This is an article in our Pregnancy Week by Week series, a resource to help you manage your job and life, through and after your pregnancy.

Week 40: Maternity Leave Coaching

While our weekly articles provide you crowdsourced advice and tools to help you navigate pregnancy, a new baby and your career, some of you may be interested in more personal and individualized counseling. That’s where maternity coaching comes in.

If you haven’t heard of it before, you’re not alone. Maternity leave coaching is definitely a luxury -- but it can be surprisingly affordable, and your employer may even pay for it. The idea behind maternity coaching is to provide independent, confidential one-on-one coaching for you during this period of life transition, focused specifically on you and how you’re balancing your personal and professional identities. That said, maternity coaching can also be delivered via group sessions if there is a group of expecting moms at your company or you manage to gather up a group yourself.

Think of it like temporarily seeing a specialized, practically-oriented shrink. Or if that analogy doesn’t suit you, consider thinking of it like an e-learning course to help you through a new experience.

One of the best things we’ve heard from women who’ve been through it is that maternity coaches can help you feel more confident and help you feel less isolated in your concerns. Great coaches will offer you a confidential sounding board for your questions and worries. Some of these things can be difficult to talk about with your friends or even your spouse because fears and feelings about work-life balance are often very personal and tied to identity and money worries.

Your best friend and family members are always going to be there for you, but you may not want to tell them how you are feeling about work -- or perhaps you think they won’t relate or agree with your decisions. As Anne,* an accountant we talked to, told us, “My best friend is a stay-at-home mom of 3! I wanted to talk to someone that really understood my need to go back to work without feeling like I was going to get some silent -- even unintentional -- judgment.”

Moreover, as one attorney put it, “My coach gave me confidence in how I’m dealing with my situation. I now have a wider sense of how I can cope going forwards, and I’m actually taking steps to make things better.”

Karen Rubin, Managing Director of Talking Talent, a global leader in maternity coaching, says:

Coaches arm you with emotional techniques to defuse moments of feeling overwhelmed by the dual role of working-mom. Through coaching you can learn how to minimize guilt and avoid burnout, two areas which can easily derail a woman’s ability to be a mom and a professional. Your coach will offer a fresh perspective, encourage you to consider your ideal working hours, and help you build confidence in your ability to perform as an active parent, with a career.

If you’re not sure whether your employer offers maternity coaching, you may want to ask. Talking Talent, for example, offers flexible parental leave coaching packages for women and their managers. They cite some key benefits to employers who offer parental leave coaching including increased employee retention, improved employee performance before and after leave as well as career progression in the years after returning to work.

If your employer doesn’t offer this type of benefit and you’d like to get some coaching without having to change out of your pajamas, Lori Mihalich-Levin’s Mindful Return e-courses help women plan a thoughtful and mindful maternity leave. As Lori points out, it may seem like an indulgence, but her classes costs less than a one-hour massage and may provide more lasting relaxation techniques and peace-of-mind (though we get it -- massages are pretty damn great, too, especially right around now!)

Bottom line: even the most put-together women we know may find that having a baby while juggling a job  is an incredibly stressful experience. Maternity coaching can be a great investment and option if you feel like you need just a little bit more individual attention.

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Is maternity leave coaching worth the money?

Has anyone ever used a good maternity leave coach? I'm feeling like a mess...so I think it could be helpful... but I'm not sure it's worth the money.

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