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, 18 November 2018

Fear & going outside our comfort zone

My appearance on Woman's Hour happened last week and you can listen to the whole show here BBC Woman's Hour Broadcast  Thanks to everyone who emailed me with warm words after the broadcast - it was much appreciated!

I've only been on the radio several times over the years and each time, I've been racked with nerves.  The day before appearing on Women's Hour,  I was filled with FEAR.  I was convinced that I would freeze on air, that I would stumble or make completely no sense what-so-ever.    I was in a state of panic.   I also kept thinking How could I get out of this?  This was very strange as I had yearned and yearned to be able to be on the radio and to get the message out about the struggle that so many women go through in trying to decide whether to have children or not.

So why was I so fearful? Why did I now want to push away something I thought I wanted?   The coach part of me knew that my saboteur (or inner critic) was in complete control - he was hissing that I wasn't worthy and that I was too fluffy, too liable to waffle and talk around a subject for AGES to be able to be a slick and effective radio presenting

One of my coach friends, the fab Meg Lyons offered me a coaching session after I reached out to her. We went through different scenarios which did help calm my nerves a little.  But she mentioned something that had a powerful effect on me which was:

'Anytime we do something outside our comfort zone, anytime we stretch ourselves or try something new, we feel fear... that's a natural response.  The key is to acknowledge it, accept it and then do what we need to do in order to grow and stretch'

Just that knowing that fear is a natural part of this process of doing something outside my normal comfort zone made that fear less powerful. 

And I realised that this is a parallel process to what all of my baby decision clients go through.  One of the reasons that this decision can be so scary and fearful is that it requires us to go outside our comfort zone.   Even if women make the positive decision (as so beautifully described by Dr Ginette Carpenter on the Women's Hour show) not to have children, it's still a decision that is asking us to stretch ourselves.  Why? Because, in this instance, it is asking us to shut the door on a potential future opportunity.  My clients who are considering a child free life say that they are often worried that they are making the wrong choice, that if they decide not to have children that they will be missing out on an experience that they can never have otherwise.  In this age where FOMO (fear of missing out) is becoming a recognised syndrome and cause of unhappiness, it's not comfortable to say that we are going to say no, that we are going to shut a door on a possibilities.  So many times women in their late 30's or early 40's have said that if they were a decade later, they would happily defer the decision because they would like to keep all their options open.

And that's why that for many people this really is a decision they have to make.  On the Women's Hour programme, Jane Garvey said she didn't understand how this really was a decision. For her, it was either something you did or you didn't... not a conscience decision.  I think this is because for Jane and many women who knew they always wanted children,  this was always an implicit assumption that they made personally and that was reinforced by societal norms that meant that they didn't need to think about.   However, to go against the grain, to question this implicit assumption is uncomfortable.  It is pushing against a comfort zone... which can lead to women who are thinking about embracing a child-free life to feel fear.

On the other side, if a woman is considering having children when they already have a good and comfortable life, the fear that we might be taking something on that would disrupt that and that our saboteur says, we might not be cut out for, that we have no experience of,  really forces out outside our comfort zone.  It is a decision that can stretch us and we can, like I explained did with the radio interview, search for many reasons why this decision is not for us.  Even if we have a strong desire to have children, our fear of moving outside what we know can be immense.

That's why, as I said on the Women's Hour show, one of the things I do with all my clients is to get out all their fears.  We need to shine a light on our fears in order to deal with them.  Are they fears led by the saboteur because we are frightened of stepping outside our comfort zone?   Once we bring these fears out, we can grapple with them and we can look at how likely these fear are to occur.  Sometimes I find that just acknowledging a clients fear as normal can take the  power away.

A fear that comes up again and again is that women feel like they might not be the best mother, that they don't feel like they are cut to be a mother or that they don't feel like a natural mother.   It can help just to hear someone say that many of us who are mothers feel like that, many of us feel inadequate and not like the mystical natural mothers we've all heard about.   We can still go forward and be mothers and have ambivalence.  That's normal.  That's what being human is all about.  The myth of the natural mother is not one that is born out in reality.  And in fact, it's when we try to life up to unrealistic myths around womanhood or motherhood is when we fall down - because we can never achieve this, we are being set up to fail.

What I want for all women is that they feel that whatever choice that they make is a positive decision.  Yes, fear is a part of the decision making process.  But fear shouldn't be the reason we make the choice to be either child free or a mother.  We need to trust ourselves to make a positive decision and find ways to acknowledge but then vanquish the voices of fear.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Woman's Hour: Coaching Women on the Decision to Have Children or Not

I'm a big fan of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour and have been a listener for over 20 years.  In 2018,  I was invited on the show which was hosted by Jenni Murray and this felt like the pinnacle of my career.  (you can listen to that show here Beth Follini & Christina Odone on Women's Hour ).  I've now been invited on again when I will be discussing how women can and do make this decision and to talk about my own personal journey.

Many people have asked me what led me to coach on this specific and very niche issue.  Over the years, I've had comments from people who are very perplexed by what I do.  Usually, they have never felt stuck on the issue - they have always known that they either want children OR don't want children that they can't understand why someone would go to a coach, a stranger for help on this issue.  'If you don't know if you want a baby or not, then you definitely shouldn't have one.' is a comment I've heard several times.

But I know exactly what it is like to feel stuck in the land of indecision around whether to forge ahead and have children (or attempt to have children) or to carry on and live a child free life.

For me, my decision was complicated by the fact that I disagreed with my partner about having kids.  As he already had a grown up child from a previous relationship and was already of an age when he thought he had put all that behind him, it wasn't ideal for him to embark on the journey of having another child.

I bounced back and forth between the options for a couple years  not sure what to do.  I looked for some advice or guidance but didn't find a whole lot out there to help me.

Finally, I felt that my desire for a child outweighed many of the logical and practical reasons against. My partner came on board with the idea and we now have a 13 year old son.

