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.

Friday, 28 December 2018

'We're still expected to conform' - Lessons from a decade of Maybe Baby coaching

Throughout this year,  I've written an occasional series on this blog on the lessons that I have learnt in over a decade of coaching people who are struggling with questions such as:

  •  How do you know if you want a baby or not? 
  •  How do I know whether I want to be a mother?
  •  Do I want children?
  • Will I regret not having children?
If you aren't in this position, it can be difficult to understand why people struggle so much with these questions.   But if you are ambivalent with the idea of motherhood, there are many underlying reasons why you will feel so stuck. 

One of the main factors I've come to realise is fundamental to many of my clients is the pressure that they feel to conform to society norms - both of gender norms of what it means to be a women and how we should live as adults.  

'We are still expected to conform' said one client to me one day.  She had been struggling with the decision of whether to have children for several years before coming to see me.  We were looking at her feelings that she would be inadequate as a woman if she didn't have children.   And it became clear that she had 'absorbed' many of messages and beliefs from society, her family and community. 

Many of us unconsciously absorb beliefs that aren't ours.  It's how we as humans become socialised.  Socialisation isn't all bad - it's how we learnt right from wrong.  We learnt about taking turns, being polite, how to negotiate the world.   But sometimes, it isn't until we go to another culture that we realise that our beliefs which we have taken for granted are not shared everywhere and importantly, they are not innate. 

Looking at a simple example of lining (or queueing) for a bus or at a take away.  When I first came to the UK, I wasn't very aware of the British etiquette of queueing.  Now, after 30 years in the UK, I find myself feeling mildly uncomfortable when I'm in another country and the British rules of queueing are not observed or if I can't work out where the line is and who is next. 

'It's only the British that have such a strict approach to lines Beth.' my German friend said after observing me stress out when people at the bus station in Spain seemed to be randomly approaching the ticket seller.  'In many countries, people take the attitude that when there is a 'gap' that needs filling, we move in.' she explained.

I realised that I had become socialised into the British way of lining up (or queueing).

When it comes to expectations of having children and motherhood, then the beliefs are harder to identify because, we seem to have progressed a great deal from the 1950's were stereotypical images of woman and motherhood were more explicit.   Advertising has moved on since the days of 'Mad Men'

And yet,  many of my coaching clients say that they feel underlying pressure to conform to a vision of womanhood that involves being a mother.    This pressure contributes to the ambivalence towards having children that many of my clients feel.   Why would anyone want to have children just because they feel pressure to do so?   But.... if it was only pressure that my clients were feeling, then they wouldn't be feeling stuck.  I've spoken to child free women who are aware of society expectations but don't feel any pressure because they don't feel any ambivalence - they know they don't want children. 

But you are already feeling ambivalence around having kids, feeling the pressure to conform and make the decision doesn't help.   It can cause you to be stuck and paralysed. 

When I work with clients, I help people step back and separate out the beliefs that they might have inherited from their beliefs and feelings.  Then we can look at what we really want and at questions like how could I be a mother and not conform to stereotypical images of motherhood? If I didn't have a child, how I can I keep shaking off the stereotypes of what is expected of me?  Whether we have children or not, we don't have to conform to narrow beliefs of what it means to be a woman or a mother. 

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