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.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Acceptance: Knowing When to Let Go

I'm very pleased to be speaking at the Annual Conference for Childless Women and Men happening in the UK on Saturday 14th October.  As I mentioned in my last blog post, many people who are childless by circumstance feel isolated.  This conference is a fantastic opportunity to come together with other childless people ... most of who will be childless not by choice and discuss their situation and challenges they share.

The topic of my interactive session at the conference will be on  'When to stop trying? Making the decision and accepting it.'

Over my time coaching women on this issue,  I've found that it can be very important to give some focus to letting go (or acceptance) to help some of my clients make the baby decision. I've found that this is particularly important for people that I work with who have been struggling with trying to decide whether to continue with more complex options to have children including fertility treatment, adoption or surrogacy - either with a partner or on their own.

Sometimes I've had clients who have said that they have invested so much time and money into pursing an option like IVF, they feel that if they give up, they are someone admitting that they made a mistake in the first place.  Other clients feel that if they don't pursue every option, (even if they are struggling with that option) then they might regret it when they are older.

But options like adoption or having a child with donor sperm as a single parent might not be the right choice for everyone.  It's ok to say 'You know what, I have wanted a child but... it's too much for me at this point in my life to embark on fertility treatment/adopt a child/consider having a baby on my own.'   And if you have spent money and time on fertility treatment, it's ok to 'draw a line in the sand'.
When we do this, we do have to confront our sadness and mourning of the end of a dream.  When we are continually looking and exploring options we can hold back that sadness.  Part of letting go dealing with our sadness and accepting that life has not turned out how we had hoped or desired.

I'll be exploring this at the conference in October as I do with clients and hope to take participants through one or two practical coaching exercises to help them explore whether they are ready to stop trying and, if they might be, how can they move forward towards a state of acceptance about this decision.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Looking after each other - Getting Older Without Children

One of the common fears of my clients is that they will be lonely, un-cared for when they get older if they don't have children.   Getting older without children is a big concern for those people who don't have children - either by choice or by circumstance.   We live in a world which assumes that if you are older you will have children or younger relatives who will help you - take you to the doctor, ensure you take medicine, and generally keep an eye on you.  At the same time, society has become more fragmented and there is a sense that neighbours don't know each other as they used to. (However, this could be nostalgia)

 According to recent research carried out by the Campaign to End Loneliness:

17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week and 11% are in contact less than once a month (Victor et al, 2003)
Over half (51%) of all people aged 75 and over live alone (ONS, 2010)
Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company (Age UK, 2014)
63% of adults aged 52 or over who have been widowed, and 51% of the same group who are separated or divorced report, feeling lonely some of the time or often (Beaumont, 2013)
59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often, compared to 21% who say they are in excellent health (Beaumont, 2013)
A higher percentage of women than men report feeling lonely some of the time or often  (Beaumont, 2013)

In the UK, an organisation was set up to address this issue.  Called Aging without Children, the group says that:

Our vision is “Ageing well together without children” and our mission is “campaigning, information and support for people ageing without children”.campaigning, information and support for people ageing without children”.

Our  aims are threefold:

Illuminate – to generate greater awareness and understanding of this segment of the older population and of the implications of ageing without children for public services and society more broadly.
Connect – to build networks, connecting and enabling locality-based and online communities of older people without children.
Innovate – through working in partnership and stimulating action by other entities, to facilitate the development and testing of new services and initiatives that meet the needs of older people without children – and, more broadly, of our ageing society.

Other groups of adults without children are getting together to address some of these issues in practical ways.   In the article While I'll be spending my golden years with my golden girls, Kiran Sidhu writes about her and her friends light-hearted plans to buy a house together to live in and support each other when they are older so they will never be lonely.

'My friends and I have come up with an alternative way to live out our golden years. When the time comes, we have decided that we will pool all our resources and buy a property that we will live in. According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for more than a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. With our alternative old-age plan, we hope to avoid that loneliness. We will all live together and be each other’s carer and emotional companion.'

The Older Women's Housing CoHousing network saw the fruition of their dream realised this year when their co-housing project was built.  This was a great achievement and shows how a multi-generational community, a community where you will grow old with others of different ages, together.



