Alexandra Hughes of In Essence Coaching has made it her life’s work to help moms feel calm and grounded. A mom of three in D.C., Alexandria has been leading Calm Mom coaching circles at lil omm yoga studio in Tenley. She recently led a webinar titled “Ditch Overwhelm” webinar that I’m grateful I was able to make, and she is about to launch online Calm Mom Coaching Circles.
After the recent webinar, Alexandra and I spoke about the dovetailing interests of her coaching practice and Mindful Healthy Life to help parents find ways to be present and connected with their families. We’re excited to announce that Alexandra will be coming on board as a guest poster and eventually a regular contributor to Mindful Healthy Life. Get to know her in this Q&A!
Jessica: First tell us about the ages of your children and when you got started helping stressed out Moms find calm and joy.
Alexandra: I have three kids. Mia is 11 (going on 21), Oriol is 8 and Joaquim (Quimmy) is 5 (going on 15!). They are wonderful little creatures – all active with strong personalities (and I like it that way most of the time).
I decided to leave my career in International Development and dedicate myself to supporting personal development – my own and others’ after Quimmy was born.
This was probably the greatest reawakening and most significant turning point in my life.
What made you decide to pursue the path toward coaching and mentoring busy Moms?
Alexandra: Well…I have moved internationally with my family three times and can’t even tell you how many houses we’ve lived in. My husband works long hours and travels a lot.
I also happen to be a recovering Type-A personality prone to shoulditis and perfectionism.
I mean, even before I became a Mom, I was prone to stress. Today, three kids later, I consider myself an expert.
Before Quimmy came along I was trying to do it all – be the perfect Mom, the perfect housemaker, the perfect wife, the perfect professional. But I wasn’t happy.
It was my “light bulb” baby number three that helped me to shine a mirror on what I was missing. I finally saw that my high-strung-hamster-wheel-guilt-plagued lifestyle was getting in the way of the most important moments and relationships in my life.
My reactions to life’s Mom-stress were explosive, and my connections with those I loved, unhealthy. I was missing out on quality living. And my kids were missing out on me. These were moments I would never get back.
So I stopped. I started to learn to stay calm and enjoy the ride; I started to relearn motherhood.
Since then I’ve retrained as a professional life coach and have worked with hundreds of mothers from around the world to help them do the same – find calm and joyful living. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than five years now.
What do you do that is beyond just helping mothers manage stress? What else is important to you to provide for families?
Alexandra: I help mothers to manage stress by teaching them how to practice mindfulness and to manage their energy and time in a discerning and intentional way. I help them to become more self-aware of what their stress triggers are, more in touch with the deeper self-talk and blockages that get in the way of healthy living. As these mothers’ self-awareness grows, they begin to relate to themselves in a more forgiving, self-loving and confident way. This, along with a more spacious calendar, transforms the way they relate to those they love.
Clients have told me that working with me has revolutionized family relationships and dynamics, not to mention their own holistic health and well-being. Ultimately my work supports mothers to feel empowered and to thrive – something an entire family will appreciate and benefit from.
Tell us about the Calm Mom Coaching Circles. How did you get started these group coaching circles?
Alexandra: The Calm Mom Coaching Circles I run are a DC product. Before I received my working permit, I decided to explore mothers’ experiences of life, here. See, when I was in the UK, I worked with mothers whose self-esteem had suffered, and who wanted more fulfilling lives. They just didn’t know what they wanted or how to get there.
I carried out a number of one-on-one interviews and Focus Group Discussions and learned that DC Moms are at a different place. They are so rushed, so stressed, so anxious, so driven that they don’t have the headspace or time to reflect on whether they’re enjoying life or not. The one symptom they experience indicating that things aren’t quite right for them is their anger, lack of patience with their kids and partners. They don’t want to lose out on this time. They don’t want to regret missing out on the joy of this season.
And what’s super exciting is that the demand for Calm Mom group coaching is inviting me to start-up on-line coaching circles that mothers can participate in from anywhere around the world, from the comfort of their own homes! Bringing women together has always proven to be such a supportive and empowering experience for everyone involved – and now, imagine, there can be people from all over the continent or even across the ocean! I’m so psyched!
