Updated: Jan 29, 2019
Being a parent is hard, so I wanted to take some time to talk to my friend, coach and mentor, Carrie Contey, to give us some tips on understanding child development and how we can achieve conscious parenting through knowing ourselves. Often times we spend so much time listening to others, but when do we listen to ourselves? How can we decide if what we've been doing is still working in this season of our life? Tune in (or subscribe on iTunes- this is episode 14) to learn more! Below is the full interview and an edited transcript of our conversation.
Leanne Peterson: Welcome! Today. I’m talking to my coach, mentor and friend, Carrie Contey. Carrie is a parenting coach. I met up with her because she’s been doing parenting coaching for a long time. She’s created a successful business, and then kind of evolved that business and has been morphing the way she’s working. Everything she’s doing is super inspiring. I’m really glad to talk to her today and have her share her journey of how she got started and how it’s evolved. Because I think often where we start isn’t where we end, and there’s an evolution as we learn more about ourselves and do the work and find what feels good and what doesn’t feel so good. We kind of start shifting and figuring what fits us, not just what seems good to everyone else. So Carrie, I’d love for you to tell us your origin story, how you got started, and how things have evolved since then.
Carrie Contey: Oh my gosh, what a big story. I love this story, and I’m so happy to be with you, Leanne. So thank you. So as many people have heard, I got into this field of parent coaching basically in kind of an unusual way. I don’t have children of my own, but from the time I was a kid, I was really into babies and children. I just wanted to be around them, so I was the mother’s helper and the babysitter of my neighborhood growing up, and then I moved into being a post-partum doula, and I started studying attachment theory. Then I found holistic health. I thought I would be a pediatrician, and then I thought I would be a psychologist, but nothing quite clicked perfectly.
Then I found this field of study called prenatal and perinatal psychology, which is really looking at what happens to us both in the womb, and around birth, and beyond that really sets up how we experience the world.
Once I started digging into that, I realized I wasn’t interested in being a therapist for adults or even children, but I was rather interested in helping parents understand human development from a new perspective and a new paradigm. I started creating this whole new way of thinking about growing people and thinking about approaching parenting. It’s definitely a conscious parenting perspective, but it has a lot more of a leaning toward the parent really knowing themselves and paying attention to their own well-being just slightly more than they are giving attention to their children, which is a little bit different. I think a lot of people who are teaching parenting, I think it’s very focused on the kid and making sure they’re getting what they need. But when you understand the brain, and the nervous system, and self-regulation, you really understand that you can’t separate yourself out from it, that the way that you interact with and guide the growing humans, the little people, is really important and impactful to how they unfold in terms of your knowing you.
That’s kind of the big picture of what I do. It’s really self-growth and self-awareness, and evolution through parenting, but it really folds back on itself because it very quickly becomes about the parent more than the kid. Because the little humans are here to do their journey, and they’re doing that beautifully, and when we ca n support that, but also get out of their way, and be more focused on getting clearer, and tending our own fears around this giant exploration of parenting and life, everything is a little bit different.
You know, the thing you point out that I think is good for all of us to remember is you had this one area of interest that really grabbed you, but then again, the way you’re doing it might look a little different. Because like you said, you’re not interested in the parents per se, but all your work is with the parents, or a majority, and not in a way of, “Let me counsel the parents,” but more in a way of, “Let me educate them. Let me inform them, and let me guide them to their self so that they can take the best care of these, as you say, growing humans as possible.”
Yes, exactly. And so that was what I did. I went and got a Master’s from UT in a field called Health Promotion, and that was really just getting me in the zone of dialing in my interests. So I got to study attachment theory, and I got to study evolutionary biology, and all these cool things. And then that led me to this field, prenatal and perinatal psychology, and then I went on and got a Master’s and a PhD in that field. I like to help people understand that when you’re studying, when you’re out there learning, for me it wasn’t that I wanted somebody else’s methodology, or somebody else’s theory, or somebody else’s ways of doing it. I was just making my soup.
