What I’d give a new mum


 So I’m very late to the party on this one but I wanted to offer up my #whatidgiveanewmum in support of @amyransomwrites ‘ extraordinary campaign for #maternalMHmatters Awareness Week. This picture was taken minutes after Tabitha, my youngest who incidentally walked today, came out of the sun-roof. I don’t have a comparable shot of my eldest Holly’s arrival, as I was out cold having a cat 1 crash c-section at the time. Not to be recommended.

So here’s what I’d give a new mum.

•No mother has the slightest idea what they’re doing so don’t assume you know less than them. I assure you they’re as much in the dark as you are.

•Take well meant ‘advice’ with a pinch of salt. The chances are that you were born with the maternal instincts perfectly attuned  to your baby. Don’t be afraid to trust them.

•Gaze at your new bundle- every inch of them- for as long and often as possible.

•Whatever you do, don’t compare your baby to others their age- you’ll only worry unnecessarily. They will get there in the end. •Write down, or better still record, the hilarious things they say or do. You will be so sure you’ll never forget them. But you will. •Record milestones with a picture or journal entry. I have no recollection of anything the first time round.

•Lower your standards. For your home, your appearance, the washing. At least for the first few months. Allow yourself to just wallow around in the funk of hormonal delirium.

•A lot of people will offer their help. Be good to yourself and accept it once in a while. Some rest will make you a better mum. Never underestimate the power of sleep.

•You will take 1000s of photos. Try to print a few every month or so.

•Set up a WhatsApp group with some local mums or your NCT group. It will be your lifeline. Never underestimate the power of knowing someone else is up at 3am, feeling like you’re feeling.

•Try to get some fresh air every day. Even if it’s just for a walk around the block.

•Get support if and when you decide to return to work. You can never predict how you’ll feel. Having someone to talk things through with, could mean the difference between a happy return and one fraught with self-doubt and anxiety.

What would you add?

Why settle for a career that’s just ‘fine’?

I’m buzzing after the 4th coaching session I’ve had with with a seriously talented mum I’ve been working with. She’s back at work after her second mat leave but just not “feeling it” anymore. She describes her job as ‘fine’ and is not content with that.

And good on her for being brave enough to say it how it is. Why settle? Having children throws the whole world into perspective.

After all, how we spend up to 40 hours + of our week needs to count for something more than gas bills and bog roll. Especially if it takes us away from our loved ones.

We have used insights from a powerful psychometric tool called Hogan, to reconnect her with her passions and strengths as well as those traits that might sabotage her success.

Today we started drawing up a list of her ‘utopia’. Her dream job, her dream role, her dream company, her dream culture and colleagues.

It was so exciting to watch her discover that her happy place may well be within reach after all …

Er, hello, Time? Can you slow down please?

This feels like only yesterday.  And yet this morning we got the email confirming which school she has been accepted to attend in September.  How did this happen, please? I know I’m not alone in feeling torn between the joy and pride of watching your child bloom and grow in front of your eyes and the overwhelming desire to make it all just slow the feck down! This is only further exacerbated by the ever-dwindling amount of time I feel I have to just sit and watch her. Often in awe. That’s what having two small children does to a mother. She got our second choice which I know I should feel lucky about. But I can’t let go of the fact it wasn’t our first choice. You want to give them it all. But you have to face you just can’t sometimes. I have to trust that she will blossom wherever she’s planted. 

Do what you love

I like this little Venn diagram. It’s simple but its message could possibly change your (working) life for the better. When I work with mums who want to make-over their careers, the 2nd step of my S.H.I.N.E coaching framework is “HAPPINESS”.

What would true happiness at work look, feel and sound like to you? What would your dream role look like? What kind of industries and organisations excite you? What kind of colleagues would you be energised to work with? 

It’s important to aim for ‘utopia’ here to make your end goal as compelling as possible.

Dare to dream. A lot. ✨ ✨

Coaching for Mums (who don’t think they need coaching)

“Hey, long time no see! How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks!… Oh, you know….Same old same old…Mustn’t grumble. …Everything’s tickety boo! …Hanging in there…. All good. Nothing to see here. Move along…”

When is the last time you gave an honest answer to that question? I mean really honestly. Hopefully there are at least a couple of people in your life with whom you can debate the real answer to that question.

