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New Research: What it Means to Become a Mother

May 20, 2017
Plain English Version

Mother and infant. Credit Photo: Getty Images.

There is even a word that describes it. It is “matrescence.” The matrescence period begins during pregnancy and extends into motherhood. The signs can include feelings of worry, disappointment, guilt, competition, frustration, and even anger and fear.

Be aware of these four key things.

Changing Family Dynamics: Having a baby is an act of creation. A new baby means a new family. Is the mother going to raise her child the way her mother raised her? Or is she going to parent a different way? The mother can see her childhood in the baby and can make choices about how to raise the baby. Experts say it is a chance for a “do-over” in parenting style.

What other changes will take place in the mother’s relations? These include her partner, her family, and her friends.

Ambivalence:  The pull and push of wanting a child close, and also craving space. It is the normal wave of motherhood. Ambivalence is a feeling that comes up. Mothers are always doing a juggling act. It is about roles and relationships. It is a juggling act between giving and taking. Most of the time what is happening is not good or bad. That is why they call it ambivalence

Fantasy vs. Reality: By the time the baby arrives, a woman already has feelings about her fantasy baby. They come from her life. They may be powerful. Disappointment may happen when life does not turn out the way she fantasized it would.

 Guilt, Shame and the “Good Enough Mother”:  Often there is also the ideal mother in a woman’s mind. That mother is always cheerful and happy. That mother puts her child’s needs first. That mother has few needs of her own. Most women compare themselves to that fantasy mother. But they can never measure up. She is a fantasy.

Guilt comes from having to make hard choices. At times mothers have to put their needs over the needs of their child. This can create guilt. Guilt is often something that they do not want anyone else to know.

Shame is the feeling that there is something wrong with me. It may come from comparing yourself to a standard you cannot get to. Most women who feel shame about some aspect of their motherhood do not talk about feeling ashamed.

Postpartum depression happens. Mothers should find a way to talk about their feelings. Motherhood is profound. It brings profound changes.

Source: The New York Times May 8, 2017

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