Monday, 21 August 2017

Modern Families


Our preconceptions of what a family 'should' look like can contribute to our difficulty making the decision to have children.  Our society is much more inclusive  of different family compositions today as opposed to 10 years ago and TV programmes like 'Modern Families'  are mainstream and popular.

Yet, change comes slowly and there is still stigma faced by those that don't conform with conventional norms. Some clients who come to me are struggling with a desire to have children with the desire to have a child in a traditional two parent family.   But you might not be in a position to have a child in your 'ideal' family situation.   You may be single or you might have a partner who definitely doesn't want children.    Or you or your partner might want children but might feel that you need to have a child that is yours biologically.  This can set up a tension within us which can feel impossible to resolve.

I love collecting first person stories of people who are creating families in a different ways.  This story recently published in the New York Times Modern Love: Four Castaways Make a Family came from a woman who always knew she wanted to adopt and whose choice didn't resonate with most of her friends.

As far as I knew, I was capable of getting pregnant. I just didn’t want to. There were half a million children in foster care in need of an adoptive parent. And I wanted children, so this made perfect sense to me.

It didn’t make perfect sense to my friends.

“Aren’t you afraid?” they asked.'

If your worries about having a children in an unconventional context is contributing to your struggle to decide whether to have children or not, things you can do to help include:

  • Looking for examples in magazines, newspaper and online of different types of families.
  • Talk to people who are single parents, adoptive or foster parents.
  • Write down all your fears and worries about having a child in a non-conventional family setting.  Put it away for a week and then re-look at it.  Do those fears still feel so powerful?  If there are still fears that feel powerful, do some writing on how you could address or deal with those fears.
At the end of the process, be kind to yourself.  You might decide you don't want to have a child as a single parent, you might decide you don't want to be a foster or adoptive parent.  These are challenging options and it's ok to also say that that's just not right for you.   I've worked with coaching clients who have decided to go ahead and adopt/foster/have a child on their own and I've worked with those who decided not to.    The process of coaching allows all these clients to explore and challenge their fears.  Whatever decision is made afterwards, these clients know that they are making it with fuller awareness and are not simply being led by fears or beliefs/stereotypes.


Friday, 11 August 2017

Are you shocked by women who regret motherhood?


View of Halifax, Nova Scotia
I hope everyone is having a good summer..... even those of you in the Southern Hemisphere where I know it's now winter.  I have a number of clients in Australia and New Zealand and I am forever having to remind myself that the seasons are reversed!

Last week, I returned to a rainy UK from my annual summer visit to my homeland of Nova Scotia. The weather there was beautiful and sunny while it has been rainy in the UK so I'm feeling very grateful that at least I have enjoyed some summer sun.

This week, I've been struck by the number of articles and writing on mothers who regret being mothers.  It's almost as if the media has just discovered that some mothers might experience a sense of loss of their identity and sense of self when they have children!  As I've mentioned elsewhere on the blog, it's a topic of concern for many of my clients.

I do find the way the debate is often framed highly problematic however. This article recently published in Australia called Anyone Shocked by Women Who Regret Motherhood Isn't Listening  made many interesting points about the structural nature of discrimination against mothers.

In the article, writer Amy Gray looks at the response to some of the recent writing on women who regret becoming mothers.

'Reaction to this [mothers who regret becoming mothers] has been mixed – a combination of recognition and personal revulsion towards the women. When we hear something veer off from society's tightly-held script, there's always an immediate emotional reaction which seeks to minimise the shock. Surely there is something wrong with these women, hushed shock that anyone could question the benign glow with which we paint motherhood.

Invariably, these women are painted as mentally ill, because people can think of no other reason they would find fault with motherhood. It must be the mother, who must have post-natal depression that has somehow lasted for 9 years or more.  It's the mothers who are judged, and not the systems that oppress them.'

As I wrote about in an earlier blog post called Regretting Motherhood, writer Rachel Cusk also talks about how the adverse reaction to her seminal book 'A Life's Work' which was one of the first books to talk about the issue of regret in mothers, was very judgemental of her.

As Amy Gray points out, the reality faced by many mothers is that they find themselves responsible for.....