I was learning from all these brilliant humans, but I was very aware the whole time that I wasn’t going to copy what they were doing. I was out to find my essence, my is-ness around it. It’s been a 20+ year journey from the time I started grad school until now, and it’s so rich because I get to just keep creating all the stuff that I want to create. I got to do the work that I wanted to do, I got to do it how I wanted to do it, and then on top of that, I created a business model that I am always in the driver’s seat of. And that was hard-won. That wasn’t something that happened immediately. I was looking outside for other people to tell me how I should do it, or what the best business practice is. I mean, I joke that most women in their 30s are working on a career and getting educated, and then all of the sudden they’re like, “Oh, now I’m a mom. I don’t know anything about babies.” My issue was the complete opposite. I had been studying babies and children and healthy parenting, but I didn’t know anything about business. I realized very quickly, “Oh, I have to figure out how to run a business if I’m going to be successful at sharing this wisdom, and this knowledge, and this guidance that I have.” So that’s the journey that I’ve been on now for the past 10 years in earnest.
I finished my PhD in 2006, and since then it’s been this unfolding of growing, and creating something really big, and trying to get the word out, and then realizing, “Oh, I don’t actually want to make things that big. I want to just get with the people that really want what I’m offering.” It’s a cool process because it’s similar to what I’m teaching parents, which is that there’s no right way. There’s just your way. And you figuring out what that is, with good information, if you’re thinking about it, you’re going to recognize there’s things to know. But in terms of looking for some formula on either how to be a parent, or how to be a therapist, or how to be a business owner, the real goodness of it is when you step into the fact that you have to do the work, and you have to really find that yourself.
That’s what people are looking for. They’re not looking for a formula, they’re looking for an authentic human who is doing their life, and you can kind of draft off of.
I love what you’re saying, because I think so many people in the field can relate to this kind of startling realization, “Okay, I can do the work I love, and I’ve been studying that, but the framework for that, the business model, the how do I make this something that is sustainable,” because I think in a private practice, or in your own business, that’s where you find your freedom to do what you want, to work how much you want. You know, there’s not as much freedom in other people’s systems, but there’s also this big learning curve. I think what you’re talking about is kind of what we’re going to be seeing more of as there’s a lot of people who want to build these big businesses, and I think as consumers, and as creators, everyone’s going to be ready to scale back soon. Because I know as the consumer, I want a more intimate experience, and I know as someone who’s starting one, I want a simpler experience than trying to rein in millions, and appease this huge following. That seems kind of exhausting. There’s something nice about really finding your people, and not finding your people like a million true fans, but finding your people like 10 people who love your work, and then 20 people who love your work.
Exactly. I would say a few of the pieces that I work with for myself are, first and foremost, just getting clear. I do a ton of writing, and I am constantly putting pen to paper and saying, “Okay, what do I want? What am I looking for? What am I going for? What’s the dream?” I’m constantly tapping in, and as you and I have talked about, I don’t see it as this thing that is, “Oh, I’m creating this idea of what I want.” It already exists. I’m just opening it up. I’m allowing the wisdom and the vision to come through, so that I can move my way into it. So that, I’m doing all the time, and everything that I’ve created since grad school, since I learned about this idea of really taking the time to think about what I want, and set some intentions, and learn how to use my energy to move into creating stuff, it’s all happened.
I almost laugh at what I was dreaming of 10 years ago and thinking it was impossible, and I’ve now far exceeded that. Not just in terms of money and having stuff, but quite the opposite, to this point of where I got very clear in 2014 that—I was building this big business, and I had people that were helping me, and I was moving and shaking, and it was all about big, big, big, and all of a sudden, I got clear just through a lot of writing and appreciating that I actually thrive on a much simpler experience. So my word in 2014 was “essential,” and I really just started thinking about what it meant to be essential, and what does essential mean to me? What does it mean to get essential? Lo and behold, miraculously, in 2015, just a few months later, I was living in my dream house, I had this lovely business, I had great people working with me, and all of a sudden, I realized I don’t think I want all of this, but I didn’t know what I was going to do about that.
No joke, that was a Thursday, and I sent a text to a friend and said, “I think I want to let my house go and get rid of all my stuff, and just start traveling. I love hotels. I’d love to live in hotels for a while.” And then, the Saturday of that weekend, a storm blew through Austin, where I was living out in the hill country, and a tornado or some crazy wind, we’re not sure, ripped my roof off my house.
So I was in my house with a friend, and we were screaming because it was completely scary and totally terrifying. However, within moments of it happening and my getting to safety, I looked at myself, and I’m like, “Look what you freakin’ did.”
