Finding just the right balance between work and life is something with which any professional struggles. Professional women typically have even more unbalance thrown into their mix when life involves children. Fabi Howard has worked as a professional coach for years and has watched every stage of raising a child take a different toll on the parent. She shares with us advice for finding balance and for gracefully (as possible) navigating life’s changes, from first becoming a parent to raising a teenager.
4word: As a professional coach and 4word mentor, you are passionate about guiding women in their personal and professional relationships. What led you to choose this career path?
Fabi: My passion in choosing this career path was ignited at a very young age. My parents divorced when I was an early teen, and I remember how much my mother struggled as a single mom. It never crossed her mind that she would be left alone to raise three kids. She struggled in many different ways and at that young age, watching her struggle broke my heart. I made a decision back then that I would do everything I could to be prepared in my life for the unpredictable. Because that’s something we genuinely don’t foresee coming, in my mind that meant being prepared financially and emotionally. Starting then, I found strength in myself that I know was God-given… a strength I could use to help my mother and others.
After completing my undergraduate studies, I began my career in Human Resources at a global telecom corporation. My favorite part of the job, as crazy as it sounds, was dealing with the conflict and employee relation issues that came up. I developed a passion for helping those who felt they were stuck in a hopeless situation. The coaching of individuals and seeing them rise to success in their relationships triggered my desire to seek out a profession specifically in the counseling arena. I loved my job and didn’t want to stop what I was doing, so I was fortunate to secure the support of my company and was able to begin my Masters in Counseling. Once completing my degree, I worked in a private practice on the weekends and continued to find my passion in helping others mend relationships and find their own path in life.
During my 14 years in corporate, I grew into a great role as an Executive Coach and Organization Development consultant. I was able to coach on a grander scale, developing programs and helping teams work more effectively together. However, as much as I loved this role, my personal experiences at home throughout this time were starting to shape the work I wanted to do moving forward. I had married and become a mom and was starting to experience the challenges that come with juggling a career and being a wife and mom. My compassion and respect grew for women and the important role they play in relationships of all kinds, whether in a professional setting or at home with their families. Thus, I made the decision to leave my career in corporate to start my own business and follow my heart in helping women grow “strong-her” in every aspect of their life. This passion started long ago and has led me to this moment. In my role now, I’m inspired by the natural strength I always see in women, although they may not see it yet in themselves.
4word: What are some common issues or concerns affecting the women you coach?
Fabi: My client base started with many of the women from the company I had just left and with whom I had already established a coaching relationship. Thus, these were women who had a professional career and were trying to maintain it in good standing but were also facing struggles at home. Balancing ambition in career while maintaining a healthy home life is one of the biggest struggles I see. Because of the nature of women, which is very much that of a nurturer, there is a lot of guilt that comes from perhaps not being present in every aspect of their children’s lives, or vice versa in not putting in the time at work they see from their male counterparts. That guilt turns into stress and in many cases depression. The key is definitely in finding that balance that works for each of them versus getting stuck in what they have been conditioned to think is the expectation.
Another area where I have seen a lot of struggle is in parenting. The majority of my clients here have been single moms raising teenage kids, or also new moms with their toddlers. All of these moms typically have reached a stage of hopelessness and are desperate for something to change and for things to get better. I really enjoy working with these moms, because I can appreciate the kind of love that one feels for their child and how difficult it can be working with young minds and hearts that are still developing and trying to find their own person. At times as moms, either because we love our kids so much, or because we feel desperate, we can unintentionally do more harm than good. Emotions have a way of taking hold and taking over. The key is in gaining control of those emotions and learning to “guide” our kids in life, so that they will be prepared to do life on their own one day…being responsible for themselves and knowing how to make good decisions.
Earlier this year, I became a certified trainer of Love and Logic®. I love this parenting framework, because it takes the parent out of the “bad guy” seat and instead empowers the child to learn how to make choices that he/she can be proud of. This, in turn, builds self-confidence. It also enables the parent and child to build a relationship based on effective and healthy communication versus yelling.
