Want to really feel proud of your (perfectly!) imperfect parenting?

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Back in November, I wrote about why I was creating my first ever online coaching programme, Proudly Imperfect Parents. At the time it was still a work in progress, and there have been a couple of versions – one far too long, as I was trying to fit everything in, and another lacked the right level of support. But I got there in the end and the course is now open for booking!

Here’s what the lovely mums who did a test run of the course had to say:

“I love the intro videos, you come across as really approachable, warm and friendly. The course has a good balance of suggestion/direction and find your own path.”

“The worksheets are good but I especially liked that you say they are not compulsory, so it never feels like work… But it works! I now feel much more comfortable with my parenting approach.”

If you keep reading about being a ‘perfectly imperfect’ parent and you know this is all we can ever be, but somehow, deep down you’re still trying to live up to an impossible ideal – then this course is for you. Here’s what we’ll cover across the four weeks from 22 February:

Week 1 – What is perfect parenting anyway?
We’ll deconstruct our idea of perfect parenting so that we can begin to lesson our attachment to the idea that there’s a universal ‘right’ way to do things.

Week 2 – From Guilt to Good Enough
We’ll take a look at some of the things we might feel guilty about, what we can do about them and how we can let that guilt go.

Week 3 – Finding time for you
We’ll investigate how we really spend our time each day, and the importance of creating space for yourself.

Week 4 – Proudly Imperfect
We’ll further explore our perfect imperfectness, thinking about how this can benefit us and those around us, and why we should be proud of this.

Each week, you’ll get an introductory video, a worksheet to prompt your thoughts across the week, a weekly live Q&A with me in the private Facebook group and four Friday meditations on each of the themes.

You can find out more about the course and book your place over on the Proudly Imperfect Parents page. Booking closes before half term (on Friday 12 February) so reserve your place now!

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If you’re not yet ready to take part in this programme but would like to know when future dates are available, and receive occasional special offers, you can sign up to the Proudly Imperfect Parents list here or by clicking on the image above.

The Power of Poetry

Earlier this month I shared a piece of poetry in my second ever vlog, in which I set my intentions for the year ahead. One of these intentions was to share more poetry.

As I sat down today to write my blog, I looked at my notes. I had planned to write something on writing to create real connection. I had scribbled down some notes on understanding your audience, actually caring about them and how they want to feel before even beginning to craft your message (this is why I prefer to work with smaller, heart-centred businesses)… But then my mind wandered. I probably will write that post someday but today is not that day.

Having set my intention to write and share more poetry, this has been on my mind more and more. I have written some new poetry but nothing share-worthy so far this year. I was looking through other poems and books for inspiration and was reminded of how many different ways I use poetry – in my coaching work as well as commissioned pieces for business and personal use – and why it is such a powerful medium.

There is something about poetry that bypasses the conscious mind. So often, things we know but perhaps are not ready to admit or confront, we shut down using intellectual arguments. But as Lewis, Amini and Lannon, authors of A General Theory of Love (a fascinating book on the science of human emotions) say,

“Where intellect and emotion clash, the heart often has the greater wisdom.”

So, for those who are open to it, poetry can be the quickest way to speak directly to that inner wisdom. It tricks the conscious mind with its pretty metaphors and slips in discreetly, so that emotions are stirred before you even begin to really process the what the words mean.

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Words, say Lewis, Amini and Lannon, can only be understood by the neocortical brain, the most recent brain in terms of evolution and the only one that can process the abstract… But it is the earlier limbic brain – the brain responsible for communication and emotional connection – to which poetry speaks.

This is well illustrated by a comment on the poem I shared in my last blog, in which Alice from The Filling Glass said “You said so many interesting things here I couldn’t take it all in”. I’ve also had people say, “I have no idea what you said but I feel good”! And there are so many lines I’ve heard and read – too many to list here, and many of which I cannot fully recall, that have moved me in ways that reason cannot explain. What I remember is the feeling. It’s a knowing, an understanding, a realisation, an acceptance. It starts in my chest and rises, often spilling over as my eyes fill with emotion.