'doing the majority of child rearing and home chores. You won't be paid for it, you won't be respected for it and it won't pay into your super [pension].... Not only are women expected to do this, they're expected to love it. This is despite the fact women are often unsupported and feel isolated if they don't fit the ideal picture of motherhood – the woman who can attend school meetings at 2pm, has a clean home, dotes on her children and anyone passing by. Who wouldn't be isolated by an identity that ignores who they are but continually judges what they can do for others?'

I think it's very important as a coach to help my clients challenge and disrupt these assumptions and 'norms' of what motherhood should look like.  This is because I think that what women are regretting is not having children.... but having accepted society's uncomfortable vision of motherhood.

 We want to examine the 'tightly-held script' that writer Amy Gray describes, look elsewhere and see if we can create a version of motherhood that is more realistic, that is away from the ideal picture of motherhood.  If you were to do that, is becoming a mother a decision that seems more plausible and less fraught?





Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Decidophobia: Are you afraid of making the wrong decision?

Princeton University philosopher Walter Kaufmann in his book Without Guilt and Justice looked at the fear that many people have of making decision.  Written in the 1970's Kaufmann coined the term 'decidophobia' to describe the fear some of us have of even making the smallest of decision.

I only recently discovered Kaufmann's work through this Forbes article which mentions him in passing in this article Overcome the Fear of Making Decisions.  I was drawn to him as he articulates one of the key reasons I've thought that many of my clients get stuck around the baby decision.   That is being stuck because of fear of making the wrong choice.  Many clients have said to me that if they didn't have a choice - for example if they either found that they were pregnant by accident OR that they were infertile and couldn't have children, they would feel a sense of relief as the decision would have been made for them.  As Kaufmann states in the paragraph below, the guilt and fear that comes from making the 'wrong' decision can often feel overwhelming.

Humanity craves but dreads autonomy. One does not want to live under the yoke of guilt and fear. Autonomy consists of making with open eyes the decisions that give shape to one’s life. But being afraid of making fateful decisions, one is tempted to hide autonomy in a metaphysical fog and to become sidetracked and bogged down in puzzles about free will and determinism. It is far easier to define autonomy out of existence than it is to achieve autonomy in the very meaningful sense in which it can be attained. The difference between making the decisions that govern our lives with our eyes open and somehow avoiding this is all-important. 

I love how he describes the paradox between us as humans wanting and asserting our autonomy while at the same time fearing it. What we are fearing is the enormous responsibility that autonomy gives us.   In an article I was quoted in about 10 years ago in the Economist called The Tyranny of Choice

We've grown up with a lot more choice than our mothers or grandmothers; for them, being child-free wasn't a choice, it was pitied,” says Beth Follini, an American life coach who specialises in the “maybe baby” dilemma. “The anxiety comes from worrying about making the wrong choice.” Having options seems to make people think they can have control over outcomes too. Sometimes, says Ms Follini, choosing is about learning to live without control.

How can we overcome this fear? One way is through looking at and addressing this self-sabotaging fear head on. When I work with a client who has an overwhelming fear of making the decision, we often look at what their saboteur or inner critic is saying.  Often, the client might have a very perfectionist saboteur and a belief that they must know, that they must have knowledge that theirs is the 'perfect' decision - the right one.   When clients can begin to reduce the power of this saboteur, then clients find that the overwhelming pressure begins to lift and they can begin to trust themselves to know that they can move forward and make the baby decision.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Childless by Circumstance - A Conference for Women and Men

I'm so pleased to be speaking at this Annual Conference for Childless Women and Men.  It's happening on Saturday 14th May in Birmingham and it promises to be an event to explore many of the issues and concerns facing women and men who do not have children.

Conference organisers describe the purpose of the event as a chance for all those who are childless by circumstance to get together in a safe environment and listen to the most phenomenal speakers and build on our supportive community.

Although I mainly use the term child-free in much of my writing on this blog, it doesn't adequately describe women and men who are childless by circumstance. Many of the clients I have seen fall into this group and the circumstances that face people in this situation include:

- having a partner who doesn't want children
- fertility issues
- being single and not feeling able or wanting to have a child as a solo parent

Kerry, the conference organiser describes some of the reasons behind organising this event.

When I first realised I was not going to have the children I had hoped for I was angry at first that I had, just prior to that moment, thought I was going mad. Grieving for something that had never breathed life. Only to then find out I was not the only one, by a long way. 1 in 4 women of child-bearing age have not given birth. Yet where were we all? We are 'hidden' within our own Culture  and dealing with others' often intrusive questioning was exhausting and stressful.