4word: One “life stage” you coach many women through is the transition of being a mother to a young child to being a mother of a teenager. What are some common, and possibly unforeseen, conflicts that arise during that time?
Fabi: Any transition can be difficult, primarily because we grow accustomed to the way things are and our daily routine and flow of things. But becoming a teenager has got to be one of the most difficult transitions in one’s own life, yet alone that teenager’s parents! I just wrote a blog on my web site called “ Top 3 Tips to Parenting Teens ” where I basically try to remind parents what all is happening to their kids emotionally and physically during this transition. Something happens when we get older in that we forget what it was like to be a teenager. I find that if I can bring back that memory to the mothers I coach, they learn to appreciate what their child is going through and thus become more patient with him/her. This transition happens so quickly that, in a way, moms mourn the child they “used to know”. That can be very difficult for a parent.
These moms’ desire is to get back the relationship they used to have with their child, but the difficult part is that moms have to change their approach to do so. What used to work with these kids when they were younger doesn’t work anymore. I always joke and say that this is the time we as moms have to “cut the cord” a bit and allow our kids some breathing space to deal with everything they are feeling. Being a “guide” to our children vs. lecturing becomes even more important; because many times that is the only way they will choose to listen versus tune us out.
4word: What advice do you have for women struggling to balance time between work and life?
Fabi: The majority of women I talk to struggling with this seem to be suffering from what I call “Super Woman Syndrome”. Their natural instinct is to prove that they are capable of doing it all, because they don’t want to let anyone down, but what happens is that they end up letting themselves down instead. (I talk more about this in my video below!) This mode of operation can only go on for so long, before they hit a breaking point and feel defeated. Making oneself the priority is what’s most important. Typically when I ask women what they are doing that is just for them and their sole happiness, they don’t have an answer. Most times it’s not so much the inability to manage work and life that is the problem, but the fact that the woman isn’t making her self-contentment a priority or even including it in the equation, and thus she’s lost herself. Fixing the root of the problem will in turn allow everything else to find its place in one’s life.
Do you suffer from “Super Woman Syndrome?” Reading Fabi’s advice has hopefully provided you with insight into what you can do now to start removing some of the unnecessary stress from your life, as well as your family’s. Discover your self-confident stride and the rest of life’s many puzzle pieces will start to fall into place.
If you’re a working parent, what are some struggles you’ve faced? How will Fabi’s advice impact your routines?
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Fabi is passionate about helping people grow. Her intuitive nature and innate ability to establish rapport quickly and build trust help her to understand her clients and offer feedback and advice leading to the achievement of results.
Fabi is adept at facilitating and leading high impact group sessions, to include group coaching and conflict resolution as well as coaching one-on-one. Clients recognize Fabi as a consultant and coach who is knowledgeable, motivating, caring yet direct, guiding them effectively through the change they are experiencing.
Fabi has a background in counseling, spending part of her career in the mental health arena as a Licensed Psychotherapist and Consultant, primarily focusing on family and relationship therapy. She graduated from Amberton University with a Masters Degree in Counseling and has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and International Business from Southern Methodist University. Fabi is also fluent in Spanish.
Prior starting her company, Living StrongHer, Fabi gained experience in a corporate organization, Alcatel-Lucent, as a Human Resources Business Partner. In that role, Fabi built a strong foundation in business, organizational change and leadership transitions, learning how organizations work and what makes leaders successful. During her 14 years with the Company, she gained global experience by taking an international position in Shanghai, China, and through her role in creating and implementing highly effective global development programs and training. Through her role as an Executive Coach and OD Consultant, Fabi successfully created and delivered leadership training, coaching and 360 degree solutions to organizations.
Fabi left Alcatel-Lucent in 2013 looking for an opportunity to work with a wider spread of clients and topics. Fabi launched Living StrongHer in 2014; utilizing her background and experience to help women and their families find happiness and balance in their work and home life.