A Village of Fathers

I have a life coach. As a career & life coach, it behooves me to be coached, to practice what I preach.

My coach was a set up, and as a result, a coach was chosen for me that is probably unlike a coach I would have chosen for myself. He is a Black Christian man living in North Carolina.

And yet, he is a lot like me, a White Jewish woman in New Jersey.

We both have backgrounds in marketing and public speaking. We are both parents and have experience in step-families. He inspires me and digs deep to help me figure out what I’m good at and what I can contribute to my clients’ lives. He loves coaching.

He continues to focus on my work as a mother (even though I tell him it’s not relevant), and as a working mother, and the value of that work. Because he, as a working father of a young black man, the same age as the white men I’m raising, well…he respects mothering. Of all men. And respects the important role of a good mother in a man’s life.

Today, Tru sent me a video (as he likes to do) after our session. I had shared some frustration with him about something that happened recently, how I felt unsupported as a mother.

He shared this video with me, to demonstrates different ways in which communities support parents and children:

Did you cry as much as I did?

Wow. This Black Christian man and White Jewish mother have a lot in common. We want to increase the opportunities for children of all ages to grow strong through their challenges, feel support around them, and help them use their passion and potential to create a purpose.

And to make his point as to how important mothers are, Tru sent me a video on the power of fathers. And fathering. And family and villages. During every session, he tells me that stories from he heart are the most powerful. After watching this, I can only agree.

People Are Like Goldfish

My family and I went to a festival recently, and they had one of those games where participants can win goldfish. Of course this the prize both of my 3-year-olds wanted.

And, after carrying those fish around for 2 hours, carelessly tossed to the side when a kid was eating pizza, swimming away from the claws of a 3-year-old trying to “squish the fish”, they made it home to a place that had no bowl and no food.

These fish were exhausted, traumatized. And no, the pet store was not open after we finally put our children to sleep.

Our two fish were to live in a pitcher and go hungry. After all that. 🙁

At the pet store the next day I was reassured by the pet store staff that there was no point in giving festival fish a nice habitat, as they were bred to live short lives. They were just meant to be prizes, or feed other fish.

life coach

Fish or food?

Slightly more research yielded a different perspective — these festival fish, also called common goldfish or comets could grow up to 18 inches! Instead of keeping them in a pitcher as I had been, these giants-to-be deserved a filtered tank, and due to the intense amount of excrement they produced, no more than 2 fish to a 10 gallon tank at a minimum.

I splurged and went with a long 20 gallon tank for my fish (which cost less than $100), to see if this fish tale could possibly be true.

The fish remind me of my coaching clients. At some point, my clients were put in a tank that was the wrong size. They heard lots of shoulds and cant’s, and stepped away from something they wanted to do.

They come to me to fix a situation, something that is wrong that is nagging at them, whether it’s career, family life, or most frequently a combination of the two.

I believe in people. I believe that everyone has something that they can do to contribute to the world. Their superpower. Maybe it’s revolutionizing school lunches. Maybe it’s helping AIDS orphans in Africa and Thailand. Maybe it’s creating the most beautiful, high end bridal shop in New York City. Maybe it’s publishing a series of cookbooks, and the words and pictures to go with them.goldfish

People have skills and talents. Unique gifts. Last weekend I was at a wedding and met a woman who makes gorgeous jewelry out of flat polished stones that she finds on the beach. Another who makes large installations of wine cork art (some of her pieces have over 4000 corks!). Both are at the beginning of their artistic/entrepreneurial journeys; I can’t wait to see where these passions take them in 3 to 5 years.

These passionate people deserve big tanks so that they can grow to the full extent of their abilities.

I coach because I believe in people. I also believe people have an easier time stepping into their zone when they have an advocate who shares their vision and believes in their ability to accomplish it. The only thing that stands between a constipated superhero and a contribution to the world is partner that believes in them and holds them accountable to their vision

My work as a coach allows me to be the scaffolding as these superheroes are built.

And those goldfish? Well I’m happier to say that the experts were right. Comets grow fast! In just 3 months, my fish are thriving and have doubled in size, from under 1 inch to big, fat two inch goldfish (with incredible appetites).