At the same time, I also know that I would have had good and fulfilled life without children - it would have just been a different life.

When I started my training, I realised that coaching would be a great way to help other people who were in the same situation I had been.  Coaching helps people 'get out of their own way'.  It allows us to look at decisions and life choices in different ways than we have been.  I get people to visualise the different parts of them that are in conflict.  A classic tension is between the 'head (logic, reason) and the 'heart'.  So I encourage people to shut their eyes and visualise these two parts.  What does your head have to say? And what about your heart? What would it like to do.

I also get people to write out all their fears on a mind map - their fears and anxieties about having and not having children  And then we look at them  in the 'cold light of day' and find ways we can respond to those fears.  If they are afraid they might be lonely when they get older if they don't have children, we brainstorm things they can do that will help overcome loneliness as they age.  How do they feel about choosing not to have children when they feel more confident that they have other options to deal with potential loneliness.   If they have a fear that they might not be a good parent, I ask them to examine the veracity of that fear - is that just a belief of their inner critic or saboteur?  What happens if they imagine showing the inner critic the door... what do they believe when the inner critic isn't able to speak and wield so much power?    When clients do this, they often feel clearer about their decision and less clouded by fear.

Having coached on the issue for over 10 years now I can honestly say it is still incredibly rewarding.  Particularly when I hear from clients who have been able to move on and feel at peace with whatever decision they have made, whether it be to be child free or to have children.   I feel so privileged to have been able to have been able to walk alongside them on their journey.




Friday, 26 October 2018

Flipping a coin: Leaving the baby decision up to fate?

The subtitle of my book 'Baby or Not' is 'Making the Biggest Decision of Your Life'.   And it is probably the biggest decision you'll ever make.

So how could I even suggest that flipping a coin be a way to make the baby decision? Particularly when I've seen hundreds of people of the year to help them through the decision making process?!?!

This column by the Guardian columnist Oliver Burkman  Find it hard to make a big decision? Don’t overthink it really resonated with me.  Much of what I do in coaching is helping people 'get out of their own way'.    Most people who come to coaching for the baby decision, have been thinking and analysing this decision to the point where they feel completely overwhelmed.   They've been relying on their head/brain to lead the decision.  There is a belief that the answer to any problem will come if we think hard enough about it, if we analyse enough the answer will become clear.

'Hence the paradox: we fret and stew, as if hoping through sheer effort to see into the future. In the worst case, we end up choosing none of the potentially good options, but a definitively bad one – paralysis – instead. That is the fate of “Buridan’s ass”, the hypothetical donkey, positioned equidistantly between hay and water, that is hungry and thirsty in equal measure and stays rooted to the spot, thus starving to death.'

Most of my coaching clients come with that horrible feeling of paralysis.  Paralysis can be a great way to avoid making a decision.  As long as we are in that limbo state, we don't have to make a decision that has the potential to be so life changing.  And, as Burkman points out, it's agonising the constant fretting and worrying about what possible disasters will await us if we make the wrong choice.  I hear it again and again that people feel the weight of making a bad decision - and if only they could see into the future, the could decide.

So Burkman's suggestion that we flip a coin to make these important decision comes from the acknowledgement that many decision we make can't be made with logic alone.   As a coach, my role is to help people find enough trust, in their intuition AND most importantly in their ability to deal with whatever the future holds, whatever road their decision take them on.   In order to get out of the 'flip-flopping' between the option of becoming a parent and staying child free and making that 'sudden, intuitive, semi-random choice' that Burkman points out is a crucial part of the decision making process, many people need support along the way to find ways to quiet their saboteur and listen to their intuition which often has had the answer for us all along.




Tuesday, 16 October 2018

When everyone seems to be having babies.... except you

A few months ago, I wrote this blog post on intrusive press speculation about when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would be having children.  And today it was announced that the couple were now expecting their first child!

While we all want to be happy for any couple who are having a baby announcements from friends and celebrities who are having children can trigger conflicted feelings because it can seem as thought everyone in the world is having babies .... except you.

As Meghan is 37, it has been suggested that it has been relatively easy for her to get pregnant.  In this article How easy is it get pregnant at 37 like Meghan Markle?   the writer suggests that we need to put an end to scaremongering about women's fertility at later ages.

Professor Geeta Nargund, founder of specialist fertility clinic Create Fertility, says women wanting children do need to be aware of the impacts of ageing, but echoes that this shouldn’t cause panic. 

“Fertility rates decline with age. Women under 30 have a higher chance of conceiving per cycle,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Fertility rates decline sharply after the age of 35; however women in their mid to late thirties conceive naturally if they are ovulating regularly, have no known cause of sub-fertility and have maintained a healthy lifestyle when there is no male factor problem. Men’s age also has an impact on their fertility.”

Many of my clients are in their mid to late 30's and I very much agree that we shouldn't scaremonger women into believing that the situation is hopeless.  I have clients who ultimately decided to have children and went on to have children in their late 30's

 However, I've also worked with clients who have struggled with their fertility.   If you have been trying to conceive, it can feel painful when we see celebrities getting pregnant after 35.  Many celebrities many have had access to fertility treatment which will of course not be publicised and which can create a false view of how easy it has been for them to get get pregnant.

Meghan and Harry have also been quoted as saying they are happy to have 'joined the club'.   If you don't have children but want children if you are trying to conceive but are struggling or if you are trying to decide whether to have kids,  the concept of parenthood being an exclusive club that you can't join can feel hurtful.

If you are feeling this way, there are things you can do to help shift your mood and perspective:

  • Remind yourself of the many ways you do belong - what communities, groups and causes are you are part of now.   
  • Have a walk, spend time in nature or do a physical activity that you enjoy.  This will help change your mood and help you be mindful of what is happening in the moment now.
  • Start to keep an appreciation journal.  Note 3 things you have appreciated about your day.  It could be the blue sky, receiving kind words for a friend or for a lovely meal




Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Having it all: Is it possible to have children and a high powered career if you are a woman?

