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How to honour your Matrescence and take some of the pressure off

How different would you feel about motherhood if you understood that it is a learned skill, not something you’re meant to be good at straight away after giving birth? This is the gift that the study of Matrescence is offering mothers around the world. More women need to know about it, and preferably way before they step into motherhood.

Matrescence is the process of transformation that takes place when a woman becomes a mother and as she evolves through her mothering years. It is the study of the enormous changes (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural to name a few) that a woman must navigate in this season of life and the impact they have on the way she relates to herself and her experience of being a mother.

Matrescence was first studied by an anthropologist called Dana Raphael in the 1970s, but it’s only in recent years that the term got revived when a psychologist in the US, called Dr Aurelie Athan, likened Matrescence to Adolescence.

In the same way that a child becomes an adult by going through a phase of transition where their whole identity shifts, their hormones play up, and they question everything about themselves and the world, women also go through a period of transition when they become mothers. This transition doesn’t happen overnight, and women need time and support to adapt to their new role and the new identity they’re giving birth to.

So how can you, as a mother, honour your Matrescence and take some of the pressure off?

How to honour your Matrescence

Reset your expectations

Whether it’s cooking every meal from scratch, never making your needs a priority, never raising your voice, always enjoying being a mother, we all have beliefs around what the so-called “good mother” should look like, what she should do or not do. So, next time you catch your “should”, ask yourself: “Said who?” Whose voice do you hear when the “should” or “should not” shows up? Is it serving you or is it overwhelming you?

Practice self-kindness

Talk to yourself as you would talk to your friend or your child. We tend to have so much more compassion for them. When you notice your inner critic is having a rant, listen, take a big breath and ask yourself: “what would I say if my friend felt this way?” and once you’ve managed to soften your inner voice, ask yourself: “what do I most need right now?”. Maybe it’s just something to eat or a glass of water, maybe it requires you to reach out for support so you can have a break and some time for yourself.

Find someone to talk to

Isolation is one of the major causes of stress for mothers. Yet for the ones who start sharing about their experiences, they often realise that so many other mothers feel the way they do! To help you normalise your feelings and bring a sense of community back into your life, find people with whom you can have genuine conversations about what this phase of your life really feels like: the harsh reality, the joys, everything! If you’d rather open up to a “neutral” person, find a specialised coach, counsellor or psychotherapist to talk to.

Redefine strength

Our culture defines strength as the ability to push through, be constantly “on”, do more, deliver: the perfect cocktail for burnout. What if you embraced a more balanced definition of strength, one that invites you to recognise your needs and respect them? One that gives you permission to delegate, rest, ask for help, prioritise your wellbeing and nourishment? How different would you feel if you could redefine strength in this way?

Use these tips to guide you and don’t be tempted to measure your worth as a new mother by how quickly you can feel like yourself again or how well you can “juggle it all”. Kindness, patience and support are the cornerstones of your journey through Matrescence.

About Elise Clement

Elise is a certified life coach dedicated to supporting women's mental and emotional wellbeing through motherhood. She is committed to helping mothers draw their own picture of success for this season of their life. ...

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