June 11, 2018
My name is Katelyn Denning and I am a life coach for new moms returning to work. I know a thing or two about being a full-time working mom because I am one! In addition to my coaching business, Mother Nurture, I also work full-time in software sales. So when I talk about knowing what it’s like to return to work, to juggle lots of priorities, and manage your time and your expectations, I really do get it. I am right there working through a lot of this myself. But I have learned so much in doing this work and that is what I love to share with the new moms that I coach.
In addition to my work, I am a wife and mother to two little ones, Henry who is 3 and Darcy who is 1 ½. We live in the Northside community in Cincinnati and absolutely love it here! Amazingly, I do still find some time for myself, though I’ll admit that the majority of my days are full of family and work. If you catch me in those rare quiet moments, I might be reading a self- improvement book (I can’t get enough), playing the piano or doing some interior design as my husband and I just finished renovating a home in our beloved neighborhood.
Before having my son Henry, I was very focused on my professional life. I have enjoyed a diverse career spread across several cities, and I have always found a lot of meaning and self-worth in my work. When I took my first maternity leave, I was working in the software industry in what I would call a typical full-time office job. Luckily, I found a company that had a very generous maternity leave policy and was supportive of moms in the workplace.
I was also fortunate to be on a team filled with other moms in a similar life stage, so I always knew that I would return to work and become a work-outside-the-home mom.
The pregnancy I would describe as calming, but the labor and birth experience more like a whirlwind. I am a researcher, sometimes to a fault, so I did my homework when I first found out we were pregnant. I wanted to understand all my options for prenatal care, labor, delivery, support, etc. We ultimately decided on a home birth with a midwife and I also worked with birth doula Lisa Suttschenko!
I took all the recommended supplements, drank the teas, did the prenatal yoga, listened to meditations, etc. My son was born at home after just about 3.5 hours of active labor. It was so fast that we barely had time to process the changes. I was too focused on the contractions and my husband was focused on just getting the tub filled up! He was a beautiful, healthy boy and I was able to deliver him naturally, in the water, in our home surrounded by an amazing team that got there just in time.
Unfortunately, I hemorrhaged and had a few other issues that needed to be addressed at the hospital, so we traveled, newborn included, to our back-up doctor for post-delivery care. Of course I planned for issues as evidenced by the fact that I had a back-up OB, but I don’t think I mentally prepared for issues. Once we were released home, those weeks that followed were really tough. I was so weak from the blood loss, my son was not a very content baby by nature, and I remember spending many days crying. But we made it through and slowly started to get into a rhythm.
And then at 12 weeks postpartum I went back to work. My daughter is a completely different story, but for the context of why I do the work that I do, it was my birth and new motherhood experience with my son that started it all.
I think it’s safe to say that I did not feel prepared for what it would be like to be a new mom. I had spent so much time researching and preparing for the birth and I didn’t devote any thought to the postpartum period. I know that nothing really prepares you, but looking back, I was clueless. Sure I worked with colleagues who were also moms, but either I wasn’t listening or they weren’t talking about what those early weeks and months look like.
My sister and my husband were my saving grace in those early days. And of course my parents and in-laws visited and stayed at different stages as well, but we had no family in town so it did feel lonely at times. I relied heavily on the emotional support and check-ins from my doula and I took advantage of support from a variety of service providers like a lactation consultant and even a pediatric sleep coach.
I WISH I had known about postpartum doula support then. I think that could have been a game-changer for me. I remember in those early weeks, dreading the darkness that came with nighttime. During the day, I felt like I could pull myself together. The sun was up, people were out, I could go for a walk or do something to lift my spirits. But nighttime felt so isolating. I was so tired but dreaded the knowledge that my baby would be up at any moment and because I was nursing, I would be the one to get up with him. And it was lonely.
I think one of the most difficult things about returning to work, was that it solidified the fact that I had changed, and that was scary. Sure, working while intensely sleep deprived, and pumping, and all of the logistical details were hard as well, but I think going back to work, where I expected to go back to exactly the way things were before and realizing that they weren’t, was probably one of the hardest parts.