In the year 2018,  many of us would have thought that the question of whether a woman could have a family and a career would have been sorted.  In the 1980's, the idea of being able to 'have it all' was highly promoted.

Mothers face disproportionately more difficulty in the workplace than fathers.  Many women who are trying to make the decision whether to have children or not are very aware of the struggles faced by mothers in the workplace.    For women who are in high commitment or high achieving careers which can be all consuming, the idea of adding to that the all consuming nature of having children can be  inconceivable.

A former client who reads my blog sent me a link to this article  Can women really have a career and a family? written by Cosmopolitan magazine editor Farrah Storr.  It's a personal story of how she felt she had to make a choice between a high flying career and having a family.   The irony of her situation was the Cosmopolitan promoted the idea of women being able to 'have it all but when she was offered the position, she felt that she had to close the door on motherhood.

I took the job. It was relentless. In the beginning, at least. The hours were long. The team, quite understandably, suspicious. On my first day, I got word that one of the longest-serving members of the team had resigned. (In protest? I wasn’t sure.) Three months later, almost 80 per cent of the team had followed suit. And so, with just six remaining members of staff I knuckled down, worked longer and harder than I had ever done in my entire career and tried to think: what did young women want today?  I never made the IVF appointment. Instead, I simply went home one evening and nervously addressed my husband. “I’m not sure I want this enough to risk everything else we have,” I said.

He looked at me, touched my hand and said simply, “I’m so glad you said that. Neither do I.”

And so, as I headed into my 37th year, we finally closed the window, pulled down the blinds and laid to rest any notions about a family and thus “having it all”. I could, I decided, be OK with having it all-ish.

For Farrah, there was a sense of acceptance that came with her decision which came with the realization it is OK to let go of the dream of 'having it all'.

It is possible for all women to combine a high flying career and having children and I work with clients to look at how they might make this work.  An important part of this is exploring how they can ensure male partners can be engaged to support them if they decide to go down the route of having children.  The role of men in this question is often not explored and it's something that I hope to address in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, we need to look at what it means to 'have it all.'   Is having it all merely a tick box list of things that we want to have or achieve?  Maybe we need to re-define the term to mean having all the love, acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others around us... a state of being rather than a prescribe list of things that we must have.



Monday, 24 September 2018

Sometimes we need to let go of a dream - What I've learnt in 10 years of Maybe Baby coaching (Lesson 4)

Coaching is often advertised as the way to get the life your dreamed of.  We coaches talk about the power of dreams and of overcoming our inner saboteurs in order to make our dreams a reality. So it feels like it's paradoxical for me as a coach to be talking about letting go of a dream as the way to move forward. Huh?

Sometimes it's the dreams we've held for a long time that are actually holding us back, keeping us stuck.  I realized this early on when I was coaching a client who said that all her life she had dreamed of having children within a wonderful relationship.  For various reasons, she wasn't in a relationship and now, in her late 30's she was feeling despondent and felt like a failure.    She couldn't even contemplate her options which included having children on her own because they didn't fit in with her dream.

As we worked together, we explored ways she could let go of the dream.  It wasn't her fault, it wasn't that she was 'wrong' or flawed.  Life just hadn't worked out as she expected.  In order to move forward, she needed to let go of this dream.

The first stage of letting go involves mourning.  It's important to acknowledge the range of emotions that go alongside the death of a dream.  Sometimes this is about expressing anger at the sheer unfairness of life, sometimes it's about sadness.

But then there is the release.  If you imagined your dream was sailing away from you - like a sailboat - what are your releasing?  What are you allowing yourself to embrace?  What possibilities are now open to you?

For clients who go through this process there is a sense of release and acceptance.  This can allow people to go on and explore other options.  Perhaps it's having a child on their own as a single parent or perhaps it's a child-free life?  Possibilities such as fostering don't seem like poor shadows of the dream anymore but rich and exciting options.  When we let go of a dream that is causing us stuckness and pain, we open up to new energy and new possibilities.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Our saboteur makes us doubt ourselves - What I've learnt in 10 Year of Maybe Baby Coaching (Lesson 3)

In my 10 years of coaching, I've learnt many valuable lessons about making the decision to have children or not.  In this anniversary year, I'm sharing 10 lessons with all my readers. Today I'd like to explore lesson 3 in this series which is  'Our Saboteur makes us doubt ourselves'.

We all have one.  A saboteur, lurking in the shadows.

When I first introduce the idea of the saboteur, I explain to clients that the saboteur is that part of them that is sabotaging themselves in some way.  Perhaps through negative thinking or perspectives.  Or maybe the saboteur appears in a pattern of behaviour. For example,  I sometimes work with baby decision clients who have a Perfectionist Sabateur who says 'you can't possibly be a mother like YOUR mother/friend/sister is.'  A perfectionist saboteur stops us taking risks and trying new things because it can invoke a huge fear of faiture.  Or I might work with a client who has a saboteur that is very judgemental, that says 'you can't be childfree because all real women have children.'

What I suggest to all my clients is that we try to bring their saboteur to life so we can 'shine a light' on it, challenge it and ulimately, see that this saboteur is not them.  It's a part of you but it's not a life enchancing or helpful part.

What does a saboteur look like?   The different forms that my clients saboteurs have taken include:

- A small blue ball called 'The Blue Meanie' that sits on the client's shoulder, whispering mean things in his ear.

- A tall, witch clad only in black - it says little but fills the client with shame and dread.

- A jumping little demon that says to the client 'Oh go on, have some fun, don't worry about that werid thing called committment, you need to ENJOY life!'

- A dark, dark cloud that hangs over the client and it has a paralysing effect - she feels stuck and like she can never get anything done.

Once we identify the saboteur and how it has been influencing my client and their decision, we explore ways to reduce it's power.  Often, it can be as simple as noticing the saboteur and telling it go away.  A visual image can help - imagine you show it to the door.  Once it's out of the way, we relook at the baby decision - once the saboteur is out of the way, does the decision to have children or be childfree look any different?