Don’t be surprised if you come to visit me in my office and find a 50 gallon tank with just a few big fish in the next few years.

I believe in what happens when fish (and people) are put in the right environment.

life coach

Doing the Girl Thing

I have two impressive clients, one a lawyer and one a doctor. They are highly accomplished in their fields.

On the same day, each separately asked me the same question at one point during the session:

“Am I doing the girl thing?”

And I knew exactly what they meant. But, being a coach, my job is to ask more than answer and so I asked what they meant. Here’s what they said, more or less:

“You know, that thing where I have an idea, then totally kill it, or think that what I’m offering isn’t good enough, even though it’s more than enough. Or when I have success in something after working hard, then put myself down. You know, the girl thing.”

I do know. The girl thing.

In fact, yesterday I was sharing this very story with a friend. She just received a big promotion at work, and closed a new deal faster than any one ever has in the history of the 30-year company.

Then, she explained away her success as luck, not really a big deal, a long time coming, etc. As soon as she did it she realized, “Oh my god! I just did the girl thing!”

Yup. So I asked her what she could say instead. She came up with:

“Thank you! It’s a great client — I’m excited to start working with them.”


But the unspoken “girl thing” that too many of us understand is no longer working for me. And, as the mother of a daughter, it’s really not working for me. I want the same opportunities and possibilities for all my children, no matter the gender. Not 79 cents on the dollar for my “less valuable” daughter. I don’t want to see the world teach limitations into her core, as it has for me and my clients.

I want my 2-year-old daughter, who is pretty badass already, to not recognize “doing the girl thing” as what my doctor, lawyer, and business friend and I recognize too easily. Putting yourself down. Making excuses for your success. Apologizing for your creative ideas. Hearing yourself “you can’t” before you say “I can”.

Let’s redefine what “doing the girl thing” means. What if doing the girl thing meant that girls:

Celebrate, like Brandi Chastain

Lead, like Golda Meir

Act, like Margaret Thatcher

Help others, like Ina May Gaskin

Are Brave, like Malala

Are Strong, like the Williams Sisters

Create Justice, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Do What’s Right, like Eleanor Roosevelt

Blaze A New Path, like Hillary Clinton

Are Entrepreneurial, like Martha Stewart

Guide Others, like Harriet Tubman

Stands up for Your Rights, like Susan B Anthony

Care for Animals, like Jane Goodall

Teach, like Julia Child

Manage Money, like Janet Yellen

Rock, like Joan Jett

While writing this post, I got a call from a client who set a lofty goal for herself 3 months ago. Today, the dream became reality. She called to tell me about the interview that lead to the offer, and started by saying: “I’m not going to lie, and I hope this doesn’t appear arrogant, but I did a GREAT job. I knew I had it and I did. I could tell during our conversation. I just nailed it.”

When I asked her what she did in the interview that was so special, she said, “You know what? I just said what I believed and I acted like myself. I was totally honest. And it worked!”

That’s the 2016 version of doing the girl thing. Just finding that thing you’re great at and doing it. Being honestly and authentically you.

How To Support A Stepmom

On my wedding day, I became a stepmother. That word, with all it’s ugly connotations, was a coat I put on top of my wedding dress. After the honeymoon, I looked at this coat (not at all my style), and I thought: what have I done?

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it. I felt like the ogre I was destined to become for just thinking these things.

How to support a step-mom

Is this your destiny?

And yet, my 10 year old stepdaughter and I had a solid relationship. We met when she was 7, which is the “right” time, according to all the experts, and had ample time to get to know one another.  We talked about the “step thing” (we both hated those step words — both stepchild and stepmother), and how our relationship was up to us, and we could make it whatever we wanted.

And we did.

But little did I know, my relationship with my stepdaughter was going to be the least of my challenges. Coordinating with her biological mother, managing carpool logistics and birthdays, handling alimony and child support, and most importantly, managing society-at-large, which is still moving forward with the tired assumption that children of divorce stay with their moms and see their dads infrequently, and more importantly, that dads (and by proxy stepmoms), are passive parents as soon as the divorce and remarriage papers are signed.


