After years of looking into it, I finally trained as a coach with Animas. On many occasions I found myself dipping a toe in the water before getting distracted or pulled in a different direction, but I inevitably circled back to it, over and over again. It was such a natural fit: I had always enjoyed self-help, positive psychology, and the study of happiness. Even as a child, I was naturally reflective and thoughtful about my own happiness and self-improvement. I’ve always wanted to help and connect with others, and so when my work in the charity sector started to feel stale and no longer quite the right fit for me, I signed up to train with Animas.
Before I took the plunge of becoming a coach, I trained as a person-centred, volunteer breastfeeding counsellor. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to have children of my own, so when I had my first son I was thrilled, but also daunted: how could I do this in the best way possible? I saw this pressure of wanting to do the ‘right’ thing in the eyes of other new parents. Feeding our babies is the first big test of parenthood. Feeding, I realised, was the tip of a very big iceberg, so being able to support someone with that in an empowering and practical way was hugely rewarding. It was this experience that led me from a pipe dream of coaching to making it a reality.
Sometimes coaching emphasises on change and the ‘doing’ part – homework, concrete steps towards a goal, accountability, etc. And ultimately I do think change manifested in life is important – what we do is not about navel-gazing. But there is so much value in the being. Where else in life can we truly just be – and be understood, known, and accepted by another person – without value being placed on our outputs? Simply our humanity and unique existence is enough. There is a real value in that.
So many training programmes used sales techniques straight from the used car lot, but even through the prospecting stage, Animas was able to demonstrate the presence, holding space, and listening that I knew I wanted to bring into my practice as a coach.
In coaching, there’s also value in the positive frame of mind that we bring to the relationship. I believe humans are ultimately good, and our authentic selves are like an infant – there is no such thing as a bad baby in my worldview. People can do bad things, but they are not inherently bad. So when I am with a client, I believe in their innate goodness. I also believe in their power and agency. It isn’t about liking or not liking. I do find I feel a warmth towards my clients at the end of the coaching relationship but it is not about liking, as that implies judgement (if I can like I can also dislike). Nor is it like any other relationship. This unconditional positive regard is fertile ground for change.
Working with clients also provides me with a sense of flow most similar to meditation in my experience. The meta chatter of, “Am I providing value for money?” or “what question should I ask next?” doesn’t work in this state. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments where I lose that connection and the meta chatter starts up again, but when that happens I’m reminded that I am not entirely present, and I refocus on the person opposite me. I often find I’ve made it to this state of flow with my clients when I awaken from it, such as when the client and I start bringing the session to a close or scheduling our next session.
I’ve wrestled with having a niche or not, and have decided to work with parents. Parenting has been the single biggest source of happiness in my own life, yet there is often a dichotomous way of speaking about parenthood. There is the idyllic veneer or the gritty hyper reality; either skipping with a child in a field of daisies or a bedraggled sleep-deprived parent alone in the dark in the middle of the night. But I think there is room in the middle to be happy and thriving, not just surviving, and still be realistic about the challenges we face when the stakes – our children’s wellbeing and their lives – are so high.
I am excited about the future. I’ve had time to train, practice, and clarify what I want my coaching business to be. Meanwhile my family has grown too (we now have two little boys who are growing into amazing people). And Happy Parent UK is clearer in my mind than ever before. Ironically, I started my journey because I was so unhappy in my traditional day job, but through my training and being coached myself, I have managed to find a part-time role in the charity sector that I really enjoy and which is a great fit for me. I am building Happy Parent UK as a movement alongside my work, my volunteering, and raising my family, and I have never been more fulfilled.