Often it does and I encourage clients to continue to bring their saboteur to life and then move it out of the way.





Sunday, 2 September 2018

Sacred to be a parent?

I've had a great break from work for much of August and, as you can see, I haven't written much on my blog this summer.  Instead of focusing on my coaching work,  I've hugely enjoyed visiting friends and family in Canada, Maine and also in the North East of England.  And now, it's September - and I like, many of you have that back-to-school feeling, feeling raring to go!

As I was starting to gear up towards the end of my holiday last week,  I was more than extremely pleased to an article Sacred to be a parent? in the New York Times a few days ago! It featured the wonderful Ann Davidman and Denise L. Carlini,  who, like me, specialise in working with women who are making the decision to be mothers or not.  At the beginning of the year, I reviewed their wonderful book The Motherhood Decision and I've had discussions with Denise when she has visited London over the years.

Ann and Denise are indeed pioneers in the work having started exploring and working with women over 27 years ago.   When I started Ticktock Coaching over 10 years ago, I didn't actually know what Ann and Denise were doing and it was in the last few years that I became aware of their work.  Mainly I think the development of on line tools and communication has increased our knowledge of the other people working in the field.  It's also given people more sense of the support they can get and also, that other people are experiencing similar ambivalence and worries.

A statement that resonates so much with me is this one that Ann makes in the article.

'While society has come a long way in accepting those who are child free, those who counsel these undecideds say there is a tremendous amount of shame people feel for not knowing. “Society doesn’t like ambivalence,” Ms. Davidman said.'

I think this is very true.  Women who come to me often come to coaching on the baby decision feeling embarrassed they they still don't know what they want. Many times they report that they have been scolded for not being able to decide.  One of the most powerful things that coaching,  counselling or other forms of support women will turn to in to help them make the decision is the release of shame and embarrassment. 

If you've spent this vacation period or holiday time holding on to those feelings, maybe it's time to find some support - use the September back-to-school feeling to propel you to get in touch with someone like me, Ann, Denise or another practitioner (or book) that might reassure you that you are not alone and that you can make the decision!




Friday, 13 July 2018

Having a Baby on Your Own: An Excellent Choice

Being single is one of the main reasons women have children on their own.  Sometimes, as I explored in my last blog post, it is because you just haven't met your 'one and only'.  Often, clients come to me who have been (or who are) in relationships with men who don't want children.  It can be a painful process deciding to have a child on your own.  For many of my clients, there is a period of necessary mourning that people need to go through.   If you've always had a dream of having a child in a relationship, it can be painful to consider having a child on your own.   But more and more women are choosing to have a child on their own as a single parent.  And for many women, this is a positive choice.

Today, I'd like to look at an article written by Emma Brockes called 'Going it alone: Why I chose Single Motherhood' This is an extract from her recent book:  An Excellent Choice

It's a fascinating story which I think illustrates many of the dilemmas for women who are thinking of having children.  Her story holds both universal truths that will resonate for many women with the unique and specific situation she found herself in.

Unlike many women in this situation, Emma did have a partner, a woman who had decided to have a child on her own.  Says Emma:

'She was three years older than me and told me from the outset that, in the near future, she was planning on trying to get pregnant. Logistically, this made sense; it would be madness to forestall while we flapped about for another two years trying to decide what we were doing. Emotionally, however, it stumped me. According to every relationship model I knew, you could either be with someone who’d had kids before you met, have kids together and separate down the line, or split up and have a baby alone. There was no such thing as being with someone who had a baby on her own. It sounded like a terrible deal: all the stress and anxiety without the substance of motherhood.'

Her partner went ahead and had a baby.  And Emma, was still in a relationship with her and, of course, was close to her child... but was not in the role of mother.  As she explains in the article, 

'I also didn’t want to “help” another woman raise her baby. Unless I was Mother Teresa (I’m not), the only way it would make sense for me to stick around in the event of L having a child was if our relationship became a more conventional union, or if I had my own baby independently, too.'

Emma describes the long and difficult process of IVF which in the end is a success and she has twin girls. Her partner has a son and ultimately, they start to look at a solution to how they can maintain their independent family lives but support each other and their children.  I love the solution that they come to at the end of the article!




Wednesday, 4 July 2018

What if you haven't met your one and only?

Some of my clients come to see me for coaching because they would really like children but they are not in a relationship.  For these clients, the dilemma is whether they want to have children on their own, as a single parent.

Despite the belief in our society that 'there is someone for everyone', many people have not found their 'one and only'.  This article recently published in the Washington Post called Some People Never Find Their One and Only  explored this topic which is not often looked at.

'Just 51 percent of the adult population is married, down from 72 percent in 1960. So we talk about swinging, “Sex and the City” singles and extended adolescences. We talk about the delay of marriage or the rise of cohabitation and single motherhood. Depending on our perspective, we cheer the broadening definitions of family or bemoan the breakdown of the nuclear unit.

But the cousin or neighbour or co-worker who always seems to be on his or her own? We don’t give them much thought.

It’s easier not to. Perhaps as much as religion, our society hinges on belief in romantic love. How many songs and novels revolve around the long search and eventual discovery of a beloved? The phrase “happily ever after” implies a singular outcome: two lives made ever better by virtue of their union.'

As the article explores, although many of the people interviewed, would have ideally wanted a partner, many find their lives enjoyable - not the usual stereotype of the lonely 'old maid'.

For single people I coach who are looking at whether they do want to have children on their own, it can be important for us to do some work on 'letting go' or mourning of the dream of having a child in a relationship.   This isn't to say the client will never have a relationship! But if someone wants to move forward and have a child as a single parent,  one thing that can hold people back is holding on to the anger and grief on 'how things should be'.

