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 and assistant Laura will respond and arrange an appointment with you. Visit for more information about my coaching services.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Dealing with criticism from friends and family who think you should have children

One of the key stress points for women who have decided that they do not want to have children is dealing with pressure and criticism from friends and family.  I found a good example of this in this weekend's Guardian in this short letter a child-free women wrote to her mother   This criticism can come from not just close family or friends (this is bad enough!) but from colleagues and even complete strangers.  One client described an incident when her boss had said to her that she would regret it forever if she did not have children!

Why do people criticise women who have decided to be child-free?  I think there are several reasons for this:

1.  Our parents lived in a generation where there were still expectations of women and couples to have children. Particularly if your family comes from a culture where there is a high value placed on family, parents can worry and be concerned about our happiness.

2. Despite the advances of feminism and strides in women’s equality, there is still a great inequality and double standard in how women's and men’s value in the world is perceived.  It is rare, for example, for a man to experience pressure and criticism due to his personal choice to have children or not.  The female identity is still entangled with child-rearing although things are changing for the better.

3. Having a child does change your life, so much that it can be difficult to see an alternative path.  Friends of yours who have had children and feel very ‘in love’ with their new life may have an evangelical fever – similar to those of people who have discovered a new religion or given up smoking!  I also feel that there can be a tinge of jealousy or need to maintain that their choice was the ‘right’ one.  Seeing a friend living a different life to the one which we are leading can be unnerving and can lead people to unconsciously try to ‘convert’ a friend to address this unnerving feeling.

4.  Finally, people can often say things without thinking!  Many of us are caught up in our own worlds and own worries. We all say thoughtless and unfeeling things to others at times.

The other thing that I see happening time and time again is that when clients feel unsure or uncertain about a decision, they can experience more unwanted feedback or criticism from others.  Through working on becoming clearer about what they want, and so becoming more confident about their decision, clients report that they find that they receive fewer negative comments and feedback!  When we are able to be centred and respond calmly and clearly to others, it puts up a gentle boundary – it does not invite further discussion or debate.  It does not invite negative criticism.  If someone does persist (because perhaps they are a very unaware and insensitive person), their words will not have the power to hurt you. In the exercise below, I am going to teach you a simple centring exercise that I teach to all my clients.

Coaching Point: Four Part Centring Exercise

This is a Conscious Embodiment exercise that I learnt from the founder of Conscious Embodiment, Wendy Palmer.  Before we start, pick a quality that you feel will help you both with the situation of dealing with pressure/criticism and generally in life. Qualities include

·         Calm

·         Confidence

·         Peace

·         Ease

·         Clarity

·         Focus

Take your time and say the quality out loud.  When you choose the right one it will really resonate – you should feel a sense of ‘yes, this is the right one.’  If you are struggling, pick the word ease to work with for now.

Now you are ready to begin. Focus your awareness on your breathing and imagine that as you inhale, the breath is going up along your back, through your neck giving you a little bit of uplift and straightness. Then give a nice long slow exhalation.  As you do this, imagine the breath travelling back down your front and then connecting you to the ground.

Now let gravity take the weight of your shoulders and jaw, feel the tension releasing these areas, opening up your upper body.

Now imagine that you are surrounded by a bubble of energy.  Imagine that this bubble of energy is equal all around you – at your front and your back and your left and your right, above and beneath you.  You are totally centred in this bubble of energy and any time you feel stress, negative feedback or criticism coming towards you, you can simply allow yourself to imagine that this stress or criticism is landing on your energy bubble – not within you.

In your mind's eye, hold the question ‘What would it be like if I had just a little bit more of my quality in my body right now?’ Allow whatever answer needs to come – whether it is a sensation in an area of your body or an image or a thought.  Just notice what answer comes to you. Allow yourself to be with this question for a moment.

Return your awareness to your breathing – to the uplift of the inhalation and then to the grounding energy of the exhalation.  Repeat this several times and then slowly bring your awareness back to the room, open your eyes and just notice what you feel like.

You can now use this exercise in your everyday life to help you deal with comments or criticisms of other people.  Whenever someone begins to criticise or comment on your choice to be child-free you can simply imagine that you are surrounded by your bubble of energy.  Imagine that their comments land on your bubble and that they can disappear. Invoke your quality and breathe up and down before you respond.  This should help you to respond in a calm, confident and centred way.  Notice their reaction – is it different from other reactions?  And more importantly, how did you feel?  Did you feel less stressed and less likely to focus on them and their words?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Is egg freezing a solution to the baby decision?

As the technology for egg freezing has improved, more and more women are seeing egg freezing as a viable ‘insurance’ policy just in case their partners never agree to have children and the relationship breaks down. One of my interviewees (Emma) for my book Baby or Not,described how she was considering this as an option, but she was worried that the technology was too unproven and she might be paying a lot of money with no end result.