I had created an experience of having 85% of my worldly possessions taken away, because they were ruined. I got money paid to me for them, and I was given a year’s worth of time and money to travel. My house got redone, and I ended up moving back in, and having a wonderful year. I realized that’s not me anymore. I don’t want to own a big house, and have a steady living-in-one-place life. I loved my year of travel. So I got to try on the lifestyle that I thought I wanted before I actually did it. In the midst of all of that, I started traveling, and I was already giving talks, and speaking, and coaching, but I really unhooked myself from a lot of the things that I thought, and desperately pined for. Then I recognized, “Oh, that’s not what I want. I want simplicity. I want to feel like I have the few things I need, and I can move about nimbly.”
And in doing that, I’ve really had the time and space to let myself have the resources to really ask myself so much more deeply, “Is this working? Is this what I want?” What I’ve found, and I keep finding, is I just love the rich experience of people. I don’t love feeling harried, or hurried, or feeling like too much is going on. I really, really, really love just going deep with a few people. Then I do have this daily email that goes out, and that can go to anybody. That’s free. So my business model that works well for me is giving stuff away, having a few things, a few online courses that people can take that are pretty low cost, and then if you really want to do it, you really want to go for it, you can work with me individually as a coach, and we’re going to really go deep.
So, it’s almost like I don’t dwell in the middle. I used to do that. I had an online program for 7 years called Evolve, and I had hundreds of people that would join me in this, but it was really challenging for me because it felt too in-the-middle. It wasn’t surface-y, like I’m just giving away, and that feels really good. And it wasn’t that I could go deep, deep, deep. So it was really fun—I just, what I love is the moments of clarity, and you and I both love this, I know that about you, where we get that, “Ah-ha!” of like, “Aaah! That’s it!” Like that clunk of, “That’s my next step. That’s where I’m heading.” We know that and we feel that.
Like you said, it’s that we have to give ourselves time to experience that. We have to give ourselves time to check in, time to hold that space for ourselves to, like you said, journal and look at it, because we can get caught up in it. We can get caught up in the stuff, we can get caught up in the busyness, we can get caught up in the, “This is what I always said I wanted, so I should be happy,” feeling of it.
Yes. Exactly. That’s the part that shocks me every time, that I thought I wanted this beautiful modern home, and all these things that I was raised thinking that this was success, and the reality of my own particular life is that no, that’s not exactly it for me. It was really a moment where I was talking to a coach that I had worked with for years—and after I share this story, I want to kind of get a little more brass tacks and practical—but I was talking to one of my good friends who was also my coach for a few years, and helped me create all these great things that are now out in the world. And it was always about more, more, more. Money, what’s the goal, what’s the thing? And what I realized was freedom, and having time, was always more valuable to me. The money, getting the money was really just about getting the freedom.
Once I got the freedom and I could understand how I could have the money still come, but it wasn’t the focus of my life, that’s when things really shifted. And that’s when I sort of shifted tracks from, “Okay, build, build, build, build, build. Make it great. You’ve got to go bigger. That’s what success is,” to, “Oh, actually no. I’m going to go with the joy, and I’m going to go with what feels good, and I’m going to really listen to that and trust it.” Which is still a process. I don’t always trust it. But when I do, it’s miraculous, because I get both the life that I want to live, plus I’m doing work and supporting people in a way that feels really useful, and meaningful, and rich.
So I guess my point in all of this is skate, skate, skate, glide. Do the work. If you’re just starting out and you’re listening to this, you know, really do the work. Enjoy it. Sink into it. Build it, and get in there. But while you’re doing that, make sure you’re carving time to appreciate the heck out of it. If you took time every day to say thank you, not only is that going to bring more what is, because what appreciates, appreciates, but it’s also going to bring more clarity around how you want to keep going. Being open to the idea that it’s always changing, it’s always evolving, and not always thinking, “It has to be this way because this is what I think it’s supposed to be,” that’s when it gets really good. Because here’s the truth: you might have gotten into this work at a time in your life when you were really open, and you were really on it, and you loved helping people, but you might’ve gotten a partner, or you might’ve had children, and now, who you are and what you need might be completely different. So the only way to know that is to constantly, and I’m talking daily, and if you can’t do daily, at least weekly, carving some time to go, “All right. Turn everything off. Sit down. Ask myself what am I loving? What am I needing? What are my intentions? What would feel good?” Do the work to hear yourself, because that’s going to allow you to be way more present with you, your most important people, your family, and then your clients for sure. Because if you start on a track where you’re doing things where you’re really not wanting to do those things, it’s not really useful to you or your people.