Journalist Emma Brockes has recently written a book about her decision to have a child on her own.
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jun/23/going-it-alone-why-chose-single-motherhood and in my next blog post, I'm going to look at her story and explore how choosing single motherhood can work for many women.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Tracee Ellis - I'm tired of people asking me about whether I'm going to have children


What is one of the MOST annoying things that happens to women who haven't made the decision yet whether they are having children?   For many of my clients, it's those constant questions about when .. and whether .... you will be having children is one of the things that drives  them crazy.   It seems really strange.  Having children is one of the most personal and important decisions someone can make.  So why do near strangers, work colleagues and acquaintances feel empowered to ask this question?

This was reflected in a recent interview with Tracee Ellis, the start of the amazing US show 'Blackish'.   (Note: I LOVE this show by the way - it is shown sometimes here in the UK television but doesn't have a regular, mainstream slot so I pick it up on Amazon Prime.  It's focused on a Black middle class family in the US and it's is funny AND packs a a powerful political message in every episode.)

As reported in this article Black-ish’ Star Tracee Ellis Ross Sets the Record Straight on Her Decision Not to Have Children (Yet)

"Well, I will say two things. I have not made a final decision that I am not having children. It is a personal choice that I will make when I’m comfortable, and it’s not a conversation that I have with people. I also want to be clear that my choices around being a mother have nothing to do with my career, they are not connected." 

I have a theory that people feel comfortable asking women about this personal choice because we still see women's choices around fertility and pro-creation as being in the public realm.  It's still viewed as a decision that everyone can comment upon!  And it doesn't stop when you have made the decision.  If you decide to have children, then you will find people commenting on your pregnancy (what you should or shouldn't eat or drink for instance or finding complete strangers commenting on your 'Baby Bump').  And often, people who have decided not to have children will find people asking why or making comments on their choice.   In a post I wrote last year, I give some helpful hints on how to deal with intrusive questions in this blog post  on Surviving Intrusive Questions 

And if you need a snappy retort to someone who is speculating on your fertility status, you can always refer to the great Eleanor Roosevelt once said 'Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.' 







Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Egg Freezing - is it the answer?

Last week on the BBC Women's Hour, there was an interesting discussion on the current time limitations on holding your eggs in storage.   Jenni Murray, host of Women's Hour talked to Dr Kylie Baldwin, senior lecturer in medical sociology at De Montfort University, Carolyn Payne, who went through the process ten years ago and Professor Robert Winston. Professor of Science & Society at Imperial College London. 

Carolyn Payne talked about the reasons behind her decision which was to relieve her anxiety about her biological clock.  In the end, she didn't use the eggs as she had one child naturally.  But she had a number of miscarriages before she had her child and having eggs frozen had given her reassurance that she had options.

All the guests felt that the time limitations should be removed to give women more options.  However,  some of the guests had reservations about egg freezing generally.  Robert Winston said that there had only been 4100 eggs thawed to use but only 93 pregnancies and only 41 live births.  Robert Winston felt that there was not enough research into whether there was more a likelihood of miscarriage with egg freezing.

Dr Kylie Baldwin confirmed that it is very difficult to get the confirmation about the number of live births from frozen eggs.  She recommended that women be encouraged to freeze their eggs at a younger age when the eggs are more likely to be viable. The other key point made by Winston is that the egg freezing industry is very much driven by money.

However, Carolyn Payne felt the procedure was empowering as she felt she was taking control of her fertility and extending her choices.  Although it cost her a great deal of money, for her it gave her peace of mind.

I've written on this blog before about some of my reservations about egg freezing in this post Is Egg Freezing a Solution to the Baby Decision? 

If you are interested in hearing the Women's Hour Programme you can listen by clicking on the link below.   The recording will be taken down within 30 days so if you click on it after June 2018,  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b2gsn4/segments



Monday, 14 May 2018

The Royal Wedding: Intrusive Specutation Faced by Couples on Their Baby Decision

It's the Royal Wedding week here in the UK and the excitement over the impending wedding of Megham Marklet and Prince Harry is reaching a fever pitch and street parties all over the country are planned. 

One thing that many couples can relate to is the intrusive speculation on whether (and when) they will be having children.   A quick goggle search shows that there is much speculation and talk of whether and when they will be having children.   Meghan would love to have children, close friend says  . In one particularly intrusive article, Meghan is described as having 'Royal Baby Fever.

Yet, even without the press intrusion that Meghan and Harry face, other people's opinions and thoughts can be very uncomfortable for couples.

'Even before we got married, friends and family were asking me when we were going to start a family.  It was uncomfortable as neither of us were sure that we wanted children in the first place.  Once we got married, the assumption seems to be that the next step is to start a family.  And when people say start a family, they mean having kids.  I feel like we are a family now - me and him and also our extended family.   We still might decide to have children but it's easier when people aren't always trying to pin us down and get an answer.' (Janet, woman interviewed for my book Baby or Not?)

Janet, whom I interviewed for my book,  points to the problem. Despite the progress we have made, despite the fact that non-traditional relationships like lesbian and gay marriage are now mainstream, we still see having children as a necessary step in building a family.

What would it be like if Meghan and Harry decided not to have children?  You can imagine the headlines - the shock!  Yet, if a couple feel that they have a full and happy life and if they have other ways they want to bond and grow as family, why should they face intrusive questions?

Another issue - of course - is the pain faced by people who do want children but can't.  Many people who are childless not by choice report how painful it can be to face questions about when they will have children or why they don't have children.

We need to have more sensitively as a society to the myriad of situations that people find themselves in.  I wish Meghan and Harry well and I hope after they get married they don't face endless speculation in the press. 



Thursday, 10 May 2018

When Expectations Don't Match Reality

One of the big issues with the decision to become a mother is the big mis-match between expectations or the fantasy of having children vs the reality.  It's this mis-match that is often behind the maternal ambivalence that is so often felt by new mothers.

In this advice column Dear Dana I'm Miserable , the adviser points this out - bluntly - to the woman seeking advice. 