This is why I my love affair with words will always begin and end with poetry. It’s why I started writing and no matter what else I am writing, it is still Why I Write.

What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you like it? Does it move you in the ways I’ve described or does it leave you cold? I’d love to know your thoughts so please do leave a comment below!

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On intentions, parenting and poetry… Happy New Year!

I hope this year has started well for you… I’m not going to write to much here as – for the first time since I promised more videos back in September – I have actually recorded a vlog for you!*

In just seven minutes of screen time (you can spare seven minutes, right?) I share some of my intentions for the year ahead, offer support with your resolutions (or intentions, or goals, whatever you prefer to call them), talk parenting and share a poem to see you into the New Year.

*Sorry about the background noise, hope that it’s still clear enough!

Here are some of the links I referred to in the video, in case you’re interested 🙂

Monika’s Story
Proudly Imperfect Parents
My personal blog (where I’ve been keeping my poetry), Honest Speaks.

Want support with your intentions/goals/resolutions?

You can email or tweet me…
Or leave a comment on my Facebook page.

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Looking back to move forwards

New story starter_LookBack2MoveForwards_WritingPeoplePoetryIt might sound counter intuitive, looking back to move forwards… I mean, how can thinking about the past help with the future? All the stuff you’ve read about visualising your ideal future so that you can move towards it is at odds with my suggestion, is it not..?

But hear me out

Too often, we race ahead, towards the future we want to have. While having an outcome in mind is a good thing, racing forwards, often without even stopping to take a breath, doesn’t give us time to reflect, to consider whether we’re even still going in the right direction (because it’s ok to change your mind!) or, importantly, let go of difficult lessons learned and really celebrate our successes so that we can move into the future leaving the baggage of the recent past behind us.

Have you checked you ‘done’ list lately?

Perhaps you have a ‘to-do’ list (or some version of this), and each time you tick something off, you breathe a sigh or relief/satisfaction and move on to the next. The thing is, these lists can be never ending. For everything you complete there’s something new you want to achieve. Ambition is great but this constant game of catch-up can lead to feelings of overwhelm and anxiety that you’ll never reach the end and if you stay too long this state, you might start to wonder whether it’s even worth trying.

I know this because I still find myself in this story sometimes. I try to remember to take the time that I need to but sometimes I forget, and sometimes I get so wrapped up in the excitement of a new project that I don’t take enough time to even think about, let alone celebrate, the positives of what came before.

Looking back at how far you’ve come

For me, the Christmas holidays are a time to not only reconnect with friends and family but also to reflect on the past year. However, our memories of what the start of the year was like when we get to December can be  little hazy and it’s easy to only focus on what’s present right now, which may or may not be helpful!

This is why I love FutureMe.org. Every December, usually at some point between Christmas and New Year, I take the time to sit down and write myself an email from the past. Sounds weird? It was the first time I did this, which was back in 2009. Almost every year since then (I forgot one. By that time it was weird not to have done it), I take at least half an hour to write whatever is present on my mind at the time first, before looking back over the past year at what went well and what went less so, and to think about my hopes for the future and whether these have changed over the past year (they usually have).

I then send this email a year into the future so that come New Year’s Day, when everyone is making resolutions, I’m reading my thoughts from the previous year.

This too shall pass

The biggest thing I’ve noticed from this exercise is that everything passes. I read about something that was really present for me a year ago and it has always passed by the time I’m reading about it. Reading about where you were a year ago can also help when it comes to celebrating success. Ideas that were just that – a spark of thought – a year ago can be so much more a year later and the realisation of this can be a real motivator for whatever comes next. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come though, if we don’t take the time to look back.

Even if it feels like you’ve not come that far, sending an email into the future is also a chance to counter balance any negative self-talk with some real ‘cheerleading’ – an opportunity to talk to yourself how you might talk to you closest friend, to set you up with a positive start for the year ahead.