If you’re a mum, new or otherwise, the chances are the real answers to this question might be somewhere along the lines of one of the following:

“I’ve loved being on maternity leave but feel like I have been living my life in a safe bubble of nappies, coffee shops and Iggle Piggle. The thought of going back to work is pretty daunting as I’ve lost all confidence in my abilities, but we need the money. I can’t begin to imagine how I’m going to cope being away from my baby so much.”

“Enough is enough. Something’s got to give. Working full time is grinding me down and I feel like I’m letting everyone down. My work, my family and ultimately myself. There has to be another way to juggle it all, so I can feel like I’m thriving not drowning.”

“Ugh. My job feels so mundane and pointless since I’ve had children. I really want to do something that gives me more satisfaction and plays to my strengths. But I have no idea where to start when it comes to changing career direction.”

“I’m so busy wiping bums and picking up lego that I barely have time to go to the loo, let alone think about how I am feeling. I just haven’t got the time or energy to work out what would make me feel happier and more fulfilled in life.”

“My youngest has just started school and the house is eerily quiet. Being a mum is all I can remember and probably the only thing I’m half good at. I feel like I’ve lost my purpose and don’t know what to do next.”

If you find yourself identifying (even remotely) with any of these statements and are ready to do something about it, coaching can help you.

What Coaching ISN’T

Coaching isn’t a cosy fireside chat during which a gushy, well-meaning sycophant blows hot air up your backside and makes you feel good about yourself. It isn’t being told what you need to do or being given all the answers. You won’t hear your coach saying “Well, if I were you, I would do X”. You would be wrong in assuming that your coach will do all the hard work for you. Being coached isn’t an easy ride! A coaching session can actually be pretty hard work if you give it your all. It requires resilience, honesty, grit and determination to move forward; often in the face of adversity.

What Coaching IS

Great coaching has the potential to bring about profound and meaningful change, by helping clarify those thoughts and ideas that may otherwise remain a jumble in your head and keep you up at night. A structured coaching programme will help you set clear personal and professional goals, achieve them and then often surprise you by knocking them out of the park. Coaching is a positive, future-focused and action-oriented discipline. It helps you clear hurdles and barriers out of your own way, and it assumes that because you are the one facing the challenge, you actually hold the answers to overcoming it.

Think of me as a sounding board; your partner in crime, your wing (wo)man. Someone who is rooting for you from the side lines and giving you that all-important pep talk when you feel like giving up. I’ll hold you accountable for your own success. I won’t ever give up on you and more importantly, I won’t let you give up on yourself, no matter how bad your day, week or month has been.

My Approach

I am a firm believer that coaching should result in tangible, practical actions so I often use psychometric tool insights to bring my sessions to life. I adopt a pragmatic yet positive, strengths-oriented philosophy when coaching; providing my clients with a healthy balance of both challenge and support. I am not exactly a ‘tree-hugger’ type but I do pride myself on having a fairly high EQ and a passion for helping people overcome their fears and reach their fullest potential. I would definitely describe myself as more of a career and performance coach than a ‘life coach’ per se, but our lives and careers are so intertwined these days, we need to ensure both are in balance to feel fulfilled and happy.

I am also a mother of two young girls, which helps.

I understand how it feels to lose your confidence when returning to work after a career break. I know how it feels to have forgotten what you used to be good at before you assumed the role of “MUUM!” I also appreciate that having a family changes everything. It gives new perspective to your life and career and makes you question what it’s all about. It also presents itself with a whole other raft of logistical nightmares that can’t be ignored. How do you fit work around immovable objects such as the school run or swimming lessons. I am a massive advocate of flexible working and making work work for you. I have lots of resources available to me which can help you explore ways of addressing all these considerations. Together we can arrive at the perfect outcome for both you and your family.

How it works

Ad hoc 1:1 Spark Sessions

I am always happy to offer an ad-hoc ‘Spark’ session which is an hour-long conversation, designed to ignite your thinking and confidence around a specific topic or event. Great for when time is of the essence and you have a deadline you are working towards such as an interview or presentation and could do with a quick confidence boost.

Blocks of 3 or 6 sessions

I find that coaching works best when delivered in a programmatic manner; a series of sessions held regularly over a time frame of a few months. This approach helps maintain momentum and focus and increases the likelihood of you smashing your self-appointed goals. I offer a FREE ‘no strings attached’ 30 minute initial chat to see if you think I could help. If you then decide to move forward, we will get to work agreeing realistic but challenging goals and outcomes for your sessions. The more sessions you commit to, the more cost effective they become. The pace of progress will largely be determined by you and the time and energy you have available to commit to the plan.