'Whoever told you that getting married and having kids was going to make you happy? I know – only every TV show and movie and book you ever read. It’s not your fault that you expected the mere presence of a family to make your life complete.

There’s a societal push to get us all into domestic life as soon as we hit our mid-20s. Get on the assembly line, get a job, get a car, get married, have a kid, have another kid, don’t have too many kids because that’ll weird people out, now take care of your kids and be happy like the rest of us.'

As Dana, points out, so often motherhood is sold to women as the solution.  It is meant to fulfil us right?  And when we don't feel fulfilled, when we feel stressed or, like the woman seeking advice, miserable, we also feel like we are a big FAILURE.

So, how does this help everyone out there who is trying to make the decision to have children or not? 

It helps because it takes away the pressure to have children in order to be fulfilled.  And it also helps because it's normalising the grungy and not nice bits of motherhood.   As Dana said, her mother did her a favour by saying that motherhood was not all a bed of roses. 

After we take a step back and look at motherhood with all it's flaws, we might decide not to have children and embrace being child-free and finding fulfilment in other ways.  OR, we might decide that we can embrace the ambivalence of motherhood - with it's down sides and miserable bits too.  We might see how we could create a reality that allows us to - as Dana points out - time for ourselves, time to make OURSELVES happy.   

We could also call on the knowledge that concepts of happiness and fulfilment are more complex than often portrayed in popular media images of family life.   A German sociologist Matthia Pollmann-Schult carried out a long term study from 1994 to 2010 where he said his findings showed that parenthood as 'subtantial and enduring positive effect on life satisfaction.'  So, he argues although on a day to day basis parents of children may not experience as much happiness, they could experience overall positive effect on their life satisfaction.

For me, it's important to stop comparing myself and my life with an ideal of image of who I should be or how I should be.    Where are you comparing yourself to expectations of others (or expectations of your saboteur)?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Trapped by the 'either/or' - What I've learnt over 10 Year of Coaching on the Baby Decision (Lesson 2)

An integral part of my coaching approach is working with polarity.  Polarities are interdependent opposites which form a whole.   Common polarities that we all experience are Order vs Chaos,  Control vs Letting go,  Independence vs Connection, Knowing vs Not Knowing.  We commonly talk about 'either/or' thinking or ways of being.  Of course, having a baby is a choice to either have a baby or not!  But when I look at polarity in coaching, I'm looking at and exploring an 'either/or' way of thinking and way of being that is actually preventing women from making the choice.

I learnt this lesson because soon after I began to coach women on this decision,  I noticed that many of my clients seemed to be stuck in what is called a 'polarity trap' where we find it hard to allow ourselves to experience or be with one of the poles in a polarity.  For example, some of my clients report that they like to be in control - they find being in control makes them feel safe and they find not being in control frightening.  Yet, there are many times when we have to accept that we can't be in total control - there are factors outside our control, other people make decision or do things that we would not.   If we are going to have a baby, we might not be able to control how the pregnancy goes, what the birth is like and what kind of mother we will be. 

What I do with my clients when they are struggling with this,  is to explore each pole in the polarity to see what works and what doesn't work for them about each pole.  And then we look at how they can have a little bit more integration where they are able to move more freely between each pole or way of being.

R.V is one of my coaching clients.  She is also an artist and drew these wonderful illustrations of the polarity of freedom and responsibility which she has been exploring in our sessions.  I feel they show beautifully the  process of working with polarity and wholeness.  They show the journey we go on to explore the ‘landscapes’ of each pole, to make each pole our own (or embody it) and then to experiment with what it is like to both poles in one landscape. She has given me her permission to use these photos (without her full name attached ) on this blog for which I thank her greatly!    Rather than me try to explain each illustration or write a commentary on them, I think it would be more powerful for you the blog reader to see what speaks to you, what resonates with you, what sparks of your thoughts about this polarity?

Questions to help you include: What do you notice about the drawing of each pole, what speaks to you about the energy of pole?  What seems to be good or not so good about each pole? In the final last where she explores the place of integration, where there is both freedom and responsibility, what is different, what has shifted?




Friday, 13 April 2018

Message in a bottle

 I've been writing on this blog for over 10 years now.    Sometimes it feels like I am putting messages in a bottle and sending them out to sea!  I'm never sure where the messages in my blog land.  Who is reading? Is it helping people make the decision.  I know that people read it from seeing the statistics of who is reading the blog.   And I'm aware of people who read the blog but need extra help making the decision whether to have kids from readers who contact me to ask for coaching after reading the blog.   But sometimes I wonder whether what I'm writing truly impacts on all the people who are reading it around the world.

Yesterday,  I got an email out of the blue that helps me know that it's all worth it!

'I've been reading your children or not blog for a couple of years now and it has really helped me to articulate my fears both to myself and to my boyfriend. We're both over the moon about this ENORMOUS change and I don't feel like I'm going into it naively. Thank you!' - Blog reader, UK

Wow! I feel so honoured to have been able to have an impact and have helped people like this reader.  I know what a difficult place many of you find yourselves in when you are really struggling to work out whether you want to have children, whether you want to be a parent or whether you want to continue to enjoy and embrace your live without children.   This reader points to one of my most important messages, that  we need to be able to acknowledge and articulate our fears about having and not having children.  Our society doesn't want us to give a voice to these fears and many people feel like they can't say that they are afraid of being a parent... or of not having children.  Once we can do this, we can then address those fears... which is the first step in being able to move on.

Thank you to all my readers over the years.  I shall continue to be writing on the blog, sending my messages off into the sea to wash up where-ever people are in the world who need to read them!

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Can you regret becoming a parent?

Today, the BBC published an short film Film: The mothers who regret having children  and an accompanying  article:   BBC Article on mothers who regret with several interviews of women who said that they regret motherhood. Although not thought to be common, the article points to a You Gov poll which showed that 8% of 1,200 participants said they regretted becoming parents.