It takes some courage. Some of the words I use are clarity. Like really getting clear. Two is connection, listening to yourself. Hearing yourself. Paying good attention to yourself just a little bit more than you are to others. Then getting creative. Being open that things might shift, and you might work in a different way, and you might take some risks. Then the courage to do all of that.
Those are so essential. Those are what allow us to show up in a way, like you said, that’s serving others, but serving ourselves. I spend 30+ hours a week listening to others, and I spend maybe 30 seconds listening to myself.
When I’m not really intentional about it. I think one of the big value-adds of therapy or coaching is to have a space where people are able to speak, and be listened to. Because so often in the world, we speak and we are hardly heard. We’re just responded to. We all really want to be listened to, and so yes, it’s great when someone else can hold that space, but it’s also great when we can make that our priority to hold the space for ourselves. To keep listening to ourselves. To keep asking ourselves, “In this season, is this serving me?”
That’s the bottom line. And I think our work dovetails in that way. It’s like we both value that, maybe above everything else. You and I, you know, we both love sharing our ideas, and we get so excited. However, our essence, what I know about us, is that our essence is really getting people to point back to themselves. That we’re not actually looking for other people’s answers; we’re looking for people to create the space so we can really hear what we need. I think we both thrive on that, and I know you do it for yourself more and more. I do it for myself. We’ve done it together. Every time we would start working together, and I would go toward creating what we were going to do, I was very quick to realize, “Oh, that’s not what you need. You just need me to make the space, and to ask you the questions that get you closer to you.”
Yes. And I love the experience you provided for me, and this idea that, if you haven’t experienced this, and you’re listening, I encourage you to find a way to experience this, because when you start doing that work, it’s amazing. Carrie, I know you probably sensed this, but I didn’t want to be told what to do. I wanted more of me.
I wanted to hear me, and I wanted me to tell myself, and then I wanted someone to listen to what I said because it was so genius. And I was like, “Please, validate all this genius that’s coming from me.” Right? I think that’s a good reminder. If we’re doing therapy, or we’re coaching, and we’re just, someone says something and we respond, someone says something and we respond, but we’re not doing that deeper inquiry where we ask them again, “Tune into yourself, let’s check in with you,” we’re not tapping into the richness that we can tap into. Really, I think of my work as an introduction, helping introduce people to themselves. “Hey, there’s this inner part of you that knows more than I know, than anyone knows, and can we get you building a relationship with that part of yourself?”
Exactly. And that comes straight out of my parenting philosophy, which is you have a big being in a little body. That you are not raising a baby or a child, you are helping a person, a little human, who is exactly who they are. They’re not this child, or this toddler, or this teen, who needs somebody telling them, “This is what you are, and this is who you are, and you’re a blank slate, so you need to listen to us.” But there’s an essence, and there’s a wisdom, and that wisdom is there always. You’re not an other, and then you become a person. You’re a person. And your wisdom is guiding the development. I say this all the time, a baby in the womb doesn’t need their mother saying, “Oh, shoot, it’s month 3 of gestation. I better make that hormone that’s going to allow you to digest certain things.” There’s no thought that has to go into making a whole human from two cells into a baby that comes out an lives on their own, with help in the beginning, but not much. I mean, it’s miraculous, and we need to use that understanding of the consciousness, the life force that’s in us, both when we’re teeny tiny and now, that knows.
If you hold your clients from that perspective of, “You’re here to do you. I’m just here to hold some space and to remind you that you can trust you,” because a lot of our educational system, and a lot of our parenting for the past, you know, however many years was really more about, “Oh, I’ve got to make sure you’re okay.” Which sends a message of you don’t really know what you’re doing. And in doing that, we created situations where people don’t trust themselves, and they don’t even know how to listen to themselves. They’re always looking, I was doing it myself. It was like, “If I just find the right coach/business person/assistant/du-du-du-du-du, then my life will all be perfect, and I’ll have a great business.” What happened after my roof blew off was I realized that’s actually slowing me down. That I needed to get rid of all of the extra. I needed to get rid of the helpers, and the designers, and the people that were doing for me, so that I could make sure that the work I was doing was really coming from me, and not getting muddled by what other people thought I should be doing, or how my business should be going.
