not be telling their friends and families that they are arguing with their partner about the baby decision or that they have decided not to have children because their partner doesn't want kids.

I recently read an article, published in the Metro that  lays out all the reasons to STOP asking couple when they are going to have children.  http://metro.co.uk/2016/11/16/can-we-just-fing-stop-asking-couples-when-theyre-going-to-have-a-baby-6260332/

'There are a number of different reasons why posing this question casually is akin to walking on to an emotional minefield. Mines such as not actually wanting children, not being able to conceive or having marital problems, all of which hurt when stepped on.'

When I work with coaching clients facing intrusive questions and comments, we usually work on ways that clients can be clearer with their boundaries.  Often thinking through a good and strong response can help.    Being honest about how difficult and painful the question is can be a good strategy.  You don't need to go into detail but a statement like 'This is actually a difficult topic for us and we would rather not discuss it.' can put an end to the questioning.





Monday, 31 October 2016

No Maternal Desire But Still Thinking About Motherhood


Many women are ambivalent about having children, many women are not sure they  really want to be mothers.  And yet, there is still pressure on women who feel little maternal desire to have children. I often have clients approach me for coaching because, although they don't have a strong desire to be a parent, feel that they should children.  Many of these clients feel under pressure to have children for a range of reasons including:  feeling like they 'ought' to want children, worries about regretting not having children, having friends who are mothers talk about how wonderful being a mother is, and feeling as if they would not be a 'real' woman if they didn't have children.

This weekend, a friend sent me a link to this article Modern Love - My Biological Clock Can't Tick Fast Enough . I thought this was an honest, poignant, and authentic account of someone in this situation.   She talks about going through the process of trying and failing to have children, while all the while not being convinced that motherhood is something she wants.

People sometimes commend me on how “brave” it was for us to not have children. I laugh, because to my mind, I arrived at it in just about the most cowardly way: I lucked into childlessness (if having a defective uterus can be considered luck). Deep down I didn’t want to have children, but I kept limping toward motherhood anyway, because I thought I should want them until, in the end, my anatomy dictated my destiny.

What would it be like if we lived in a world where women felt they really were able to make a positive choice not to have children?  How great would that be to be able to make that choice without all the guilt, stress and shame?   Part of what I do as a coach is help people let go of these unhelpful feelings so that they can make a truly life affirming choice.

Friday, 21 October 2016

When is the best time to have children?

It's definitely autumn now in the UK - the nights are getting dark earlier and earlier.  Today happens to be Apple Day! In celebration of this great day,   I thought I'd post a photo from The Orchard Project of some beautiful apples at a community orchard!  It's amazing that there are so many orchards in cities - I had no idea before I started to do some work with this fantastic charity.  If you live in a city,  why not take a moment to appreciate any fruit trees growing near you?

So, back to the topic of this blog!  This week, someone asked me the question which is the title of this blog post - Is there a 'best' time to have children?  Is there a right age to have children?      A few years ago, commentator Kirstie Allsopp caused controversy when she said that, with all the problems associated with fertility, women should consider starting a family as early as they can ( see this article in the Guardian Kirstie Allsopp tells young women: Ditch university and have a baby by 27 ).

Personally, I think that there isn't RIGHT age to have a child but there are pro's and cons to having a child at each age as I've outlined below:

20's - The big bonus to having children in your 20's is that your fertility is more likely to be in a good state during this time and you are more likely to get pregnant than if you waited.  You are also more likely to have more energy and need less sleep!  The downside is that if you are not yet established in your career which may make taking enough time off for maternity leave tricky. If you are in your early 20's, you might find many of your friends are travelling, socialising and doing very different activities that you are able to do as a mother

30's - In your 30's, you are more likely to feel like 'now is the right time'. You'll have more life experience and will probably feel like you are ready for a new phase of life.  You will be more established in a career or work path and feel able to take time off from work without it damaging your career too much.  The downside is that if you are in your late 30's, you may find yourself facing some fertility issues.  Another issue has been highlighted in this short article 'It's a Tough Time: Challenges for Women in their 20's and 30's' - as the author points out, this is a time women can feel overwhelmed by the many life choices they have to make.