What ways did the regret manifest?  Loss of freedom and a sense of overwhelming responsibility was the key regret and this is something I have read in other reports of parents who have experienced regret at parenthood.  That loss of self and loss of identity was extremely overwhelming for many people.  One woman described it as sacrificing your freedom for someone else.

One of the interviewees spoke about how difficult she felt it was when she became a single parent in particular.  And this can be very challenging - particularly if we had expected to have the support of a partner in parenthood.

Interestingly, several of the women said that they didn't realise that it was possible not to be maternal until they had children.   One woman said in the film that 'I just wasn't that frilly lovely mum.'  Another woman said 'I did love my children but I didn't enjoy my children.'   As one women points out,  women are seen as the nurturers, the ones who nurture and care and if you don't feel that, you aren't a natural woman.

A common belief that some of the woman realised wasn't true was that having children would make you 'complete'.   I think this is very very important to know and no matter what decision you make, I don't believe that it is children that complete us.   A very poignant point in the interview is when one of the women discusses how she had this image of the happy family, children trotting off to school and everyone one happy family.   Part of the shock for her was that she hadn't realised how far off reality was from this image. 

Much of the problem I think is because we still have such idealised visions of motherhood and family life.  And when the reality doesn't even come close to this, disappointment and regret is indeed possible.   What was clear from all the interviews was that, despite the feelings of regret, all the woman said they still loved their children very much

So how can this all help you if you are making the decision.... particularly if one of your main fears is whether you will experience regret the decision to have children or not?    It's very important to try to untangle fears that might be led by your 'saboteur' (part of you that is very critical or might be sabotaging yourself) from what your instinct/gut/wisdom is telling you about wanting children.   When I work with clients, we explore these fears and interrogate them.  Then, when we've brought those out into the open, we can begin to look at what our gut is telling us.  In all of these case studies, the women did have a fairly strong sense that having children was not ultimately for them but they didn't feel able to give this part of them a voice.

There have been times when I have worked with clients who have really wanted to be able to feel a desire to have children - mainly because their husband or partner wanted kids and they didn't.  But in some of those cases, when we have untangled and unpicked their fears and then really looked at what their inner voice was saying, the client still had a strong sense that they didn't want children.  And sometimes, women found themselves surprised to discover that they did have a desire to have children that had been buried by fears that, once looked at, didn't seem so large or overwhelming.

At the end of the day, we need to be able to listen to our gut and make the best possible for us at this moment in time.  I believe when we take the time to consider this crucial decision and look at it from all angles, we are much less likely to experience regret because we are making a pro-active choice that is based on self-reflection and exploring the issue as best we can at the time. 








Sunday, 11 March 2018

Not Being a Mother On Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in the UK - a time to celebrate mothers and acknowledge the impact in our lives.   But, for many women, Mother's Day can feel painful and exclusionary - particularly if

  • you are trying to decide whether to become a mother, 
  • you're trying to get pregnant but haven't had any luck, 
  • you do want a child but you can't because you're partner said no, 
  • you have simply decided that you don't want children, 

So how can you be on this Mother's Day if you are finding it difficult?

The blogger 'That Girl' wrote an article called  Mother's Day When You Are Not A Mom  had some good practical suggestions and some amusing suggestions of activities you can do on Mother's Day.

Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women (for women who are childless not by choice) wrote this powerful piece for Red Magazine What Mother's Day Feels Like When You are Childless    In it, she talks about the importance of owning and accepting the range of feelings you might be feeling today - the full range from sadness to anger to bitterness. 

Anger has vital work to do, if only we’d let it. I think bitterness probably has a lot more to do with not allowing ourselves to take the actions and have the conversations (both individually and culturally) that anger wants and needs us childless women to be having!  Silencing ourselves for fear of sounding bitter is much more likely to make us bitter. We need to understand that anger is an entirely valid emotional response to the unfairness we’re forced to make our peace with.  -  Jody Day

In many Christian traditions,  Mothering Sunday is often seen as an opportunity to celebrate anyone who has taken a mothering role in some aspect of life.  This might be a teacher, a minister, a favourite aunt, a volunteer and so on.  This article echoes that view http://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2017/05/12/mothers-day-marjorie-s-rosenthal

So on this Mother's Day, remember to take time to just acknowledge and be with your anger.. but then, perhaps there is a way you can celebrate your 'inner mother' - the part of you that is nurturing and caring.... whether you have children or not.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

10 Lessons Series: Number 1 - Fear of Regret Keeps Us Stuck

I'm kicking off my series of '10 Lessons from 10 Year of Maybe Baby Coaching' with my first lesson:

Fear of Regret Keeps Us Stuck

Most of my clients come to see me because of their fear of experiencing regret in the future  Many, many times I've heard in my first session the anxious question 'What if, no matter what decision I make, I regret it?'   Their anxious mind goes round and round in circles - working through different scenarios.   The very fear about regret seems to bring about a catastrophising tendency in many of my clients.   It can seems safer to our fearful and anxious minds to not move forward and make a decision - particularly when any decision may lead to disaster. 

As one client said to me 'If I walk through one door, then I'm shutting the other door.  And all I can imagine is feeling regret, and never being able to change it.'  When we look at the baby decision from this perspective, it seems an impossible one. What I have noticed that even though have not yet made a decision that will cause them regret, in thinking and worrying about regret, they often seem to recreate the mindset people get into when they experience regret. This article in Psychology Today, 'The Psychology of Regret'  describes this 'regret mindset'.

'Regret can have damaging effects on mind and body when it turns into fruitless rumination and self-blame that keeps people from re-engaging with life. This pattern of repetitive, negative, self-focused ruminative thinking is characteristic of depression and may be a cause of this mental health problem as well. Other research, reported in the AARP Newsletter, shows regret can result in chronic stress, negatively affecting hormonal and immune system functioning. Regret impedes the ability to recover from stressful life events by extending their emotional reach for months, years, or lifetimes.'

It's crucial that in order to make the baby decision that you break out of this negative, fear based mindset.   There are two very simple steps to help you get into a better mindset to move forward.

