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, 20 June 2016

Having kids: Does it pay?

Everyone knows that having kids costs money!  Estimates vary but it's in the region of between $150,000 - $400,000 from birth to 18. When we look at the figures so starkly, having children can seem like a terrifying prospect. How does anyone ever find the money to raise children?  And when faced with such a huge financial burden, why would anyone choose to have children?

However, maybe someday it could pay off financially to have children.  In the article Parenting: It's Payback Time journalist Douglas Fraser looks at some economic research that poses some interesting questions for our assumptions about finance & child-rearing.

'What if the choice of having children were an investment decision? What if you could have offspring, spend a huge sum upfront on rearing, feeding, watering, and educating them, and then, hand them the bill?'

That does seem ridiculous of course.  Untill, as economists Juan Carlos C√≥rdoba of Iowa State University and Marla Ripoll at the University of Pittsburgh argued in their research, that in the early part of the 19th Century, parents were paid the wages of their children.  When child labour was outlawed, then fertility rates went down.

Today we don't make our kids go down the coal mine or up chimmey's to help the household income - so how can having kids pay, asks Fraser.

'So, what about payback time? The researchers say the present value of the lifetime earnings of a low-income child are £460,000. A profit of at least £56,000. For higher income couples, the investment is significantly higher, and so are the returns'

Unfortunately for parents, adult children tend to spend their earnings on themselves and their own children (if they have them).  The researchers suggest that there could be some sort of smoothing where the grown up children hand over some of their earnings to ease the process of old age.

Of course, the above is really one of those theoretical arguments that economists love to have.

At the end of the article, Fraser makes a very important point that I would concur with.

'It's just my hunch, but most parents seem to choose to have children because it seemed like a good idea at the time, or because it was a bit of an accident. Not many consult their financial adviser on parenting as part of a balanced investment portfolio.'

Even clients who come to see me, who are trying to take a very balanced view, do not end up deciding whether to have children or not purely on the finance.   As one woman I interviewed for my book said:

'Money is part of it - but I think at the end of the day, we'd manage - loads of people manage to have kids who live in all sorts of situations and I think if I wanted kids, we'd cope as well - but do we want to?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Making a decision on children your future self will be happy with

One of the real difficulties for my clients is that they are often trying to make a decision in the present time that their future self will be happy with. All my coaching clients don't feel 100% sure of what to choose.  And some feel happy now ..... but they are aware that, because of their age, they need to make a decision now, because in 5 or 10 years they may not have the luxury of choice.

I recently saw a fantastic TED Talk by Dan Gilbert called the Psychology of Your Future Self which I think points to why the baby decision is so very difficult.   AND, it shows to me the important role of coaching techniques that help clients imagine a different 'future self' (or wise self), that helps clients see how what they want or will be like in the future will inevitably change.

'At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we're going to become, and then when we become those people, we're not always thrilled with the decisions we made. So young people pay good money to get tattoos removed that teenagers paid good money to get. Middle-aged people rushed to divorce people who young adults rushed to marry. Older adults work hard to lose what middle-aged adults worked hard to gain. On and on and on. The question is, as a psychologist, that fascinates me is, why do we make decisions that our future selves so often regret?'

Gilbert explains that we continually under-estimate how much we will change in the future.  We see ourselves as finished, as everything we have experienced as contributing to our 'finished selves'.  We somehow find ourselves unable to imagine how we might be different in the future - how our values might change, how our likes and dislikes might be different in 10 years - just as they were different 10 years prior.

I find it very fascinating because it supports some of the exercises I do with my clients.  Many times in coaching, my clients feel stuck because they can't imagine what it might be like with a child in the future.  Often they focus on feels of anxiety or worries of what they will lose from their current life.  An example is freedom and independence.  When we get to our 30's, we can feel like we've achieved a certain freedom and independence - we have ARRIVED! And having a child can feel like a threat to this.  But what if our sense of freedom and independence was always in flux - what if it would change even without having children?   OR what if we could expand our imagination to move past a feeling of worry that we might feel unfulfilled if we don't have children to imagine our future selves as living a full life but perhaps a different fulfilled life without children.

I use a creative visualisation that helps clients move past their rational minds to imagine what this future self might be like and might be enjoying from life.  I think why this is so powerful is because it does what Dan Gilbert in his TED Talk says we find hard to do - it gets us to stretch our imagination.

Another exercise I use is to ask clients to reflect on their past and look at all the changes that have happened in the last 10 - 20 years.  I ask them to think about key experiences in their lives where they have overcome challenging situations and what they  have learnt about themselves.  I then ask them to take everything they have learnt about themselves in the past and think about how they will take that learning into the future, to approach and deal with new challenges - whether they have children or not.

One thing is certain - whether you decide to have children or you don't, change is part of the experience of being human.  You'll change whatever decision you make!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Will having kids effect my relationship? Questions to ask your friends who are parents

New research shows that having children leads to problems in marriage.  ( see this article published in the Guardian Want to save your marriage? Don't have Children )

It's something that I often hear from clients who can't decide whether to have children and it's a big question.  If we are happy in our relationship, why chance it by having children?  As a woman from the USA, who interviewed for my book said:

'We're really enjoying our life and our relationship.  We travel - we are going on a 2 week trip to Europe in the summer which we are excited about.  My husband has his own business which is going really well and I am working part-time and am doing volunteer work as well.   When I go to visit friends with small children, they seem so stressed! I notice them snapping at each other, getting really cross.  And everything revolves around the kids!  All they do on Saturdays is run around and take one to baseball and the other to ballet.  On Saturday night, they were so exhausted that we all just stayed in and watched a DVD - and they went to bed early.  It really seems like a lot of hard work - and I worry that we will lose the enjoyment that we have for being in each other's company.'

As Matthew D Johnson, author of the Guardian article and the book points out, young children put a great deal of stress on relationships.

'It seems obvious that adding a baby to a household is going to change its dynamics. And indeed, the arrival of children changes how couples interact. Parents often become more distant and businesslike with each other as they attend to the details of parenting. Mundane basics like keeping kids fed, bathed and clothed take energy, time and resolve. In the effort to keep the family running smoothly, parents discuss carpool pickups and grocery runs, instead of sharing the latest gossip or their thoughts on presidential elections. Questions about one’s day are replaced with questions about whether this diaper looks full.'

Recently, a writer published an article in Self magazine I've Choosen To Be Childless and It Made My Marriage Stronger  - it outlines her experience of having a happy and fullfilling relationship without children.

Another interesting perspective on the issue is that many people report that despite the stress in the beginning, they still report that they glad they had children.  This is backed up by other research showing that parents do have similar satisfaction levels to their pre-birth levels. This study Having Children Later Makes You Happy? also takes into account other factors which can influence parent satisfaction levels. Interestingly, the study shows that people who have children later in life, the more satisfied they will be.

Research reports can provide some interesting information and context to make your decision but many people don't find them extremely helpful.

One thing that clients of mine have found helpful is to find out more about their friend's experience of having children - particularly if they are able to 'get beneath the surface' of their friend's decision.  I have a questions that you can use to do this which are:

1) What unexpected joys/pleasure do you get from being a parent that you didn't realise before?

2) What do you miss from your life before children? Both as an individual but as a couple?

3) What would you like more in your life now?

4) How do you negotiate childcare and household responsibilities? [note: This is a big area of disagreement for parents!]

5)  What, if any, would you think is the 'pay off' in having children?

Find out as much as you can - and try to talk to several couples if possible!