40's - You are likely to feel as though you have the life experience and maturity to be a mother.  You might be more senior in your work which can make it easier to organise flexible and family friendly working.   You may also feel more financially able to have children at this age than when you were young. If you are considering having a child on your own, you may feel that you have the means and ability to do this now.   The downside of having children in your 40's is that it may take longer to get pregnant and that you might feel more tired and have less energy than when you were younger.

I think the important thing is to start considering whether we want children or not as early as possible. Particularly when we are looking at choosing our life partner we need to consider whether they are on the same page in wanting or not wanting children.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Are More Women Deciding To Have Children Today?

I've had a couple weeks off from the blog - with the colder weather, I was struck down by a wretched cold which meant I had a backlog of work when I returned.

I was wondering today about what statistics there are on the numbers of women who are thinking about and planning to having children.  I had assumed that, because of the falling birth rates that more women continue to make a decision to be childfree. However, when I went to look into this question, I found an across an interesting article by a writer called Megan Thielking,  More US Women Plan On Having Kids in the online magazine Stat saying that current research is showing that more women are planning on having children than they were a decade ago.

I found this surprising, as it appears that more and more women in the US, Canada and Europe are choosing to be childfree.  Some statistics put the number of childfree women at around 1 in 5.  And, according to the 2014 US census, 47.6% of women between 15 - 44 have never had children, which is the highest it has been.  (Huffington Post A Record Percentage of Women Don't Have Kids ).

The Stat article points out that the birth rate fell dramatically in 2008 when the US and other countries were experiencing a major recession.  

'Having kids is not an inexpensive life decision,” said Dr. Hal Lawrence, the executive vice president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “When people are concerned about the economy, they shy away from having children or more children.”

Fertility rates fell dramatically in the US in 2008, which experts have said was closely linked to economic insecurity brought on by the Great Recession. But as unemployment rates continue to fall, Lawrence said, potential parents could be growing newly comfortable with the idea of having children. And indeed, in 2014, for the first time in seven years, the birth rate increased in the US.'

The articles author Megan Thielking, points out that other factors in the US might also be at play. When Obama Care was brought in, it made health insurance more accessible, taking away some of the strain of the worry about the cost of giving birth.


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Having Children Later in Life

As many women and men delay making the decision to have children or not, one of the fears I hear from clients is whether it is fair or desirable to have children later in life.   One of the women I interviewed for my book said:

'It's getting to the crunch point... I'm 42 and my husband is in his early 50's.  He really worries about being an older dad.  He doesn't think he will have the energy.  And I am aware that it's not ideal for me to be having a child now.  I do feel that, although I know I will have less energy and I know that I will be the mother of a teenager when I am nearing 60, I also feel like I am very established now.  I have a good career, we have secure finances.  And, more importantly, I feel like I've done everything else I've wanted to do - I've been a night owl, I've travelled extensively.  
When I was younger, I felt like I would be giving up too much.  But now, I feel that I won't be missing out on anything if I do have children.'

When I was researching this blog post, I came across a number of very negative articles on older parents which contained a number of judgements against having children later in life.  A common one is that it's not fair on children who have older parents - mainly due to the embarrassment factor of having an older parent AND due to the fact that an older parent is more likely to die earlier in their child's life. I can speak from personal experience.   My partner is 20 years older than I am and he is often mistaken for my son's grandfather.

And yes, this can cause some embarrassment.  My son is also more aware of his father's mortality and is likely more aware of the possibility of the death of his father than he would if his father was younger.    And, I do think in many situations children have to face embarrassment and worry about their parents - no one is immune.  I did find this excellent article Me and My Old Man which interviewed adult children about growing up with a father who was significantly older than parents of their peers.  This is a lovely quote from the piece which very much sums up my thoughts.

