Week 2 Reflection
Matrescence: Mom Puberty
by Hope Medley, CSW
What is matrescence? (pronounced like adolescence) And why haven’t we heard of it?
Originally coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael in the 70’s, and recently revived by psychologist Dr. Aurelie Athan, the term Matrescence refers to the passage of becoming a mother through “pre-conception, pregnancy and birth, surrogacy or adoption, to the postnatal period and beyond” (Athan, 2021). Matrescence can be compared to adolescence as it encompasses a multifaceted change including new developments in bio-psycho-social-political-spiritual spheres that continue throughout your lifetime (Athan, 2021).
There are millions of new births per day in the US, meaning thousands of women enter matrescence daily, so you’d think the term matrescence would be more commonplace and understood. As with many other maternal and female issues, matrescence has not been studied in the medical field, a byproduct of systematic bias and patriarchy. Furthermore in the western world, once a child is born much of the attention goes to the baby and continuously on the child throughout their life; often ignoring the needs of the mother or only paying attention to her in relation to the child.
Like most things when we can understand and name our experiences, they begin to be easier to navigate. To the mothers reading this, you are currently going through a lifelong developmental change—it is ok to feel overwhelmed by it, whether you’re one day or twenty-years into it. You are going through a continuous period of transformation and growth; there will be dissonance between the parts of yourself. This is normal. This is okay. I want to offer three suggestions to help you throughout matrescence.
Take Up Space
When you become a mother, you do not have to become a martyr. Read that again. Motherhood does not equal martyrdom. Follow your career ambitions, seek new hobbies, go on trips by yourself or with friends, invest in therapy, connect with all parts of yourself. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TAKE UP SPACE. Your needs matter, get them met—even if it means putting yourself before your child or partner. It’s never too late or too soon to invest in yourself.
Grow at Your Own Pace
Matrescence is a developmental stage, means that each of us will grow and develop in our own ways and at our own rate. When I was newly pregnant, I was out at a store with my mom when we came upon a small child and his mother who appeared to be in a power struggle of sorts: kid pouting, and mom crouched at eye level trying to reason with him. I leaned to my mom saying, “I think I’m ready for this baby, but I’m not ready for that.” In her wisdom, 30+ years into matrescence, she replied “You grow with them. When she’s that old, you’ll be ready.” This idea of parallel growth can help normalize the challenges that continually present throughout matrescence. As they grow and develop, so do you. You don’t have to know it all right now.
Give Yourself Grace
The pressures of maintaining an image or being a “Pinterest mom” create a lot of guilt and shame. Let’s combat that by offering ourselves and those around us grace. Challenge perfectionism, allow yourself to make mistakes, take a timeout when you need it, recognize the progress you ARE making, be a compassionate parent to yourself.
As you, or those around you, walk through this period of matrescence I encourage you to normalize the struggle. The more we talk about these shared experiences, the less alone we feel in them. The challenges and changes one faces in matrescence are to be expected, just like any other developmental period in our lives. You are doing a great job. You are worth taking up space. We each grow at our own pace. You deserve to be given grace.
Disclaimer: If you are within one year postpartum and are experiencing extreme impairment in day-to-day functioning, loss of pleasure in life, extreme feelings of guilt, or thoughts of harming yourself or your child; please seek therapeutic and medical support.
Athan, A. (2021), What is Matrescence? www.matrescence.com
Article title: “Matrescence: Mom Puberty by Hope Medley, CSW
Questions for Reflection & Discussion
As you reflect on the following questions, please keep in mind that there are no right answers. Perhaps you just want to pick one question and reflect on it for the week or maybe you want to spend time on each one, do what feels right for you (and what you can fit in!)
What resonated (or gave you conflicted feelings) about the above reflection?
Have you heard of the term "Matrescence" before? What does this term or idea of transformation in motherhood surface for you?
Does the offered perspective of seeing the transition into motherhood as a sort of "puberty" feel helpful or align with your own lived experience? Why or why not?
What is the biggest identify shift you have felt in motherhood? This could be from before conception to after birth, or any other felt transition in your mothering experience.
The author suggests some ways to support yourself through this lifelong transition (for when does motherhood truly end?). What does each of these areas look like for you? For instance, what does "taking up space" mean for you? It might look very different from what the author suggested, and that's perfectly okay.
Have you experienced the parallel growth described in parenting, where as your child grows and their needs change, you as a mother will also be at a new phase along with your child?
Mindfulness Practice & Journaling Prompt
These are optional prompts you may choose to engage with or not. While we won't center our conversation on these responses, the process of journaling/engaging in a practice can be a helpful tool for deeper self-reflection.
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE: As you go through your week and find yourself feeling either disappointed in regards to your mothering, putting pressure on yourself to somehow "have things figured out by now"or other feelings rooted in "not enough-ness" try to notice these moments and how you respond to yourself. You don't have to fix or change anything. Try to not shame or guilt your reaction either. Simply pay attention and offer yourself a gentle reminder that motherhood is a constant phase of development & transition where we each move at our own pace.
JOURNALING PROMPT: "You are worth taking up space. We each grow at our own pace. You deserve to be given grace." Take a moment to free write (try not to overthink it and just put pen to paper) with any or all of the following prompts:
- I honor who I am when I claim my space doing...
- I have seen myself grow from... (blank)... to... (blank)...
- The ways I can offer myself grace this week are...
- Sometimes I feel like I am... (blank)... but I want to be... (blank)...