A few weeks ago I came across this amazing TED Talk by Dr. Alexandra Sacks on a new way of thinking about the transition to motherhood. She calls it Matrescence.
This six minute talk put words to something I (and likely millions of other women) have been thinking and feeling for years!
Dr. Sacks explains that as a society we understand and allow for the awkwardness and developmental arc of adolescence. We recognize that it is a period fraught with transition and growth. We understand that it makes you think and do and feel weird things. Adolescence is a time where changing bodies and changing hormones change the way we fit into the world. Hello – does this not also sound like the experience of becoming mothers?
Dr. Sacks agrees. But, she says, we do not allow for that same transition time for pregnant and postpartum women. We’re expected to know it all (and love it all) right out of the gate.
I remember so intimately that feeling of going from an independent and autonomous person to an exhausted, aching, and frustrated thing called ‘mom’.
All of a sudden I had this tiny human who’s life was literally in my hands. They were 100% reliant on me. That was daunting to me.
But don’t you love it? They would say.
Yes, of course! I would say out loud. But not all the time. I would say in my head. I didn’t think I was allowed to not love it all the time – I had tons of friends with babies and no one else seemed to ‘not love it all the time’.
Motherhood changed the way I relate to people and it also changed the way people relate to me – during maternity leave when I wasn’t working outside my home I often had this worry that I had nothing to contribute to conversations. I didn’t have the typical work gripes that you share with your friends and people looked at me strangely when I complained about my baby the way you would complain about your boss. But hey, sometimes my baby was overworking and over stressing me!
It’s the push and the pull of motherhood, as Sacks describes. The pull is that oxytocin induced feeling that the baby and their needs is the center of your universe. The push is your brain reminding you of all the other things in your life and the other needs that you have.
I remember distinctly grieving the parts of myself I thought I had lost. Oh how I miss a lazy long mimosa filled brunch (for the record I still miss this). Remember when I used my brain for solving complex workplace issues, instead of just for figuring out how many sleepers I need to buy?
I also remember thinking that I must the only one who felt this way and I’m probably a bad mother for even thinking this way.
I wasn’t. And I’m not.
This is common. It’s normal. Most parents struggle with the push and pull of parenthood.
So why aren’t we talking about it?
Sacks argues we need to normalize these experiences of motherhood – negotiating different identities of who we were vs. who we are becoming. We need to talk about this with other moms. I want to hear about the days when you don’t love it. I want to hear about your ambivalence to this motherhood identity.
Tell me about your matrescence.