What if, similar to adolescence, we thought of the transition to motherhood as matrescence? How could women benefit?
1. We allow for awkwardness in adolescence. It's a time of emotional, mental and physical change. I think as a society we allow for these changes in motherhood, but we expect it to be done with grace and glow, and we expect it to be the most joyful time of our lives! We don't expect teenagers to have it all together. In fact, we expect they won't. They're learning to become adults! But do we sometimes expect ourselves to have this whole motherhood thing down the minute the pregnancy test is positive, or the baby is born? We know the reality is that no mother does, but do we really allow ourselves the space to make mistakes, to learn, and grow? As Alexandra Sacks, M.d., writes for the New York Times, "Women are often left with a false binary: They either have postpartum depression or they should breeze through the transition to motherhood." It doesn't have to be one or the other. Having a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder is adding another layer on to the incredible (and sometimes awkward) shift all mothers go through.
2. In adolescence did you ever feel a little....lost? How about in new motherhood? We recognize that adolescence is a time of forming one's identity, and that can be a messy process of trying on different peer groups (am I really a band nerd? a jock?), different fashion (let's not think about that too long), and different forms of self-expression. Eventually we realize we don't need to be defined by one peer group or conform to only one sense of style. We develop more and more confidence in our emerging identity. "Erikson's theory of stages of development includes the identity crisis in which adolescents must explore different possibilities and integrate different parts of themselves before committing to their beliefs." You probably had a pretty good idea of your identity before having children, and even if you most anxiously awaited being a mother, you may still mourn the loss of the person you were and how you are changed now. It can be disconcerting, yet comforting at the same time, to view motherhood as a parallel process to adolescence, in which we must once again explore possibilities and integrate different parts of ourselves.
3. Your social/relational world is turned upside down. Adolescence is a tumultuous time for relationships- the relationships with siblings, parents, and friends all change. When you become a mother, the same can be true. Maybe we have expectations for our moms as grandmas that aren't fulfilled. Our friendships may suffer. And the dynamic with our partners changes. The Gottman Institute has done amazing research on the experience of new parents brining baby home: 67% of couples had become very unhappy with each other during the first three years of their baby’s life. Only 33% remained content. When we know that our relationships will transform, just as we have, we can prepare mentally and emotionally.
Does the label matrescence strike a chord with you? What do you like or dislike about it?