With her background in early childhood and parent education, followed by six years as a full-time mum, Caitlin Hocken became a Parenting Coach through the Jai Institute for Parenting. Combining her skills, knowledge and experience with her first-hand struggles of the crazy journey that is parenting, she set out to create a space to support parents to find peace within their families. Caitlin firmly believes that parenting is the most challenging and most demanding job, while having the most profound potential to impact the world. She believes that to raise our children to thrive in this ever-changing world successfully, it is vital to bring intention and conscious choice to our role as parents. Here she talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind ChildWise, how she balances work and family life, and the challenges she has overcome along the way.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
For just about as long as I can remember, I have had a deep love for and affinity with young children. Straight after high school, I took the obvious career route to obtain my Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood from the Queensland University of Technology in 2000. Over the next decade, I worked as a teacher in a range of education settings in my homeland Australia, on my travels to the UK and finally in my new home of NZ, where I settled with my soon-to-be husband. While I enjoyed this work, I found that unless I could establish a good relationship with a child’s parents, whatever influence my teaching had on their lives was minimal.
In 2011, an opportunity to become a Parent Educator for Parents As First Teachers at Barnardos came up. I took the position, and it was an incredible opportunity to partner with parents in the first three years of their children’s lives. Then, after a few years of infertility struggles, in 2013, I became a parent for the first time, and my most profound training began! The magnitude, intensity and suffocating responsibility of parenthood came as a complete shock to me. I had probably gone into it slightly cocky, thinking that the knowledge and experience I had gained from working with children and families would be more than enough to prepare me. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and I found myself in an almost constant state of stress, sleep deprivation and shame that I wasn’t getting it right and couldn’t seem to be the parent I had imagined myself to be. I knew about attachment and how important it was to get that right in the first few years, but I focused so much on the ‘doing’ that I lost the connection with myself and how I was ‘being’ somewhere along the way. When my little boy became a toddler and started growing into his autonomy, I became triggered. With seemingly no warning, anger would bubble up and spill over my beautiful little boy. I felt powerless, ashamed and alone. There were beautiful moments along the way, and with the support of some extraordinary people, I made it through and even found the courage to have a second little boy four years later, but there were still struggles that I couldn’t seem to make sense of.
After six years of being a full-time mum, I felt ready to contribute to the broader world outside of my family and community. As Parents as First Teachers no longer existed, I couldn’t return to my old job, and some internet research led me to discover the Jai Institute for Parenting. Through their training, I began to make sense of what was happening in my parenting. I connected the dots from my life experiences and brought light to how old stories showed up in unhelpful ways in my parenting. The feelings shifted from confusion to understanding, from shame to self-compassion. Finally, the experience I was having in my parenting made sense! Now there was space between the actions of my children and my response. I could choose my responses rather than feeling powerless to control my reactions. Conscious Parenting was the missing puzzle piece of my struggles as a parent.
I completed Jai’s training programme and became certified as a Parenting Coach in 2020, and ChildWise was born. I am honoured to walk beside others on their journeys of discovery. I believe parenting is the most challenging and most demanding job, with the most profound potential to impact the world. If we are to raise our children to thrive in this ever-changing world successfully, it is vital to bring intention and conscious choice to our role. We cannot do this without support.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
I completed my training in March 2020, just before New Zealand went into lockdown. Lockdown turned out to be fantastic timing as everyone got very comfortable with Zoom, which is how I deliver my coaching. Also, parenting struggles intensified for many during the lockdown. I posted a message on my personal Facebook page that I was starting my parent coaching practice and looking for my first clients for a reduced fee, and I received an excellent response. I am so grateful to those first few clients who took a chance on me and enabled me to grow my confidence and overcome my fears of not being ‘good enough.’
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
My biggest breakthrough was probably gaining the confidence to get out and do public talks for parents in my community. If you had told me three years ago that I would be speaking to a room full of people, I would never have believed you. But I knew it was the best way to connect with many people simultaneously and give them a taste of what I could offer. I attended Toastmasters for a year which was incredibly supportive and provided a safe space for me to practise until I felt comfortable enough to get out into public and do the real thing. I was extremely nervous the first time, but I just told my story and when I could see it resonating with people – heads nodding and even eyes welling up, I knew it was worth it if I could help others have the same transformation that I had experienced. My talks have been my most successful way of finding new clients, and I have people reach out having attended a talk even a year previously.