If you’ve not yet heard of Future Me, why not check it out and see what you think? It’s totally free to use (in case you were wondering, this is not an affiliate post!) and you can even read some of the public letters – people use it for all sorts of reasons but how you choose to use it is of course, up to you.

Why not try it out by sending yourself an email right now, either about something that seems big to you now, to see how it feels in a month’s time, or with a positive message for any time you think you’re going to need a boost? If you do send yourself an email in the future, I’d love to hear how it feels when you finally receive it – whether that’s a week, a month or even a year from now! Do come back and share.

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WPP People: Monika’s Story

A while back I shared a (not so) small part of my personal story, and promised that there would be future posts sharing small parts/stories from my ‘WPP people’ (I just don’t like ‘tribe’ and couldn’t think of anything less cheesy than ‘my people’ so WPP People it is!).

These posts will be a mixture of client case studies, guest blogs and interviews from friends, teachers and mentors. In short, I’ll be showcasing people’s stories in one way or another with this series.

So… First up, a coaching client who is happy to share with you a little about herself and how we worked together to change her story… Let me hand over Monika to tell you more.

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What was your story before we starting working together?
I was working as an Executive Assistant for a big Swiss bank in Zurich and was very unhappy in my job, not knowing what else I could do. Eventually, after having been unhappy for quite some time, I weighed up the pros and cons around the time I started working with you and then about a year ago as you know, I finally took the plunge and quit my job.

How did you find working with me?
I found you through a recommendation from a friend in London and you’ve been extremely helpful – both in getting me through the difficult time before I quit my job and also after.

You helped me to put things in perspective and stop my thoughts spinning so that I could evaluate things better. I found your guided meditation, which was part of the six-session package, extremely helpful  – especially as I am not a person who finds meditation very easy to do! You clearly assessed what I needed and created a personalised meditation that actually worked for me. Each time we’ve met or spoken, both during our initial six sessions and since, I’ve always find you to be a great listener; you’re so easy to talk to.

What was your story after our six sessions together?
Your support has been extremely helpful throughout this period (before quitting my job and after)  and has certainly helped me get a grip on things more (rather than losing myself in thoughts as I have done in the past). In the year since quitting my job, I have tried out a lot of different things and started to see the world in a more curious way.

What’s your story now?
I am definitely still not there – I’m still ‘writing’ my story (and don’t know what the end will be – but then do I have to..?) I still have a lot of ups and downs and it’s not all plain sailing.

However, I have found out a lot of things about myself and how my future “work” should be shaped to work for me. I want more flexibility in my work and to do something that I’m really passionate about. I have contacted a lot of people in the ski world (skiing is my no.1 passion) and am now helping a US ski magazine startup launch their business in Europe. I have attended two fantastic events in England  (the Escape to the Woods weekend and the world first ‘Yestival‘) and I have realised that there are so many people like me out there, who also want to escape their corporate careers. One of my thoughts at the moment is to set up work as a VA for certain types of startup companies but I am still not sure about that. The biggest thing I have done recently that shows a real change in my story is when I went completely out of my comfort zone and hosted the Zurich World Escape Day in September. Public speaking has been one of my biggest fears so far but I just went and did it, and it was ok!

What’s does the next chapter have in store?
I wish I knew, but I’ve learned that I’ve just gotta go with the flow, follow my heart and gut and take baby steps towards what I want. I definitely want to do something more meaningful, contributing to a worthwhile cause rather than just earning money. I’ve always been quite sporty but I am now also learning to take better care of myself by listening to what my body needs more and responding to that.

Whatever the future has in store, it’s certainly better than it was and I’m now looking forwards, rather than just feeling frustrated in a situation I felt I couldn’t change.

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Proudly Imperfect Parents

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What? Proudly Imperfect?

Yes! Back in March, I ran a coached workshop for working mums, which focused on addressing the specific challenges of those mums who work outside of the home. Following the feedback from this, and from all those of you who completed my survey about what you’d like, I decided that the best way to reach even more of you would be to create an online programme for all parents, on the more general theme of letting go of the idea of parenting perfectly.