A couple of years ago, there was much publicity on the decision of companies who said they would fund the cost of women employees who wanted to freeze their eggs.  At the time, I was asked to appear on a BBC radio discussion on the issue and  I wrote about many of my concerns  is a blog post Tech Companies Pay Women Employees to Freeze their Eggs

It’s difficult to judge how effective egg freezing is – some experts such as childcare guru Miriam Stoppard have expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the procedure.  If this is something you are interested in, do find out as much as you can from independent sources (i.e. not from companies offering to collect and freeze your eggs).  A good and impartial source of information is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority who describe themselves as “the UK's independent regulator overseeing the use of gametes and embryos in fertility treatment and research.”  Their website has a wealth of useful information and resources.

There have been women who have benefited from egg freezing and when I discussed this issue a couple of years ago on my blog, a reader wrote in to say how much freezing her eggs benefited her and how, if women didn't do this, they might regret it later

In London at the end of this month,  there will be a pop-up exhibition called Timeless which explores the problematic issues behind the current trend to promote egg freezing to women.  The organisers say that:

Timeless is a fictional beauty brand created to unlock the facts around egg freezing whilst also raising public debate on how these advances in biomedical science may impact on the world of work, relationships and wider society. 

Could it be as revolutionary to women’s life choices as The Pill? Or, it could become yet another social expectation that reinforces the message that women are solely responsible for fertility? 

'Timeless aims to remove some of the taboo that surrounds reproductive issues, encouraging women – and men – to have informed conversations about an area of life that affects us all. This project is working with expert advisers from Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, The Oxford Fertility Unit, Progress Educational Trust and The London School of Econmics and Political Science.'

I think these are really important questions - as regular readers of my blog know, I feel it's extremely important for the issue of reproduction, having children and seeing the choice to be childfree as a positive one to be broadened.  It's also imperative for wider conversations that also taken into account the role of men and male partners in the decision.

Monday, 8 February 2016

How will becoming a mother affect my work/career

One of the concerns women my have about deciding to have children or not is whether having a child would have a negative impact on their career.

Research  carried out by scholar Heather Boushey published in the  journal Feminist Economics, Opt Out Revolution? New Evidence to the Contrary: (January 10, 2008), suggests that the conventional wisdom for women leaving the  labour market due to having children may not be correct.

Boushey shows that the number of women leaving jobs to take care of children has decreased dramatically over the past two decades. She points to changes in the labour market, not children,as a cause for somewhat lower rates of women in the workplace more recently.  Using data from a nationally representative survey of the US population, the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Survey (ASEC) from 1979 to 2005, Boushey did not find any evidence of an increase in opting out. In contrast, she finds that especially for women with a high school or college degree and for single mothers, “the estimated marginal effect of having children at home has decreased
sharply over the past two decades.” She finds that the ‘‘child effect’’ on women’s  employment has fallen since the end of the 1970s from 21.8 percentage points in 1979 to 12.7 percentage points in 2005. (Source: Green Parenting Blog January 2008)

So all is not lost for working mothers.  Many women successfully combine working  with having a family and there are many role models of women who have combined having a family with a successful career including: Louise Bourgeois (Artist), Nicola Horlick (Business Woman), Harriet Harman (Member of Parliament) and Kirsty Wark (Television Presenter).

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Emotions and the Baby Decision

When women (and some men) first approach me, they are often racked with emotions such as fear and anxiety. Some of the things I've heard from clients include:

'I can't get to sleep - sometimes I wake up thinking and thinking and thinking about whether I should become a mother or not.'

'I'm completely worried I'll make the wrong choice - that I will regret not having children... and then I worry that I will regret having children!'

'It's taking over - all the thoughts about whether I'm ready to be a mother or whether I should remain childfree''

 The first thing I encourage all my clients to do is to I think we have to acknowledge and put our negative fears on the table - without that, they just keep going round and round and round.

Once we do that, I think it's important to be able to put our fears and anxieties to one side.

Interestingly, some research has been done on the role of 'negative' emotions in decision making.

In the article   Understanding the Dynamics of Decision-Making and Choice: A Scoping Study of Key Psychological Theories to Inform The Design and Analysis of the Panel Study by Bryony Beresford and Tricia Sloper , the researchers explored different models of decision making which involved emotions.  In one, the researched said that a successful decision making model people would be engaged in:

-  Minimizing the experience of negative emotion while making the decision and
 -  Maximising the ease of justification of a decision to oneself and to others.

This very much tallies with a coaching approach where we work with clients to help them put to one side negative emotions such as fears or anxiety through finding ways to explore more positive mindsets

When I work coaching clients, I usually encourage all my clients to write all their fears and anxieties.  Often we do this as a mind map - I then take some of the most powerful ones and I encourage clients to write them on large pieces of paper and really look at them.  If we are in the room together, we will look at them together and I sometimes get clients to move and step into the space beside the fears.  I we are doing a phone or Skype session, I might also encourage a client do this.  We really explore how powerful is that fear - where do they feel the fear in their body for example.  I ask clients which of these fears about having and not having children are really fears driven by their saboteur.  And then, we look at how they can put that fear aside - even if just for five minutes - in order to look at the baby decision from a less fearful mindset.