So to really have taken the past year and a half after I sold my house to just keep my business at a point where it’s thriving but it’s not growing, and watching what happens has been a miraculous experience. What a gift, to be able to do that, where I wasn’t in, “Okay, better do more, better do more, better do more.” I just did what I needed to do, and loved every second of it. It really showed me who I am at an even more essential level. I need a lot of time in nature. I need a lot of time walking. I need a little bit of time with friends. I need a lot of time with a few certain people. I need a lot of time by myself, because that’s when I feel the most me. Whether it’s 10 seconds a day, or making sure you’re doing it every day for an hour, whatever you need to start exploring, “Who am I? What am I here for? What do I need in this lifetime? What helpers do I need?” Not, “What do I think I need because this is what a good, you know, this is what Marie Forleo says, or this is what Kelly Robbins says. It’s like, “No, no, no, no. You, you, you, you, you. You know. You have to know you.”
I love that. Taking a page from your book, the other day I was with a client, and this is great, too. I know you do this for therapists to remember, too. I do a lot of intuitive journaling, Carrie does a lot of journaling, and while they’re journaling, we can journal. So I use these sessions a lot as check in time for myself in terms of when someone else is meditating, I’m meditating. We can work on this, and we should be working this into our work, too. It’s not like, “Let me sit here and watch you write.” It’s like, “Let’s get in this energy of tuning in, and you tune into you, and I’ll tune into me, and we’ll meet back up in 5 minutes.” But this question came to me the other day, and I want to put it out there for everyone listening, too, is something to play around with and journal about is, “What am I trying to force?”
Like you said, when we’re not tuning in, and checking in, and getting in sync, kind of doing the foundational work first, and letting things flow from that place, I think that’s the thing I want to clarify for people, is the skate, skate, skate, glide. The skate, skate, skate is a foundation. It’s get your base set, get clear on what you want to do, get in the right positioning for you, and then allow. But so often our skate, skate, skate, we start doing it, we’re out there making it happen, and for me, that thing—and Carrie, you know this about me and it’s something I continue to work on—is what I try to force is abundance.
You know, and I have been very, very successful this year at forcing abundance. I just had my biggest month. I can make things happen. And like you said, but is that in my flow? Am I capping myself on other things? So yeah, financially I’m abundant, but time wise, I’m not abundant, because I’ve taken all my time and turned it into money. I’ve taken all my time and turned it into the stress of getting my social media page up and running. And it doesn’t have to be a struggle, but this month for me is about looking back and saying, “Okay where can I get my foundation better set so that I can glide a little bit in these areas, instead of not getting the foundation set and then constantly having to force every step of the process.”
Exactly. The difference between forcing and allowing.
I feel like the. The metaphor, I’ll keep using it, I’m skating. It’s like if you know where, if you’re looking across the pond, and you know, “I want to get over there,” you might realize, “I just need a few pushes and then I can glide the rest of the way.” Versus when you don’t know where you’re going and you’re just like, “I’m skating. I’m skating. I’m skating. I’m skating. I’m skating.” And then you fall because you haven’t even steadied yourself, and made it clear of where you’re going. Right? It’s beating a little bit of a dead horse with the metaphor, but still, it sort of resonates. We don’t have to force things. We can practice allowing more.
I didn’t learn that right away. That’s been something that has evolved in my awareness. But I really recognize that either way I’m going to get where I’m going, so am I enjoying the ride, or am I pushing with this hope that there’s going to be some realization at that moment of, “I’ve got the freedom. I don’t want more money because that’s more time that I don’t want to be working. I want the freedom. Let me coast on that and see what happens.” That was a revelation.
Making sure that if you’re building a business is all about making a certain amount of money is because that’s what you really want. But if it’s really about having more time in nature, or more trips, then do some of those things now, and don’t wait, because that’s not how it works. Because the more we push, the more we just think we have to push.