Why am I doing this?

Because none of us are perfect parents. Right now, there is a lot out there about being ‘perfectly imperfect’ and why it’s important… And we nod and smile and say ‘Yes!’ but deep down, do we really believe it’s ok to be imperfect, flawed even..?

When my son was first born, I fell into this ‘story’ for a minute. I read some books on the first year and re-read some stuff on early development while pregnant and had some idea about routines but I was mostly taking on board what I liked and doing what felt right for us. On our own, we were fine. When other people questioned me though, I started to question myself. Was I wrong? Not good enough?

Over time I became more confident and now, although I have my off days, I know why I do what I do and I’m not afraid to make mistakes and change something if it’s not working. Why? Well first and foremost, my internal representation of a good mother isn’t a perfect one. My mother wasn’t perfect but she was perfect for me…. And as a coach, I know that what I used to perceive as failure is actually just feedback. If I try new approach to parenting and it doesn’t work, then I try something else…

Perhaps you have an idea in your head about what the perfect parent is and despite all the nodding when you read about being perfectly imperfect, inside, you actually still want to live up to this ideal (which will be different for each of us) and get upset when you don’t.

How can we really let go of this idea of what we feel we need to be and truly be who we are, knowing that this will benefit both us and our children?

I’m not a parenting expert. I’m not a perfect parent. And that’s kind of the point. If you’d like a step-by-step guide on how to parent better, you won’t find it here. What you will find is a mum who tries to be a gentle parent and sometimes fails. A mum whose own mum was less than perfect but more than she could have wished for in an early role model for love. A coach who knows how to ask the right questions to shift your story from ‘I’m not enough’ to ‘I am good enough. And that’s more than good enough’ so that you can honestly state, ‘I am a proudly imperfect parent’.

By the end of the four-week course, you’ll be paying more attention to what you’re already doing that works for you and your family (so you can do even more of that and less of what doesn’t serve you, or them) and you’ll have a deeper, more personal understanding of how being even more of yourself can take you from anxious about what you’re doing ‘wrong’ to proud of how your imperfect parenting actually works. For your whole family.

Who says there’s a right way to parent anyway? Right…?

The four-week course will launch in early 2016. To be first to find out more and know when dates are confirmed, make sure you sign up to the Proudly Imperfect Parents mailing list, where you’ll also be first to receive any freebies or special offers!

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Love letters: On learning a love for language

LoveLetters_WritingPeoplePPoetryMy son loves letters. Tracing over them, asking how they make words. He points to a McDonald’s sign. “Look, Mmmmm… Does it say Mummy?” Um, noooo…. But I love his enthusiasm, which has only increased in intensity since he started school this September.

When I let him, he’ll stop at every street sign, tracing over the letters he recognises, trying to sound them out. “Mmmm”, “Ssss”. He can’t quite put them together yet but he’s at that stage where he’s holding all the pieces of the jigsaw and trying to work out how they fit together. It’s lovely to watch.

I don’t remember that far back. But I do remember that spark, the start of a lifelong passion for words.

I love the way he gets really excited about new words. Like me, he loves the word bubble. It was one of his first words and he used it to mean many water related things – baths, rivers, swimming.. As well as actual bubbles of course. If he really likes a word, he’ll repeat it over and over. His latest favourite word is ‘Mandala’. On the day he first learned this word, he sang it over and over as he created his own take on this creative exercise, softly singing “mandala, mandala, mandala” as he carefully placed bananas and mushrooms around the circle. Later that day I was lucky enough to hear some of his self-talk as he played, oblivious to my presence. It went something like this: “I made a mandala, it was awesome. Mandala my mandala, I want to mandala again.” Then when he dropped something, “Oh, mandala!” When I finally interrupted to speak to him, he was startled. “I was just trying the word Mummy. I really like mandala.” At first I thought he meant he enjoyed making them, which he did… But on reflection he must have meant he really likes the word. Which makes perfect sense. It’s a beautiful word. Why wouldn’t you want to roll it around your mouth all day and get a real taste for it?

