What can a parenting coach do for me?
“Momma, what can you do for me!?” This is what my four (& a half) year old says when he is supposed to be going to sleep. He’s already exhausted his bedtime routine (and exhausted me, but not himself, apparently) and wants me to say I’ll work on the couch, or stay in his room while he falls asleep, or pat his back or something. Bedtime is sometimes my favorite thing, and sometimes the thing I hate the most about parenting. I think my son sounds like a mini mobster or something with that question. It’s a good one though for parents who are thinking about getting some coaching. “Hey parenting coach – what can you do for me?”
I’m not a psychologist or parenting expert. I’m a firm believer in getting expert advice on parenting questions, and that’s not my role. In my coaching I help parents create space free of the million and one messages that we get every day about what we’re doing wrong. Instead, I create space for you to figure out what is right for your family, try out some new things, learn and reflect on them, modify and try some more. I love helping people become confident parents who prioritize their family’s needs over outside expectations, while taking their family’s impact on the broader world into consideration.
Many of my clients are confident leaders in their work life, but experience deep anxiety and frustration as a parent. I believe that there are many ways to be a good parent, and that each family figures out what works for them. They say opinions are like @$$holes — and like everyone, I have them. But I work pretty hard not to judge other families and their decisions. I create space for my clients to figure out what they need in a non-judgemental space and with a sense of humor (sometimes dark).
I learned this personally thanks to a few friends. A co-worker and friend warned me that she wished they hadn’t co-slept with her kids since her 6 year old and 9 year old daughters still both wanted to sleep with her years later, and both wanted to put their hands on exactly the same spot on her neck – it was a nightly hassle. I eagerly adapted her advice, and when I was exhausted and flattened on day 3 of my son’s life I grabbed a book a friend had passed on to us like a lifesaver and held on for dear life. Driven by the desire to ‘do it right’ we adapted their strategy that touted being “E.A.S.Y.” (Short for Eat. Activity. Sleep. You.) It didn’t involve co-sleeping.
Sleep books are notoriously dogmatic and they often disagree. NEVER DO THIS OR YOU WILL RUIN YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE! ALWAYS DO IT OR YOU WILL RUIN YOUR CHILD FOR LIFE!
So I was horrified to learn that my best friends’ family had decided to co-sleep. Gasp!!! Wouldn’t they RUIN THEIR CHILD FOR LIFE?!?!
That made me pause. This couple are some of the best people in the world by just about any measure. They are my closest friends, and the ones that I would probably want to raise my children if anything happened to me. They are great parents. So if they picked co-sleeping for their family, I trust that it is the right decision for them. They are happy with their decision, and I’m happy with ours. Every parenting strategy has pros and cons and depending on a family’s needs, you will pick the tradeoffs that work best your kids and your family.
I also remember a night when I was driving home and my son was crying – who knows why. I had tried everything and nothing worked. He was crying and I was crying. Somehow it felt like if I weren’t crying, I was a bad mom — I wasn’t taking him seriously enough. But something came over me. While I felt for the little guy – he wasn’t usually a crier and it was heart wrenching to hear his little sobs — I realized that me crying was not actually helping the situation at all. It was making it worse. He didn’t need a mom who was proving she cared by crying, he needed a mom who was calm, confident and steady and who could assess what he needed carefully and see what she could do to help. Tears in my eyes and frantic emotion would literally make me a less effective mom, since that would make it more dangerous for me to drive. My stress was making it harder to assess the situation and my emotion seemed to heighten his stress. From this experience, I learned that judgement and expectation will probably always hover around me as a parent, but that I need to be calm, centered and make confident decisions for myself that are the right thing for my children and family.
I believe that we can’t be there for our kids 100% of the time, and if we were, it would probably be terrible for them. We will make mistakes and be unavailable, and these ‘parenting failures’ will open up space for our children to become themselves, be resilient and learn independence.
I am inspired by the idea of “kintsugi” in many areas of life, but especially in parenting. It’s a Japanese art where broken pieces of ceramic are put back together and the seams that remain are painted with gold. The art lies in the care taken to repair a mistake, and it leaves the piece more beautiful, unique and interesting than it was when it was perfect and fresh out of the kiln.
Lastly, while parenting decisions are deeply personal, our decisions have an impact on those around us. I hold a parent’s right to decide what is right for their children, but I believe in challenging systems to do better. In coaching sessions I only rarely bring up my personal opinions and decisions if they seem relevant, but I often blog about system level dynamics that will help parents understand a broader context and take that information into consideration. For example, preschool across the country is notoriously segregated. What does that mean for parents who want to teach our children to be anti-racist?
My coaching clients come to me looking for space to explore how they want to raise their children, to figure out what life work balance is for them, and to clarify their values and to develop the confidence they need to make clear decisions and come out from under the cloud of judgement. My parenting resource page shares some items that I’ve found helpful for me in my parenting journey. They include an overview of different sleep strategies so you can choose the right one for you, as well as resources about talking with your children about race, consent and other progressive minded issues.
You won’t agree with me on every parenting issue, and that’s perfect! I will create a space for you to discover your own values and make your own right decision for you. Where we inevitably disagree, it’s an opportunity to explore what that feels like for you, and help you discover strategies for approaching disagreement or outright judgement out in the real world.
I hear feet coming down the hall, though he was supposed to be asleep about an hour ago. Sigh, off to practice what I preach!