As a busy working mom, Vanessa Gladden knew exactly when and where she had to be to keep her business and family on track but somewhere in the heart of that she knew she was lost. Fast forward several years and Gladden is a life coach helping other women find a path that allows them to thrive.
Put on your own oxygen mask first
The expectations on women and mothers have never been greater. Pressures to put family first, career first and never themselves first, lead many women to lose vision of who they are, said Gladden. The life coach has launched a practice to support women as they face life’s transitions: career changes, kids growing up (ultimately a career change for stay-at-home moms) and divorce.
“I have been through this myself,” said Gladden. “I lost my confidence, I didn’t trust myself, I couldn’t hear my intuition.”
A social worker by training with a past career as an entrepreneur, Gladden started her coaching career to support her business. As she began to seek new directions in her own life she realized lots of women were facing the same challenges without much support.
“There is a lot of stigma around divorce and separation,” she said. “It feels very lonely. There is grief and sadness but it can also be transformational and an empowering experience.”
Those same feelings can be shared by women in other periods of transition such as when children head to school for the first time or when they become empty nesters. The same challenge faces them all: a loss of identity with an unknown future.
Vulnerability and resilence
It’s a situation Gladden faced herself. Her kids were getting older and she was struggling to even think about what her goals for herself were. She opted to take a year off work to explore what her future could be, and ultimately she chose to end her marriage.
“Women face a lot of pressure to stay in unhealthy relationships,” she said. “I realized I was living on autopilot. I wanted to thrive. I needed to find the courage to put my mental health ahead of business and making money. Kids are resilient. You can prioritize your own happiness and keep your kids safe and secure. Your kids will be amazing.”
Separation and career changes can feel overwhelming, she said. Fear can lead women to endure situations that aren’t healthy.
“You can feel grief and loss at the same time as excitement,” Gladden said, adding some of the influences that impede women from making changes. “Financial stress, worry about the kids, a loss of confidence and self-trust.”
Support and vision
A life coach like herself can help women see a path forward to a new future, said Gladden.
“I am a big believer in therapy to understand how you got where you are. A life coach can help you figure out your future,” she explained. “The biggest consideration is personal fit. You need to connect with a coach and find someone who speaks to your soul.”
With Gladden, a typical coaching round lasts about 12 weeks and has six sessions.
“It’s hard to envision the future. We work together to set challenging goals – with each session having its own flavour,” said Gladden. “We also have a celebration of what was accomplished.”
The sessions are geared to the needs of each individual. For some, it could be helping navigate co-parenting or boundaries, for others, it could be dating and others exploring career options.
“It’s an intimidating process to start dating again. There are so many people to date, you will find someone. And if you don’t want to, then don’t. You can come back to that later – or not.”
To connect with Gladden she offers “discovery calls.”
“It’s a 30-minute call where we can get to know each other. I hope everyone goes away with a useful nugget. I feel like if more people talk about these transitions then women can have more freedom of choice.”
Images courtesy of Michele Mateus