 'For all the fuss about older parents, age is just one risk factor when it comes to life and death. No parent can honestly promise to be there for his or her child, regardless of when they conceive. I watch my cousins and friends who have lost fathers younger than mine, and I feel guilty, and grateful, that he is still here. I think my dad does, too. But they also show me that the relationship between father and child cannot be measured in years spent together. That’s not how love works.'

There has been much less written about older mothers - a few years ago I reported on a study about older mothers  in a blog post Women Feel Judged for Leaving Having Children Till Later in Life. I'm on the lookout for any other articles or research on older mothers and hope to write more on this subject soon.


Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What is the point of raising a child?

One of the reasons the decision to become a parent or not is so difficult is the different, paradoxical issues that the nature of parenting and raising children raises.

Although I think this has always been true, it's only recently that we have begun to discuss and unpick some of the paradoxes and ambivalence that go along with parenthood.  In the past,  having children and becoming a parent was just something that everyone did - it wasn't thought about or mulled over.  It was just something most people did.

A book has been published in August called the Gardener and the Carpenter.  While it is aimed at parents I think many of the key messages in the book are relevant to people trying to make the decision.  As this Guardian article by Alison Gopnik points out,  it addresses that age old question - What is the point of raising a child? 

'Why is taking care of children worthwhile? It’s hard work, badly paid if paid at all, and full of uncertainty, guilt and heavy lifting. And yet, at least to most of us, it seems like an absolutely fundamental, profoundly valuable project. If you asked most parents about their deepest moral commitments, and most agonising moral dilemmas, about what gives their lives meaning, they would talk about their children. But caring for a child is very different from any other human relationship, and the standard ways of thinking about morality and meaning don’t apply very well to being a parent'. 

What is very interesting and relevant to those making the 'baby decision' is that implicit in some of the arguments made in favor of having children is having children is part of making the world a more caring and nurturing place.  However, as Gopnik points out, people can be caring and loving towards their own children and at the same time be indifferent towards other people's children.   And many people who choose not to have children are caring and nurturing in other ways. In my discussion on Women's Hour a few years ago with Christine Odone, one of my arguments was that just because people who choose not to have children, it doesn't meant that they are not living values of caring and nurturing in their lives already.   Having children doesn't imbue people with a more altruistic nature - we can point to many dictators or tyrants who have had children who were still able to be callous to other people and other people's children.




Friday, 26 August 2016

How to maintain friendships across the 'Baby Divide'

Another sunny week in London!  In London, everyone seems more relaxed and happy - the pavements are full of people relaxing and socializing.  I've also been finding myself meeting friends more often as the nights are lighter and the warm weather makes for relaxed and easy socialising.

Thinking about friendship and the importance of friends in my life has sparked me to explore a difficult issue on the blog today - what happens when a friend has a child.  Does it impact a friendship negatively?  Is there indeed a divide or barrier that can be put up between parents and non-parents?

This article recently appeared in the Stylist magazine Female Friendship and the Great Baby Divide - written as a one person story from a new mother on the impact that having a baby had on her and her friendships.    One of the key factors the writer talks about is that  of suddenly being in a very new and different situation from friends without children means there is a need to connect with other new mothers.

You’re at your most vulnerable post-partum; your relationship feels like it’s taken a battering, your body is a mess, and your mind has scarpered to some far flung place. And yes – you desperately want to tell your child-free mates the initial horror of it all. But you don’t want to scare them off the locomotion of tears, Teletubbies and tantrums. Equally, you don’t want to dish out the breast pump blather – they’re too sassy, they’re lives are too polished for this social lumber.

I really could relate to this very well. As many of my regular readers know,  I came to coaching women on the baby decision due to my own indecision.  After a year of wrestling with my own ambivalence I decided to have a child and I had my boy Sam.