Exactly. And the finish line is always moving.
I know people say that, and it’s so true. When we recognize that- if you’d asked me three years ago when I was starting my practice up, what would be successful, I would have given you a number and now, you ask me, and that number’s double.
Then, you know, in another year, it’ll be triple. It’s almost like we need to put brakes within us, and ask, “Okay, okay, okay. You can go faster, but do you need to go faster? Do you want to go faster? Does it serve you to go faster? What direction are you going faster in?”
Exactly. So really asking those questions, because it’s completely different for everybody. You know, if you understand your pacing, and your rhythms, and you really start to honor that you might be somebody that really does go fast, then that works. Really go with it. Don’t judge it, just go with it. But don’t put up the things that, you know, the barriers or the resistance. But recognizing that you might not be that person. Your practice might look completely different than anybody else’s, and that’s 100% okay. I mean, if you’re working under a license, there are certain things you need to be aware of, but in terms of if you have a passion—you know, I tell people I would sit in a box and do what I do because I have to do it. I don’t have a choice. My desire to understand humans, and development, and relationships, that’s so deep in me that I just had to figure out a way to be able to do it and make good money at it.
But it wasn’t that I wanted to be a coach. It was that I wanted to connect with people around these ideas, and I wanted to be creative, and I wanted to bring innovation to that. So if you know there’s a piece, if you work with a certain population, or you have an interest, bring it in. If you think, “I want to get my clients meditating and writing,” try it. Just try stuff on. Experiment with things. Don’t think, “Well, this is how so-and-so does it, so I need to do it this way.” You’re just going to try stuff on, maybe for the rest of your life, and that’s what’s going to keep it both exciting for you, but also fresh and authentic for the people you’re working with.
When I think about your work, The Inspired Therapist, that’s what I think. It’s about bringing a sense of authenticity to helping others be more authentic in themselves. Because to me, if somebody is trusting themselves, and knowing themselves, and hearing themselves, they’re going to experience life differently than if there’s this, “It should be this way.” Having a guide, or a helper, or a shepherd, or however you want to think of yourself, a therapist, who is paying 51% more attention to themselves and is concerned with their own growth and their own development, that’s the person I want to go work with. I don’t want somebody who thinks they know what they’re doing all the time. I want somebody who’s expanding, and who’s exploring, and who’s constantly saying, “Is this the most me I can bring to my world, and myself, and my clients right now?”
I think that should be all of our mission statement, exactly that. Am I being the most me I can be, so that I can bring the most that I have to offer? So that I can do the work that was put in my heart to do and not because so-and-so did it and looked good, and I want to be as good as so-and-so.
This is my calling, my mission, and how does this mission that I was given look for me, and it’s going to be unique for me more than anyone else.
There’s no judgment on what you do with it. It’s more encouragement of find the thing that you’re able to serve others, and serve yourself at the same time. That’s when you’re in your zone of genius. When you step too far one way or the other, you lose that magic that creates something really special.
Exactly. And in my 47 years, and 20 years being a professional, the thing I’ve learned the most is that I don’t want to miss the moments. There’s so much goodness, and I’m often popping new dreams into my reality constantly, but because there’s always new dreams, and the dream that comes wasn’t just immediate a moment ago, it’s easy to miss. Sit my butt down and start a practice of doing 100 appreciations a day, because I just thought, “Oh, I am racing ahead thinking I need this, I need that, I need to go here, I need to go there,” I’m missing the fact that I was having miracles that I had set in motion years before pop, pop, pop, and I wasn’t even giving them their due. I wasn’t celebrating the miracles. I’m not talking about just nice things happening. I’m talking about miracles happening and coming into my awareness, and I just realized that’s criminal if I’m not paying close attention to that, even if it’s just a little more than what I’m now wanting more of. It really is a reframe around the energy of, “Am I putting more attention on what I’m seeing happen, or am I putting more attention on what I’m wanting to happen that feels like somehow that’s going to be better.” No, better is right this minute noticing what I’ve got, and then more, more, more, more, more just naturally comes.
I love that reminder. So I want everyone to think about what you can be appreciating right now, and what dreams are already coming true, or have come true in your life, that you know, a few years ago, you were hoping for, and now you’re living in, just really noticing those moments.
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