How have you grown as a parent since the birth of your first child? What has become more or less important to you?
Alexandra: Wow, what a question! I’m actually planning on writing a book about that someday!
Becoming a mother has, for me, been the greatest life challenge and opportunity for personal growth!
By nature I’m a Type-A, achievement driven, control freak perfectionist. Before kids I was on a clear career path that was aligned with what I felt passionate about.
Everything changed when we adopted Mia, though. All of a sudden life was not controllable. I didn’t know what perfection looked like. And my emotions and heart took over completely.
I never imagined that I’d leave a lucrative job for a child. I mean, I didn’t even like kids before Mia came along! But Mia opened my heart. Her sweet smile, open heart and dancing style seduced the driven professional in me. The little three year old had experienced much loss in her life with the death of her birth mother and grandmother. When we adopted her I was already 3 months pregnant, so we wouldn’t have much time together just one-on-one. We needed to bond and as time was precious, ultimately there was no choice in my heart or mind. I left my job and became a full-time Mama.
And then when Oriol was born six months later, “achieving,” efficiency and productivity as I knew it evaporated. I could barely get showered, let alone attend to the hundreds of projects I was used to managing.
I resisted change, though. Slowing down felt like failure. So I kept going-going-going. And like I said before, it wasn’t until baby number 3 came along that I really woke up.
Some general lessons:
I’ve learned that there isn’t really one right way to parent and that any book or program that is prescriptive is harmful.
I mean, yes, there is so much out there! So much knowledge! This is good because we have more research than ever before. However, unless we are connected with who we are and what we believe as women, as human beings, then we are not empowered to pick and choose a way that works for us and for our children. And let’s face it, it’s easy to get disconnected when we are suffering from sleep deprivation, with social pressure coming at us from every corner at every second. As mothers with young children, we are stretched thin and vulnerable
I’ve also learned that perfection doesn’t exist. While it’s okay to have a goal to work towards, the key to enjoying the motherhood journey is to see it as that a journey – with twists and turns, ups and downs. And above all, as a path from which we learn. We fall down, we make mistakes, we fumble. It’s all okay.
Nobody – not even our kids – should see us as perfect. Imperfection and fumbling are beautiful. Look at a child’s drawing, or watch a child learn to walk. It’s fun coming into being process that we must celebrate. And as mothers, we must celebrate ourselves – our own coming into being.
And one final take-away from this crazy journey is that while we are fooled into believing that we can have it all – the perfect house, the perfect kids, the perfect job, etc… We can’t. We need to say no to some things some of the time. And that’s ok. Because we can have it all, maybe just not right now.
I hear you just moved to D.C. Any tips for moving with small children?
Alexandra: Find a like-minded community of Mamas. Put your self-care first. Be ok with asking for help. Don’t jump into the swing of the crazy D.C. lifestyle without some deep reflection; it’s easy to get sucked in and compare yourself to the neighbors when you don’t have cultural terms of reference. Take time to listen to your gut, and then have the guts to follow through. In other words, take time to design a life that works for you.
What inspired you to join the Mindful Healthy Life team? What are your hopes for
Alexandra: Before living in D.C., I lived in Brighton, a small city south of London in the UK. It was an eclectic and progressive place to live – supersaturated with yoga studios, health food stores and the like.
And while I have always gravitated towards mindful healthy living, Brighton put me to shame because everybody around me was more progressive thinking.
The opposite is true here in D.C. I see anxiety and stress as a norm here, impacting peoples’ lives in horrible ways. I see this pattern of living being passed from parent to child and, to be honest, this is what worries me the most!
I hope that being part of this website can help me to contribute to increasing awareness that there is another way of living, a healthier and more mindful way of relating to the world around us and those we love.
My hopes for the website? That it offers support, resources and community to all those parents and families who are seeking for that different way of being.
Jessica Claire Haney is the founder, publisher and editor of Mindful Healthy Life. She is a writer and editor and a co-leader for the Arlington/Alexandria chapter of Holistic Moms Network. Her personal blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama and her writer’s site is JessicaClaireHaney.com. See the Contributors page and Jessica’s Mindful Healthy Life Q&A for more on Jessica.