I always promise my clients that their coaching sessions will be 100% about them and I try to resist telling personal anecdotes. I want the focus to be on the woman I’m working with and on the pieces of her personal puzzle that she’s trying to put together to create a life that thrills her.
It’s always fascinating to help women work out what work/life balance and flexibility means for them and I realise now that I was my own first coaching client. So as we celebrate Flexible Working Day, I’m proud to share a bit of my story.
10 years ago I was on maternity leave, enjoying time with my toddler and new baby. My plan was to return to work a few months later to my part-time role in a large recruitment agency and calmly continue my career. But life turned out a little differently.
The story started when my father suddenly became extremely ill. The early weeks were a blur of supporting Mum, breastfeeding my daughter in the hospital waiting rooms and feeling incredibly grateful that I didn’t have to be at work, even part-time.
However, as the months passed I had to start thinking about the future. Dad’s condition went up and down and we had no real idea what lay ahead. I started reflecting on what my priorities were.
It became clear that no matter how much I loved my work (and I did enjoy it a lot!), my family needed to come first. I wanted to be available at short notice to help my parents and be able to spend a lot of time with my husband and daughters. But I also passionately wanted a professional outlet for myself – some way to keep on learning and developing.
How could I make it all happen?
I found that once I’d firmly identified and committed to my values and priorities, I started noticing opportunities. For years I’d thought of going back to university to study psychology and I realised that this could be the right time. My in-laws agreed to babysit a bit while I studied and in return, I helped out in their business when possible and took on other pieces of work from time to time.
The course I started was the Sydney Uni Masters in Coaching Psychology and as I sat in class I imagined how powerful it would be to share my growing knowledge with other mothers. Mums get pulled in a lot of different directions so having tools and techniques to help navigate our path is so valuable.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve worked a lot of hours after the family is all in bed but it’s been worth it to fulfil my personal vision of work/life balance. To be able to help women create a roadmap to love their work and their life is fantastic; and at the same time, I’m mostly available to pick up after school and chat about the day, to help coach the netball team and gossip on the sidelines at soccer training.
I encourage you all to dare to dream about your ideal work/life balance and then take practical steps to make it happen. It might take a while to create the life you want to live but you can start moving in the right direction.
Kate Wilkie has a Masters in Applied Science (Coaching Psychology) from the University of Sydney, and her particular coaching interest is in working with women to increase well-being, boost resilience and guide positive action.
Evidence from the science of Positive Psychology shows that boosting overall well-being can help women to increase their resilience to stress and help to avoid depression and anxiety. This can be particularly important in the early years of motherhood and as their children become more independent.
Over the past twenty years, Kate has worked and consulted across a range of industries and different sized businesses in the public, private and not for profit sectors. This varied experience has given Kate a strong understanding of, and clear perspective on, the challenges and opportunities that each individual and organisation faces.
FlexCareers offers a free 30-minute introductory meeting with our FlexCoaches, to help you establish if coaching is right for you. You can contact Kate through FlexCareers here, and you can find out more about their practice, Flourishing Mothers, here.