The evolution of language

I remember when I was at primary school, the ‘in’ words were then ‘cool’ and ‘wicked’ (showing my age now!). It seems ‘cool’ hasn’t gone out of fashion (among four-year olds anyway!) as my son has now started to say it. Then, the other day we were playing football in the park and he tried a drop kick. He was pretty impressed with himself and turned to me and said “that was heavy.” He was waiting for a reaction so I asked him whether he meant it was good. “Yeah” he said. “It’s a cool word. We say it as school.” When I asked if I could say it too he said “Not really. No. You’re not cool enough. You’re quite cool. But not cool enough.”

I remember being stupidly embarrassed when my Mum tried to use ‘cool’ words as a teenager but at four? I don’t know. According to my Nan I went through a phase of trying out the word ‘sexy’ at that age (of course having no idea what it meant), so I guess it’s all experimentation.

When he reaches his teenage years, there will be a whole new language to learn. I listen to the younger members of my extended family talk and ask them about words I don’t recognise. What sounds like slang to me is, in fact, a rich alternative language that includes words from so many different countries; languages I wasn’t exposed to growing up. It reflects the much more diverse world that these young people are growing up in and that’s a good thing, I think. I suppose I could see if as divisive – it’s only for young people – but from another perspective, it’s actually pretty inclusive. I look forward to hearing how it evolves even more by the time my son hits his teenage years.

Falling in love with language all over again.

Watching my son start to experiment with letters and words is a real gift. Through him, I’m going back to the beginning and remembering what it was like to fall in love with language. All over again.

What’s your relationship with words like? Did you enjoy learning to read and write at school? How did you talk when you were in your teens, and what do you think about the way language has evolved? Could I possibly overwhelm you with even more questions? 😉 Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

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The leaves are turning…

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Beautiful, aren’t they?

They stopped me in my tracks last week. The leaves have been slowly turning for while but last week was the first time I’d really paid attention. The colours took my breath away but you know what my first thought was? “There’s no green left.” I like green. For me it signifies calm, and growth.

But growth is not always calm, is it?

These leaves are not young. They’ve been through a few seasons and soon they’ll fall, making way for something new. In the meantime, they’re turning. They’re no longer green. But they are red, orange, yellow… In one leaf, I see all the colours. A fire in my hand…

Earlier this week I watched someone cleaning up the park with a leaf blower. We always like to clean up the mess don’t we? And eventually (in the case of the leaves), it needs to be done for practical reasons. But nature is messy. There’s no getting away from it. I feel a bit messy at the moment. I’ve been too busy to think about it though.

That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? I’m too busy to think? A conversation with my friend and brilliant career coach Hayley Wintermantle jolted me out of this nonsense today. I told her I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and when she asked me questions about how I take care of myself, I talked about all the stuff I was doing that meant I was too busy to take time out… Then I talked about stuff I was doing for me (not much)… and even as I spoke I knew I was making up stories (we all do it). I’d got sucked back into the ‘busy’ story once again.

When I stopped talking for a second, I noticed the language I was using… I ‘have’ to, I ‘can’t’, I ‘do’ x, y and z, I’m busy ‘doing’… Even when talking about relaxing, it was all about what I’m ‘doing’ to relax. Wow.

So when was I being?

You’d think, as someone who makes personalised meditations for coaching clients, that I’d place a high value on meditating myself, wouldn’t you? Well, lately I haven’t. In fact, it wasn’t until today that I even noticed I haven’t made time for meditation for almost a month now. How did that happen?

No wonder I’ve been feeling overwhelmed.

Back to those leaves… I tend to find that changing seasons also bring about change within me. As the leaves turn, I’ve been changing too. But as with the leaves, I wasn’t paying attention. Soon some of those leaves will fall. I wonder, when the leaves fall, does it hurt the tree? Or are they ready to shed? Am I..?