1. Interrupt your repetitive and anxious 'what if' thinking .  This can be hard because once you are in the grip of anxious thinking in can be hard to pull yourself out of it.  As soon as you notice yourself doing this, find a short sentence you can say to stop the thinking.  Even 'I'm not paying attention - I'm putting these thoughts in the bin!'.  OR change your environment.  Go for a walk.  You can also use a simple mindfulness technique of simply noticing everything you are feeling and noticing about where you are right now, starting each sentence in your head with the words 'And now I am noticing.... the sounds of the cars, the colour of the sky, etc'

2. Once you've interrupted the thoughts, I invite you to spend some time connecting with TRUST.  This is your sense of trust - trust in yourself to make the right decision for the future, trust that things will work out even if you don't know exactly how yet.  You can connect with trust by shutting your eyes and imagining that you can go inside yourself and see where trust lives in you - you can imagine what trust looks like or feels like inside of you.  You can also discover trust by simply asking yourself the question 'What would it be like if I could have a little bit more trust in my body or my being right not.'

When we have abit more trust in ourselves and in the world, we become less fearful and worried about the future.  We are more likely to believe in ourselves, believe that we are resilient and able to deal with life's challenges.










Thursday, 1 February 2018

Celebrating 10 Years of Maybe Baby Coaching

2018 marks my 10 Year Anniversary of Ticktock Coaching! 10 rich and fulfilling years of coaching women (and occasionally men) on the decision to have children or not... and of writing this blog of course!   This is a very exciting milestone for me and I would like to spend the whole year marking it ... in many different ways.

So how it all began?  13 years ago, as I approached the age of 35  I found myself at the crossroads of a major dilemma - to have children or remain child-free?   It was a real struggle.  I found there was very little support or guidance.  When I walked into the bookstore, I would search the self-help shelves searching for something to help me.  But all the books were either for wannabe parents OR people who were definitely child-free.  Nothing much to help people like me who found ourselves directly in the middle!

In the end, after much angst I decided to become a parent.(and I then managed to get my own partner on board and I experienced the very real difficulty when you are with a partner who is not as keen on having a child as you are). Yet, I also realised that I could have had an equally satisfying child-free life if I hadn't had a child.    Today I firmly believe that there is no 'wrong choice', there is no privileged position, no better way of life for women. 

I realised that if I struggled so much with the decision, other people must be struggling as well. I had gone for career coaching and I had also used coaching skills as a manager,  I realised that coaching would be a very appropriate way to help people through the baby decision.  Coaching focuses on helping people look at an issue in a different way and explore it from different perspectives.  Trust is a big factor in coaching, helping people to learn to trust themselves and their inner wisdom.

 As I went through my coach training and accreditation process, I did question my choice to focus on this area and wondered whether there were enough people who were struggling with this decision.  But I soon realised how great the need was once I launched Ticktock Coaching 10 years ago.

Throughout the year, I will be celebrating my 10 year anniversary with looking at 'Ten Things I have Learnt As a Maybe Baby Coach'  Every month, I will be writing a blog post on one of those ten things I have learnt over these 10 years.  Look out for the first post next week.

Another way that I will mark my 10 year anniversary is through carrying out a survey of all my former clients to find out how the coaching impacted upon them and what percentage made the decision to have children and what percentage decided to stay child-free.

I've coached hundreds of people on the baby decision over the years and it's been uplifting and interesting to hear back informally from client but it will be good to get more statistics and data on what decisions people made and how coaching has helped.  I'll be publishing those results later in the year here on the blog.

I'm going to be brainstorming other was to celebrate throughout the year too as well I'm thinking of getting an anniversary cake baked and having an afternoon tea part with friends, colleagues and former clients.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop me an email.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Book Review - Motherhood: Is It For Me?

Happy New Year! If you have been struggling with trying to decide whether to be a mother or not, then 2018 might be the year you move forward and make the decision.

To start the New Year, I wanted to introduce you all to a fantastic book and resource by Denise L. Carlini and Ann Davidman called 'Motherhood:Is It For Me?.   When I started coaching on this topic 10 years ago, there was very little out there to support those of us who really weren't sure whether we wanted to have children or not.  And, as most of you know, that's what led me to start Ticktock Coaching and write my book Baby or Not? Making the Biggest Decision of Your Life.

Yet, I was just starting out on my journey to develop my coaching practice to help women, Denise and Ann had already been working for 10 years with women on the very same issue in the USA!   

Denise and Ann are experienced psychotherapists who have developed a program and process for helping women through making this decision.   It's very evident and apparent how much their experience working with individual women over many years has informed this book.  They have spent two decades - 20 years - creating the program which takes readers carefully through the full process they use with individual clients.   This depth of experience which the book and their process is based upon really gives the book a solid foundation that gives you trust that the writers know what you are going through. 

There approach very much chimes with my own belief in coaching on the baby decision.  This passage in their introduction very much resonated with me.

'We've learned that your uncertainty is complex and likely accompanied by powerful feelings such as fear, ambivalence, doubt, confusion, sadness and shame.  Experience has taught us that a deep knowing of what you truly want must precede making a clear and informed decision.'

The book takes you through the 12 week process from Week 1 'Preparing for Your Journey' to Week 12  'Arriving'.    Throughout the process, they give a range of writing and creative exercises (including many creative visualisation exercises which I find so valuable) to help you reflect on yourself, your fears, desires, who you are and then finally, helping you to move forward out of the limbo of indecision. 

If you are interested in buying the book or finding out more about their work you can find out more on their website at Motherhood Is it for Me?

I'm so glad that Denise and Ann  - and other practitioners in the world such as Baby Dilemma in the Netherlands - are working to help women (and sometimes men) who are struggling to decide whether to have kids or not.   There are so many women all over the world who are wondering whether motherhood is for them that we need a variety and range of people, books and resources to help them navigate their way through this important decision.