All sessions are available either face-to-face*, over the phone or via Skype/ Google Hangout. I even offer coaching sessions ‘On-the-Go’ if that’s how you prefer to work. The benefits of walking and exercise to the brain are well-documented after all! Neuroscience tells us that moving the body and pumping more oxygen around our cells may help us think more clearly and it definitely helps alleviate the feeling of being ‘stuck’. I’m also happy to hold our sessions in art galleries or other inspiring spaces, if vision and inspiration are what you are seeking. That said, I am also more than comfortable to hold our conversations in the comfort of your own home or in a quiet local cafe. Whatever works best and feels right for you.

*It is worth mentioning that there may be additional travel costs associated with some face-to-face meetings. At least one face-to-face session will be required if you choose to use a psychometric tool in your coaching sessions, owing to the complex nature of the feedback and insights provided.        

Get in touch

I’m really excited to be a mum supporting other mums through the fabulous minefield that is motherhood, so please do get in touch if you have questions on any of the above or want more information about how coaching could help.  

Drop me a line on sarah@shinebrighterconsulting.co.uk for a FREE ‘no strings’ 30 minute chat to see if coaching could help you move forward.

What a difference a day makes

So I spent two nights away from both my girls (and my husband) this weekend. This is a first. I’m amazed as I say this but I haven’t had time away, just me (and a lovely bunch of ladies) since my eldest was born nearly 4 years ago. Possibly since my hen do the year before she was born, in fact. June 2013. We sat by the fire and drank wine and talked. And talked. Without interruption. We actually finished sentences and switched off, concentrating on us and not our small people for a change. We had showers (and wees) without intrusion and we walked 5 miles to the pub (in a blizzard) at an adult pace. With NO BUGGIES or slings, or nappy bags. We lay in past 6am and leaving the house didn’t feel like a military operation. What a treat!

But as I rounded the final corner back home today, I felt that surge of adrenaline and excitement at the prospect of seeing my gorgeous family again. It had felt good to miss them.

There can be too much of a good thing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. A break is good as a rest. And any other clichés that spring to mind!

Needless to say, the meltdown that ensued over a pass the parcel gift at a birthday party later in the day made me reconsider my glee at having returned at all. The most beautiful cottage with a lovely lot of ladies.

Go slow(er)

Last night marked a new parenting milestone for me. My eldest (pictured here last summer, looking like Alice in Wonderland… or maybe Eve in the Garden of Eden?!) really opened up to me about some stuff she’s been struggling with recently. I was tucking her in and we just got chatting. Really chatting. For what felt like the first time in ages, I’m sad to admit.

I have underestimated the importance of timing when asking her about her day, how she’s feeling, if there’s anything’s on her mind I can help her with etc. After a long day at nursery when all she wants is a snack (or 12) and to watch some “tellllaaaaaay” is not the time.

But as many fellow mums of more than one (or even just one) will agree, bedtime is often the time for routine and division of labour across the household. Speed is of the essence. The shared sentiment is usually “how quickly can we get this boxed up so we can relax and have dinner before 10pm?” And as such I don’t tend to luxuriate over this time of the day as much as probably I should. A time when thoughts of the day are settling and eyeball to eyeball chats are cosiest and best.

We are all guilty of getting caught up in what we perceive (at the time) to be the daily drudge, grind and routine. But sometimes we are missing those rare moments when we need to stop, listen and really look into their shining eyes, connect, go slow, and be present. And really try to not constantly feel like we are fast forwarding 15 mins to when we will finally get to eat dinner and watch GoT (although, don’t get me wrong, that is important for living too) As ever, it is all about balance.



Raising superheroes

So we’re all trying to raise superheroes. Girls and boys. Children that are confident and caring, brilliant and brave. No pressure there then! We all do what we can to be the best possible versions of ourselves in the hope that it will rub off on our unassuming offspring.

When my eldest daughter was painfully shy (and a bit screamy) at a 4th birthday party on Sunday, I tried really hard not to make it about me and show my frustration that she was the only one not joining in. After all, it wasn’t about me at all. It was about her having a tough time. She needed my help, not my disappointment. (Even though I did indeed feel so disappointed that she didn’t seem to be having much fun after having talked about it for days….)