In modern co-resident families (children of divorce, moving between homes), 85% of men get married again, within four years, which means the children will have a stepmother.

85% of children of divorce will have a stepmother. And while we should consider the welfare of the children (full stop), I can tell you one thing for sure: that stepmom needs a hand.

You know the old phrase “If momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”? That goes triple for stepmoms. And there are so few proactive support resources — it’s time we help these sisters out.

She doesn’t need pity or sympathy. She needs empathy and understanding.

She needs what all moms need: help being the brave kick-ass woman she is, remembering that she is herself, after all, inside that stepmom coat. And she needs help supporting her marriage. Ayelet Waldman said it, now I’m saying it too.

Because only with a strong marriage can you possibly take care of the avalanche that is stepparenting. Before you can take care of your children, you need to take care of yourself, your marriage, your communication, and your tribe. Especially in stepfamilies.

Why? Here is a quick list of some things stepmoms have to deal with that regular mom never have to:

  • coordinating schedules, on a regular basis with your husband’s ex-wife
  • figuring out how to deal with your husband talking with his ex on a regular basis, and the loaded feelings that go with that
  • managing holidays, birthdays, vacations
  • helping your stepchild navigate between two homes with very different sets of rules/expectations
  • managing teachers, camp, doctors appointments
  • managing illness (do you send a kid to her mother’s house when she has the flu, it’s not “your day” and you’ve got an important work meeting planned?). Welcome to guilt vs. resentment.
  • in-laws who side with the ex (and don’t like you)
  • other moms/opinion leaders in town who don’t like that you’re _______ (fill in the blank: young, pretty, successful, a good stepmom)

Step Mother's Day

And I’m just getting started. If you don’t have a strong baseline with your husband, each and every one of these small things become a drain on the relationship.

It’s a hell of a lot to put on a marriage just out of the gates, isn’t it?

So sure, you can head to therapy. You can head to a psychiatrist. Or you can head to the bar. But I believe, a far better place to go is to a coach. A coach’s job is to see the you you want to be, and to hold you accountable as you get there. To see the thriving fabulous women you were before you became a stepmom, look at the realities of being a stepmom and look at the stepmom that you and your husband can help you be, together.

4 Powerful Words Change Family Dynamics

For those of you who think the most powerful words  are “I love you,” try again.

It starts with “I love you”, right? After that, maybe there’s an “I do”, after which you adopt a fish or a frog or a fuzzy something or other. Then maybe you create some new people. Sure, “I love you” kicks it off.  It’s a powerful phrase, but…

There are more powerful words.

After you’ve created a family, have begun nesting, and yet — that familiar gender (or role) inequity that you promised would never happen to you happens…

There are more powerful words.

When there is one adult that goes out, and one adult that stays with the children, or better yet two adults that go out, and yet one adult that fields the lion’s share of the childcare responsibilities (the one who manages doctors appointments and birthdays…)

There are more powerful words.

The four most powerful words you can utter to your partner, after you’ve added new lives, a lack of sleep, and unprecedented responsibilities to your world, the four most family dynamic-altering words you can say as soon as you walk through the door are: “How can I help?”
Relationship Coaching - Allison Task

Think on that for a second.

It’s become a bit of a mantra in my house. I have three children under three, as well as a teenage stepdaughter, who has teenage stepdaughter needs. After I had my third child (in 18 months), it didn’t take long  before I was tired of hearing what everyone else needed (or anticipating the needs of those who couldn’t speak). What I needed was someone to help me.

And so I asked my husband and stepdaughter, if, when they walked through the door, the first question they could ask was “How can I help?

After all, our house was as together as a house with three under three can be. Which goes to say, not very together.

As soon as they started using the mantra (and following up on the request that was made), that pile of dishes in the sink, that dirty diaper that needed to be changed, that hungry child who wanted a snack —  suddenly, those TO-DOs are crossed off my list, and as if the question asker had waved a magic wand.