The intrusive questioning and assumptions made by others is something I have heard again and again from clients.  Our culture seems to assume that individual circumstances of fertility and child-bearing is something that we can all comment on  and this lack of understanding and sensitivity is incredibly painful.

That's why it's so wonderful to see the energy gathering to bring people together to talk about and explore many of the issues faced by women and men who are childless by circumstance.   I'm looking forward to meeting everyone there and discussing more of these issues together.
Hello, my name is Kerry and when I first realised I was not going to have the children I had hoped for I was angry at first that I had, just prior to that moment, thought I was going mad. Grieving for something that had never breathed life. Only to then find out I was not the only one, by a long way. 1 in4 women of child-bearing age have not given birth. Yet where were we all? We are 'hidden' within our own Culture  and dealing with others' often intrusive questioning was exhausting and stressful.



Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Do I want a baby enough to go through IVF and ongoing fertility treatment

For some of my clients, deciding whether to have a baby is complicated by problems with fertility. According to the NHS website, around one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving. This is approximately 3.5 million people in the UK.  That's a lot of people who do want child but who are struggling.

I've sometimes worked with clients who, if they could have gotten pregnant naturally, would not be struggling with the decision.  But the stress and heartache of IVF forces people to ask themselves the question.  Do I want to go through IVF? Do I want a child enough to go through what can be a long and difficult process?  Will I regret it if I don't do everything in my power to have a child?

This article Motherhood and Waiting Takeover explores the journey of IVF and how the waiting takes over your body and your life.

'It is not just the takeover of your body that makes IVF so challenging, but the takeover of your schedule, your life. Every-other-morning appointments, waiting by the phone for news about the results of blood draws, timing injections precisely, ordering more medication or procuring discounted or free leftovers from women finished with their cycles: it all takes time'

Clients who have tried to have a child naturally and are now facing the decision to go through IVF often feel guilty and worried.  A common theme is 'I've wanted this and now that there are some challenges, I'm questioning whether I do want children because if I really did, I would go through anything.'

 I believe that it's important to give ourselves permission to make the choice not to go through with a difficult and stressful medical procedure.  Many times clients say that they are not keen to go into IVF but they feel that they should, that they should try everything or else they will regret it.  Yet, when we are kind to ourselves and give ourselves permission to let go of guilt and the 'I should'  we can make the choice that is right for us.  

When clients do this, sometimes they realise that it's ok to make a decision based on the context.  It's not giving up to say that in this circumstance, I have decided not to have children.   And then, sometimes  sometimes they decide that they will try IVF but without the same negative feelings of guilt or worry pushing them to do so.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Why would I want to bring a child into this world?

It's been a heartbreaking couple of weeks here in London.   As some of my readers may know, I sing with Borough Market Choir.  My practise room where I see face-to-face clients is just 5 minutes walk from London Bridge and Borough Market.  It's my neighbourhood.  The photo above is of one of many moving tributes for the victims of the attack that have sprung up all over the area.

And then, two nights ago a terrible fire in West London in a tower block.  The horrible images of people being trapped  including the desperation of parents trying to escape with their children is almost unbearable.

When terrible events come close to us, it's frightening and disturbs our sense of security.   It can bring a sense of despair.

So for those considering parenthood, it can seem as if it is madness to bring a child into the world.  I wrote about this before in a blog post which explored how the concern about the environmental crisis in the world does affect some people who are considering whether to have children.  Why would I want to bring a child into this world? is a question I've heard from clients.  

There is no simple, no straightforward answer.    There are things happening all over the world seem chaotic and frightening.  For me it comes down to a key question.

 Do you want your decision to have children or not to be based on fear? Do you want to you want to give into the standpoint that the world is essentially a violent and hopeless place?

What happens when we tap into the feelings of community, love and belonging that always shines through in terrible times?  We can see people connecting more in the face of tragedy, people donating to charity and volunteering their time.    Maybe bringing a child into this world would not seem so hopeless, maybe we can see how our lives and the world would be enhance.