However much I thought I was prepared, I wasn't.  I found the first year very difficult.  And what I hadn't anticipated was would be the distance I would feel from old friends of mine.  I had someone entered a very different world - one where I was perpetually tired, obsessed with nappies and sleep routines.  I also found my ability to travel round and get places with a baby very limited.  I moved from being as someone used to hoping on and off public transport with ease to cross London to visit friends to being someone who rarely left her neighborhood.   Looking back, I can see how difficult to understand my limited availability was to my friends without children.  Like the author of the Stylist piece, I also didn't want to burden my child-free friends with boring and obsessive baby musings.  But I also treasured those occasions of being with my friends without my child - of being able to meet for coffee without a baby to worry about, to be able to go see a film or have a drink.  And as my child grew older, these became more and more frequent.  Now that my child is more independent, I feel as though I have gotten most of my old life back - most of my ability to socialise freely has returned.

For those without children, it can feel like you've been abandoned.  Many of my clients say that they end up feeling isolated - particularly if they are the only one of their friendship group who isn't a parent.  Sometimes they find themselves excluded which can be hurtful - for example when children's birthday parties are held and only the parents with children are invited.  

So how can you maintain your friendships across 'The Great Baby Divide'?

Remember that the 1st year is the most difficult and absorbing for new parents.   If you are the friend of a new parent, you will probably find yourself making more of an effort to visit and travel to meet your friend and her baby.   You'll probably have to listen to many stories about baby-hood that seem boring but know that this is just a phrase and it will pass.

New parents can remember to connect with old friends even though you will definitely need the support of new mom friends whom will sympathize with current struggles.   Sometimes just acknowledging the situation and that you are aware that for a while you might not be as available but as soon as you can you will be up for a trip to the movies/dinner/a drink.



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Friday, 19 August 2016

How do we determine our life path?

I've been having a break from the blog as I have been on vacation - I had a lovely time in Canada (in beautiful Nova Scotia actually) visiting friends and family.  And I then flew down to one of my all time favorite cities, New York!  London and NYC are the same kind of world class, cosmopolitan, diverse city.  And yet, there is such a different energy about each city - NYC has a particular vibrancy about it. London is still my home and it's nice to be back in the UK and back to the old routine.  I've been coaching a number of clients from different parts of the world over my vacation  - what is great about Skype is that I can still coach clients whether I'm in Nova Scotia, NYC or London.

Today I am thinking about purpose - and what it means to live our live on purpose. Many of the people who come to me about the decision to have children or not also find themselves questioning the idea of purpose.  'If I don't have children, then I want to be leading a life with meaning and purpose?' is often a question posed by my clients..

One of the points I always make about purpose and the 'baby decision' is that I don't think that having children gives you your life's purpose although for some people, this may be the case.  However, in addition to my 'baby decision' clients, I see many clients for general career and life coaching who are also parents.  Many of the parents I see are also struggling with the concept of purpose.... and the questions they are coming to coaching include: how can we live a live with purpose, how can we make a difference in the world and have an impact?  Something I learnt from the wonderful US coach Dave Ellis who works with high-net worth individuals is that someone might have all the material wealth and success in the world but if they are not living life on purpose or making a difference in some way, they will not feel fulfilled.

I came across this very thoughtful piece in the Guardian from early this month  by Oliver Burkeman called Misery, failure, death and a slap in the face.   The premise of the book, written by James Hollis is we need to look beyond the ego - or the surface part of us that wants to be happiness.  Most techniques for happiness and becoming happy, claims Hollis, are bound to fail because we are staying on the surface level of the ego.  We need to listen to what Hollis called 'the forces of unconscious' want from us.   I love this because part of what I try to do as a coach is help people get underneath the surface of the ego and find ways to tap into our intuition.

Hollis had a wonderful question - which I think of as a coaching question - which he felt would help people who are at a crucial crossroads of their life.   The question is  'Does this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?'    Usually, at some point during my coaching with baby decision clients, I tend to ask a similar question.   Because a question about happiness - whether the decision will make me happy or not, never has the same resonance.