So finally being forced to start working through that shift in identity, that grieving process of who I used to be, was hard and scary. But I did it with help. I had the support of my husband, my family, my closest friends, and then I recognized that I needed even more. So that is when my work with a counselor began and later a life coach. It was a process, but I eventually started to craft my new identity, one that was so much more than before, and I got to a place where I was proud of that identity instead of sad about it. And today, I think motherhood is one of my many super powers. It makes me better at everything else that I do.
The idea came about during a conversation at work. I was talking with another new mom, recently back from maternity leave, and instead of just talking about or babies or our pumping schedule, we started being really honest about the challenges. About the challenges we felt with trying to find ourselves and find our new normal. With trusting the decisions we were making now that we wouldn’t see the effects of for years to come. And with managing all of these different aspects of our lives while also trying to blend them together.
As I went through my own process of figuring some of this out for myself and with the help of the professionals, I was working with, I would share the ideas and “life hacks” that I was trying. I would share the research I was doing, and I realized that my curiosity and drive to make my life better, was not innate to everyone else. And so I thought, if I can help some of these women at my work, just by sharing the things that I am trying and doing, what would be the effect if I was truly coaching someone?
As I searched for a resource out there, someone who was a working mom and got what it was like to juggle all the things, someone who balanced providing practical real-world ideas and tips with focusing on the person and the big-picture thought processes that go into becoming a working mom, I came up short. I couldn’t find the person I would have wanted to hire as a new working mom myself. So I decided to be that person.
The process of working with me is not complicated. That’s the point. When you first reach out to start coaching together, I provide you with some materials to work on in advance of our first coaching call. I’m a big believer in putting pen to paper. So many of us read questions and prompts and tell ourselves that we will “think” about it, but I find that unless you commit to writing your thoughts down, you won’t get anywhere. So I ask my clients to work through a variety of worksheets that tackle topics like figuring out WHY you work, thinking about your priorities in life, brainstorming ways to effectively use 5 minutes for you, and lastly we do a thought download on an area of life that doesn’t feel so good, whether that be a scenario at work or at home or as a mom.
I find schedules and to-do lists to be hot-button topics that often come up here. And then we use these responses as guides on our coaching calls. All of my coaching is virtual so I really can work with anyone, anywhere. I try to make my coaching times coincide with typical working mom schedules so I do a lot of early morning, lunch time and post-bedtime-routine coaching calls. It’s what works best for my clients. I like to make sure that my clients not only get to tackle some of the thoughts that are wreaking havoc on their life, but that they also walk away with very tangible next steps. So of all the things we talk about on a call, what are the three things you can start doing THIS WEEK to make a small change and start feeling better.
When it comes to the type of client I usually work with, most are first-time moms who have returned to work after a maternity leave in the last year. But that’s not to say I don’t and haven’t worked with 2nd and 3rd time moms, because sometimes these challenges don’t come up after the first maternity leave, they come up later, and that’s totally normal too.
There are two challenges that I routinely hear and I experienced them myself as well so I get it. Those are:
● Guilt for leaving your little one
● Feeling overwhelmed with how much you have to do
I’ll talk to the guilt piece in terms of advice and encouragement. I always tell my clients that you are not alone and it is ok to feel guilty on occasion. It’s a completely normal feeling when you are leaving your baby every day for work. But it shouldn’t consume you. You need to build up a few tools in your tool belt that you can return to to help you overcome those feelings when they show up. Tools like remembering why it is you work. Thinking about the BIG picture and being the woman and mom that you want your kids to remember when they are grown and look back at their childhood, regardless of whether or not you worked, it’s about WHO you are for them. Remembering the other people who get the opportunity to love and care for your child when you are away. You are giving your kids the gift of having a village to support them and they are learning so much from this experience.
Lastly, teaching yourself to be present where you are. You are doing your child no good to be sad and unproductive at work because you miss them. If you are making the choice to work, go and do good work. Be reminded of your baby, but be present with where you are, make the most of your day, so that when you’re home you can make the most of your time at home.
I could go on and on, so if you want more, you can pop over to my website for articles and updates on this topic and many others.
Information about me, my coaching work, and all of the articles that I write about working motherhood can be found on my website at www.themothernurture.com.