Or maybe, we would decide we didn't want a child after all.  But not because we were scared or thought the world was a bad place.  But, because it's not right for us - because we could create love and connection in other ways.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

Will I regret having children? Will I regret not having children?

Long-term readers of this blog will note that often I return to this topic of regret.

It's probably the one main driver in women (and some men) seeking coaching on the baby decision. Recently, a client said to me 'I feel trapped.  No matter which decision I imagine making, I constantly feel consumed by the fear that I will regret whatever choice I make.   When I imagine having children, I worry that I will regret this choice.  And then, the consequences of this choice will not only affect me, but it will affect my child and partner.    So then, I turn towards the option of being child-free.  But very soon I am overwhelmed by worries that I will be lonely, that my partner might have died or our relationship will have split up and I will be alone.  He might also regret the choice that I made - and he might find himself longing for fatherhood.'

This sums up the place that many of my clients find themselves in... of being driven by a fear of regret no matter what choice they make.

I think that's what keeps my clients and others in a limbo state - because when you are still deciding, you don't have to face the possibility of making the wrong choice, of regretting the choice you have made.

I've tried over the years to find ways to articulate my thoughts on regrets.  I say to clients that it's a paradox of the decision.  It's a decision that has big implications for our future and yet, we can only make it in the here and now.   In coaching, we work on visioning, looking at how we want to live our life now and in the future... and yet, we also have to be able to let go of the worry and desire to know and control our future in order to make the decision.

I found this short article by Oliver Burkeman Stop Worrying About Future Regrets really spot on about regret.  He references another recent article about parents who regretted having children.  Says Burkeman:

'The worst part about trying to minimise future regret, surely, is that you’ll never know if you succeeded. Who’s to say you’d have felt more or less regret if you’d taken a different path? In a feature in the Guardian back in February, several parents broke a major societal taboo by admitting that they regretted having kids. Obviously, though, they can’t know for sure if they’d have regretted not having kids even more. (The same applies, in reverse, to those who regret being childless.) I suspect what’s going on is not that some choices are more regret-proof than others, but that some people are more regret-prone, given to ruminating on roads not taken. Rather than having made a terrible mistake, maybe those regretful parents are just the kind who tend to regret things.'

I interviewed a woman who had decided to be child-free and she was in her early 60's.  She said that occasionally she felt a pang of regret when she saw a friend with a grand-child.  But she believed that whatever path you choose in live, you will feel regret.  It's part of being human.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Encounter with a coaching skeptic

I attended a fantastic wedding this weekend. My friend, the bride was born in the UK but her family is originally from India.  Her husband is  French and the wedding party was a wonderful mix of people from different countries and cultures.  It reminded me why I love living in London - this beautiful diverse multicultural city where, for the most part, everyone gets on.  I always feel a sense of acceptance.... or perhaps it's benign indifference - from Londoners.  People don't bat an eyelid at people in eccentric or unusual clothes on the tube for instance.

Even so, it can be very difficult to explain the work I do and how stressful it can be for many of my clients who are struggling to make the decision whether to have children or not.   I was reminded of this when I struck up a conversation with a wedding guest who I didn't know at the wedding reception.  We were having a great chat - about London, about diversity, and about our mutual friends who were getting married.

Then we started to talk about what we do for work.  My new friend told me about her interesting work in the field of medical research.  She then asked about my work.  When I told her about my work coaching women who were trying to decide whether to have children or not, she looked very surprised and said forthrightly.

'Honestly, I think if someone needs a coach to help them with that question, then the answer is no surely?  Either you know or you don't know right? I didn't want kids and I haven't thought much about it.  I really think it sounds like something for people I would call the 'worried-well''

I explained that while for some people - like herself - the question is indeed straightforward that for many people, the question is far more difficult and stressful.  

She still looked very skeptical and I plowed on.  Nothing I was saying was resonating very much until she made the point that it must be something that just effects a tiny minority of women as most of the world women are just having kids unless they can't.

'Ah, but that is because in many parts of the world, it's still not seen as a choice.  Think back to when our grandmothers were younger.  The idea that you could choose to be child free and decide not to have children was unheard of.   Now, we have made huge advances mainly down to the hard work of the feminist movement.  We have many more possibilities and choices.  But those choices have led to un-intended consequences.   Because we have choices, because we know that we can be in charge of our future, we can feel over-whelmed by making such a significant life choice.'

