Mothering the Mother
This article first appeared on Thrive Global.
We often lament the loss of the village in our motherhood journeys. However, you never build the life you want by complaining about what you don't want. This is one of the reasons I started my Podcast, Mothering the Mother. The concept of the village has necessarily evolved and most definitely includes the online community which brings mothers together in virtual groups.
The online world gets a bad rap most of the time but in the early days of motherhood (and beyond), when parents may not have the confidence to leave the house and may not have the in-person support network, the online community can be a lifeline. It also expands our network beyond time and space – we can connect with mothers all around the world with our shared experiences bringing us together in our own living rooms.
A number of us are parenting in a different way to the way we were parented. The online village can be a great support (when used in a conscious way) in facilitating and enabling this process. It allows us to seek out like minded mothers and seek to learn from one another, while honouring our individual parenting journeys.
Clare Patey of The Empathy Museum’s said
‘Stories have a transformative power to allow us to see the world in a different way than we do if we just encounter it on our own'
This is my vision with my Podcast – a virtual village where mothers can hear from one another and also from experts, researchers and authors involved in mother-care to give context and meaning to their experiences. My hope is that by women sharing their stories they can bring about some level of healing for themselves, and for others. So often mothers are dismissed and not heard.
I want to say I see you, I hear you, I stand with you.
Matrescence is the word given to the becoming of a mother. It was coined by Dana Raphael, Ph.D. (1973) and has since been studied by Aurelie Athan and discussed in the TED Talk by Dr. Alexandra Sacks, M.D. This is a rite of passage from pre-conception to the postnatal period, and beyond. I believe it never really ends and each subsequent child brings another matrescence; it is an ever evolving transformation where we, as mothers, grow alongside our children.
I believe once a someone sets about trying to conceive a life, she is changed and there begins her process of becoming a mother. Matrescence, the word given to the becoming of a mother, draws on many similarities of adolescence. It is marked by a huge hormonal shift and all the changes this brings in relation to the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the mother.
Matrescence has been likened to the image of the caterpillar inside its chrysalis. The metamorphosis requires the caterpillar to break down into something resembling mushy goo before it becomes a butterfly. Not dissimilar to some mother's matrescence, to varying degrees.
The caterpillar goo stage can feel so unbearably long, particularly when we are operating on little sleep. However, these days do not last forever and mothers will get there in their own time and will eventually fly and soar to new heights.
The key to supporting the caterpillar in this metamorphosis is its cocoon. This metaphor is apt for mothers who undergo a deeply transformative experience and therefore require a undisturbed, safe, nourishing container to allow the re-organisation and re-configuration to take place. This is why the community at large is so importation as it serves as the cocoon for new families – nobody should be doing this alone.
My own experience of motherhood was, at times, disorientating, and often lonely, while also bringing me levels of joy I never would have thought possible. In the process, I lost myself in the motherhood journey during. I had not reconfigured myself or connected with the new person I had become – I hadn't honoured this transformation or really acknowledged it had happened. It took a uterine prolapse, 14 months after my daughter's arrival, for me to listen to my body and begin the journey inward, before I emerged, with grace, from my chrysalis.
To borrow the caterpillar metaphor, I was still caterpillar soup for the full first year – in fact, I still turn to mush from time to time as I meet more challenges on my motherhood journey before regrouping and evolving.
In the first year, I often felt overwhelmed – was I doing it “right”, old friendships fading and new meaningful friendships yet to take root and a loss of self and my own needs.
In the same way as the caterpillar transforms privately in its cocoon, a mother's work and transformation are not always visible to the outside world. Our culture is so focused on outcomes and reaching the destination but the transformative journey is a rite of passage in and of itself and it should, therefore, be honoured for us as individuals, and as a collective.
It is this transformational journey which I focus on in my Podcast. A little window into the cocoon of other mothers' lived experiences so others (not just mothers, but other family members undergoing their own transformation) can feel less alone and more supported while they undergo their metamorphosis
I certainly don't feel I have the motherhood thing all figured out. Far from it. As I write, I am undergoing a second re-birthing with my second child and shedding old layers as I come forth as a mother of 2. I am moving forward with grace and gratitude and compassion for myself and for my toddler and husband who are also undergoing their individual transformations as a big sister and Daddy to 2 girls respectively.
“[The] Caterpillar holds the grand dream of becoming all that it can be, with no limitations, it reaches out to become it’s greatest expression of self, spirit and soul.”
This is my vision for all mothers - I want all mothers to thrive - and I hope to add to the virtual community with each weekly episode of my Podcast Mothering the Mother, released on every Friday.
If you would like to be a guest on the Podcast, please get in contact here. The podcast is available on iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and my website. Subscribe so you don't miss an episode. If you enjoy it, please do leave a review and share on social media so we can support more mothers in hearing from one another.