And who is that magician? That person solving my problems, meeting my needs, reading my mind (ok, they asked the question and I told them what needed doing, but that’s really not as important as they fact that they are now doing what needs to be done) My husband. My stepdaughter. Any adult who walks into my house and says: “How can I help?”

By asking the question, I, the caretaker of the moment, gets rid of the task I want to do least. Can you imagine? Someone walking through the door, asking what needs to be done and then doing it? On a regular basis?

elephant family dynamicsCan we collectively breathe a sigh of relief?

It’s the greatest phrase since I love you, and I say greater, because the I love you is implied. And to it is added “we’re in this together”, “this is our family”, “I got your back” and “thank you, for managing our home while I was at work/the gym/out with friends”.

Give it a try. And please let me know how it goes with your family.

When “It Will Work Out” Is Not Helpful

Fertility Advice - Family Coaching

How Many Are There?

I remember sitting at the office after my fourth IUI didn’t work. My colleague was showing me pictures of her beautiful 2 year old running on the beach. She had no idea what I was going through.

Except that she did. As I cooed over her beautiful child, she opened up about IVF. This had been her 3rd go, it was hell but it was all worth it.

I told her what I was doing and where I was. As I said the words, I could barely hold it together. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It will all work out as it’s meant to.”

Easy for her to say. She had the gorgeous daughter, waving to mama from the sand. Pictures like that are like nails on a chalk board to someone going through fertility treatments. I wanted to get the hell out of there, and then felt even more evil for resenting this mother and her sweet kid.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t getting pregnant.

I didn’t deserve a kid.

I wouldn’t be good with kids.

I wouldn’t be a good mother.

Some really bad thing I did was coming back as karma.

This was my penance.

These are the thoughts I had when I wasn’t getting pregnant. Maybe you have them too. It’s okay to feel this way. It’s hard to explain the stress of fertility treatments to someone who isn’t in it.

But couldn’t she remember her own stress? She had done IVF 3 times? She had been through this, she was just like me. Didn’t she understand how awful it was for someone to say, “It’ll all work out as it’s meant to”?

First of all: “As it’s meant to?” That clearly means I’m not MEANT to have a child, doesn’t it? Because it sure ain’t working out now. It will all work out – like I’ll come around to the idea of being a barren old maid? Because that’s what it feels when you’re in it.

But when you have distance from the situation, does that change? I was recently speaking with a client who had navigated the fertility maze, and now was at home with her healthy 4-month-old baby girl. I asked her, “Knowing what you know now, would you have said to yourself when you were going through the fertility treatments?”

“I would have told myself to relax. It will work out as it’s meant to.”

The wisdom of hindsight. In the moment, it’s not what we want to hear. Well intentioned people see the possibility of a positive future; it just feels so far away when we’re sitting in a painful present.

Today, my client could see that she needed extra time to prepare herself for the baby. Today, she has the perspective to say the baby came at the exact right time.

When you’re sitting in the problem, you feel it more deeply than anything else. It’s hard to step out of the present and imagine the possibilities that the future can (and will) bring. When you are in it, you may feel excluded from the parenting joy that others have access to. You may get angry, frustrated and jealous. And then the guilt comes in.

Those who love you (including the future you), want to put a window in that wall, so that you can see possibilities. To see the good that can and will come from this.

But at the time, the positive people make you want to scream. Because they give you that hope – they see you with your baby. And after a D&C, a miscarriage, and a chemical pregnancy, it’s almost easier to believe in no baby then to gear up again and believe in the possibility of a viable pregnancy. Hope requires vulnerability.

The pain of longing for your unborn child is a most exquisite pain. Because in this wanting, you have joined the ranks of feral animals that give anything to protect their young. The energy that helps women pick up cars if they think their child is under it. The protective power of a momma bear separated from cub. You have become a mother. And something has come between you and your child.

And that strength, that deep maternal power and connectedness to your core will help you create the child you are meant to have. Because you have already become your powerful mother self. You have become a mother, and the child will arrive, I promise you.

Even though that’s the most painful thing you can hear. If you have the courage to believe it and find peace in it, then that whole labor thing will be a walk in the park.