Then good old ‘mummy guilt’ reared her stupid head and I started thinking that maybe it was my fault she had been so sad. Perhaps, as her mother, I had somehow failed to equip her with the right tools or social skills required to hold her own in a room full of princesses and superheroes? Maybe it was my fault she was having such a seemingly shitty time when she should have been having fun?

Of course I realise this was all rather melodramatic and that she’s just a little more introverted and cautious than other children. And that’s not altogether a bad thing! When the last guest had left, she picked up her fairy wings and wand and danced like a crazy person with her little birthday friend. We all need to go easy on ourselves. We are doing our best after all. Any tips for how I can support my little introvert better would be greatly appreciated! Thanks @coolmompicks for the super pic.


Mojo? What mojo?

It was yet another grey, grey day in Buckinghamshire today. Everyone in the Clarke household is a little bit ill. (Everyone, that is, apart from my constitution-of-an-ox-husband.) Not really ill, thank goodness. You know. Just snot. Endless mucus streaming out of small faces. And now mine.

Today is one of those days where a ‘mojo’ felt like an exotic, fantastical state- often read about, never actually experienced. The odd day of feeling mojo-less happens to the very best of us. But if you’re a mum who’s been feeling like this for a while, maybe now is the time to do something about it.

Cast off that infamous mummy guilt that plagues us all and spend some time thinking about you for a change and what you need to do to reclaim that mojo (to which you are absolutely entitled, by the way). Book yourself a massage with the lovely Natalie @greenewellbeing if you happen to live near Chesham, drop me a line to book a no pressure 30 minute consultation. Or failing that, open a bottle of wine and run yourself a bubble bath. And relaaaax….

Mum’s the word

Happy International Women’s Day 2018. What better way to mark the day by launching a new coaching programme. Just for women, and mums in particular. Read on to find out more.

My Story

Like many expectant new mums I know, I felt I did everything in my power to prepare for motherhood. I devoured every post about pregnancy, read every book about birth and babies and listened to lectures on lactation. If you are reading this as a mother then you know only too well the futile nature of this preparation! Nothing whatsoever could have prepared me for the emergency c-section, the pain, the terror, the joy, the sleep-deprivation or indeed the overwhelming love I was about to experience. My maternity leave came and went and it became clear to me that there were also other things I hadn’t bargained for about becoming a mother. No one told me about the loss of identity and confidence in your own professional abilities that many new mums experience. Parenthood also made me think about my priorities and that ever-elusive ‘work-life balance’ HR people always seem to bang on about.

Practical Coaching Just for Mums

Having spoken to many mothers since having my two daughters, I was definitely not alone in having experienced these crises of confidence. I know that I would have really benefited from having a neutral party,  a sounding-board, (not just a well-meaning friend or family member) to talk through my personal, work and career aspirations with as a new mum. For this reason, I set up a practical coaching programme tailored to the specific needs of mothers. Throughout my entire career I have been coaching professionals in businesses; helping them increase their self awareness and enjoy fulfilling careers that both play to their strengths and align with their personal values. I often use psychometric assessments which add powerful insights to these coaching sessions. And then it struck me: why shouldn’t professional women on career breaks have access to these powerful insights too? I therefore make all these tools available to mothers who aren’t currently in a work environment, so you too can learn how to make the most of your strengths and make work and lifestyle choices that authentically align with your values. We also explore practical ways of minimising the risk of any potentially ‘de-railing’ behaviours that might throw your plans off course.

You may benefit from coaching if any of the following scenarios resonate:

  • Returning (or not returning) to work is on your mind but you have lost confidence in your own professional capabilities or strengths and aren’t sure what options are out there.
  • You have lost your sense of identity or purpose and can’t see past your (albeit vital) role of ‘Mum’.
  • You love being a mum but the seemingly relentless day-to day grind is starting to get you down. You feel stuck in a rut but really want to do something about it.
  • Your children are becoming more independent and you feel ready to rediscover your strengths and reassess your values, in order to help you work out how you want to spend your free time.
  • You would like help to achieve the holy grail that is ‘work-life balance’. You need reassurance that you can juggle all your important roles of mother, partner, income-earner, friend and family member.

Drop me a line on sarah@shinebrighterconsulting.co.uk to find out more and book your free 30 minute consultation to see if coaching could help you.