My new friend agreed with me on this point  and said she saw this was true very much in her family. but said she was still sceptical about the value of coaching. So, I made my final argument.

'Everyone has things that stress them out, fears that are blocking them from making a decision... something you find straightforward, someone else will find difficult or stressful.  We all have areas where we feel unsure and vulnerable.  I see my role as a coach to help people listen to their own voice of intuition - to be more confident in making the decision that is right for them.'

It was then time to toast the bride with champagne and we left our conversation to drink and dance the night away.   Perhaps she will still be skeptical  about coaching but I'm hoping she will have more compassion and understanding about friends and colleagues who she might meet who are worried and stressed about making the decision to have children or not.

Friday, 12 May 2017

It's Mother's Day.... but I'm not a Mom

It's Mother's Day in North America this Sunday (Mother's Day has already been and gone in the UK). If you aren't a mother for a whole host of reasons including that 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, or you have simply decided that you don't want children, Mother's Day can feel a bit exclusionary.... particularly if most of your friends are mothers.

I've been looking at a number of blog posts and other articles on the topic.  This one from That Girl called Mother's Day When You Are Not A Mom  had some good practical suggestions and some amusing of what to do on the day itself including:

Baby sit – I know! You are confused! (There is a reason why this is #13). If you have a single mom in your circle of friends who really deserves a quiet day to herself to try any of the above activities offer to take her kids for a few hours! You might even end up with your own waffles or refrigerator art at the end of the day!   Cat Wilson, That Girl Blog

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

This week, I also had a discussion with an older Gay Anglican priest who made a wonderful point.  In the Anglican tradition, Mothering Sunday is sometimes 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 favorite aunt, a volunteer and so on.  This article echoes that view http://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2017/05/12/mothers-day-marjorie-s-rosenthal

If you are reading this and feeling down about Mother's Day, perhaps this is a chance to reflect on some of other people's ideas about the day.  Take some 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.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Maternal Ambivalence

Last week on the blog, I talked about the role that ambivalence plays on us when we are trying to work out wither we want to be parents, whether we want to have children or remain child free.  Today I want to look at the topic of maternal ambivalence which effects new mothers.

For years, psychologists have recognised the existence of maternal ambivalence .  In my experience, it's not often talked about.  But it's surprisingly common and many new mothers will talk about the  they were surprised to experience such ambivalence just after the birth of their child.

'I had an urge when I was out shopping with my new baby to leave her in the buggy in the changing room.... and walk away.  I didn't of course... but to be honest, I'm surprised that more babies are left all over the place, the feeling is so strong.' - A new mother attending a local mum and baby group.

I remember a few days after I gave birth to my son I had an overwhelming sense that I had made a terrible mistake.  I was completely unprepared for this feeling, this ambivalence to being a mother and for having all this responsibility thrust upon me.

Naomi Stadlen is one of the leading professionals ambivalence and identity of new mothers    I always recommend her book 'What Mother's Do...Even When it Looks like Nothing.' to women who are having or who have just had children.  This quote below perfectly sums up my experience:

'First-time mothers usually collect information about babies.  They..... go to preparation classes.  But for many women, even though they have attended preparation classes, the reality feels excessive.  Surely someone along the road would have stepped in to warn them?  They had expected a slight shock at having a baby but what they experienced was a massive shock.'

Stadlen's version of maternal ambivalence is kinder and more compassionate to women than earlier psychologists view.    When we consider the full reality of motherhood and the shift that many new mothers feel in going from a fully independent person who is able to head out the door to see friends, go to the cinema and even for a pint of milk with no encumbrance.  Yet a new mother suddenly finds that she has another person who is constantly dependent on her, and completely vulnerable.

This points to polarity struggle that I sometimes work with my coaching clients - that of independence vs dependence.  If we are used to being and living mainly in the pole of independence, I think the shock of having a baby who is completely dependent on you AND who your ability to move and live is also dependent on, it can feel unbearable.

As I write this, I hope this is helpful for you, my readers who are coming to this blog trying to decide whether you want to be a mother or not.  I think it's important to know that even if you do make the decision to have children, that decision can still contain ambivalence .... at least for those initial weeks and that it is normal.