The honest answer is I don’t know. I’m changing some things. You may have noticed some changes on this website, I’ve updated some of the words but I’m not done yet. There are more changes to come so for the minute some pages are missing. I guess I’m shedding. But that’s ok. Things change. People change. I’m still me. I’m just making space for new leaves to grow.

New Story Starter_How do you make space

So, to make space, I’ll be taking a few days off in the next few weeks. How about you? Are you spending enough time just being? How will you make space for something new to grow..? Do share in the comments below – let’s just be, together.

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Coaching and connections: A not so small part of my story

Someone recently told me, “No-one cares about your story”. Their intention was positive, and I somewhat agree. You don’t land on my homepage to read my life story, you arrive because you need a coach, or a writer, so you’re interested in what I can do for you. But. The comment got me thinking… Is it really true that no-one cares…? Well, that kind of depends on who is looking.

When I’m looking to work with someone, I don’t just want the best person for the job (although that is important), I’m also looking for a connection. Why should I choose this person, over all the other fantastic service providers who will get me the same results? For me, knowing a little more of their story could be the difference that makes the difference, particularly when I’m looking to work with a coach, supervisor or therapist, where the relationship is key to my development.

puddles_WritingPeoplePoetrySo, with this in mind, today I wanted to share with you a part of my story* that is always present, and particularly today. On this date in 2007, my mum passed away. I won’t go into the details, except to say that it was sudden, unexpected, and, coupled with somewhat related events, wiped me out emotionally for a little over two years. It was around this time that I fell out of love with words for a while, as I struggled to connect back to my passions. Time does heal, but the grief still bubbles to the surface from time to time.

 

Fast forward two years to 2009, and my boss at the time (still a mentor of mine) suggested an NLP course for me. I was in two minds but I decided to sign up. Best decision ever. It was during this course that people started to say I was “a natural coach”. I used to think I was pretty good at giving people advice. Wrong! I was (and am!) good at helping people to find their own solutions, to change the direction of the less desirable stories they find themselves living. I’m good at helping people find inner confidence, move past ‘stuckness’ and overwhelm and gently guiding them to reconnect with themselves. I do all of this from a place of connection.

People_WritingPeoplePoetryGuess who role modelled the importance of connection in relationships? Mum. She was a master connector, forging deep and meaningful relationships and making friends for life everywhere she went. Sometimes, she talked a lot about herself. Sometimes people would share equally, others not so much. I realise now that this willingness to be open, and therefore vulnerable, is where the deeper connections were made.

So, I guess this post, on this date, is sort of a public Thank You, to Mum, for inspiring and motivating me to keep on and to remember that no matter what happens, as people, “we are here for each other”. And these connections live on even when we don’t.

So, maybe it’s true that no-one cares about my story. And maybe it’s not. Either way, I care about yours. Care to share a small part of your story in the comments below?

Like this? Sign up for more!*This post was just a small part of my story. I’ll be sharing more small parts, including thoughts from some of my mentors, teachers, clients and friends in the coming months. Be sure to sign up so you don’t miss any!

Making friends with our monsters

If you’ve been over to my Facebook page this week (you haven’t? Pop on over and say hi!), then you’ll know it’s my son’s first week of school. Some of you may be in the same boat, with kids either starting school, starting a new school or returning to a new class/new building/new teacher. Maybe you’re even doing something new yourself.

As with anything new – comparisons for us could be starting a new job, beginning (or returning to) further education or moving house –  there are a lot of unknowns. This makes it all a bit scary and it can take a while to settle (perhaps longer than most for the more sensitive among us).

My ‘Mushroom’, as he’s known online, has had some tearful mornings and although he’s always had fun at the end of the day, there was some talk of ‘monsters’ everywhere at the start… The way he embodied his fears got me thinking about our monsters and what we can do about them

Let me explain further as I make friends with one of my own monsters – around visibility and tech – video blogging! Watch (it’s only 4 minutes!):

Tell me about your monsters… Have you made friends with any? If not, what tiny steps could you take towards getting to know them better? Do share your thoughts in the comments below!

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