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The New Mother

 

Motherhood is an ancient journey.  Yet, becoming a mother today is a complex transformation for a woman. Much of the feminine wisdom about Motherhood has been lost in this culture.  Femininity itself is suspect, and a new mother does not have psychological permission to seek mentoring by older women.  It is also rare for a new mother to have a sisterhood of mother-friends to turn to.  Instead, she believes she must “prove” she can do it alone: Motherhood has become an achievement test.

Motherhood must also be about the personal growth of the woman who has just become a mother.  In the absence of such a naming, this transforming developmental turn of a woman’s life is in danger of being consumed by media hype as well as larger cultural expectations.

It is important for a new mother to see her work as real work, and to be repeatedly reminded that her complex experience is real, is worthy of respect, and is normal.   No part of her experience is a shortcoming in her.  Rather, the problem is created by the complete lack of support available for her work, and by the impossible expectations she, as well as the entire culture have generated as normative and necessary for healthy child development.

My life’s work has been to refocus the woman/mother toward the seeds of personal growth embedded within the situation exactly as it is. Social change will take time: meanwhile, we must sustain not just our children; we must also sustain ourselves.  This requires personal growth.

Personal growth can take many unexpected directions for a new mother, and there is no one way to enter this realm. Some of these directions can be exhilarating, others confusing, if only because they were not anticipated.

It is a time to learn how to tap into formerly unacknowledged or underused places within our own selves: a retooling of strengths to deal with a completely new journey.   This is a journey into love and wisdom, and it is no joy ride.  It can only begin when we learn how to reach deep into the ocean that exists within us, rather than be made frantic by the pressures and responsibilities we have knowingly or unknowingly accepted.

Motherhood is the longest career a woman will sign up for. I have come to believe that embracing new Motherhood as her own developmental journey, just as much as she embraces the new life she has created, is perhaps the most healthy mindset for Motherhood today.