However longed-for, planned and loved your child, you may still experience “babyshock” as the reality of motherhood and a new role sink in.
Becoming a mother is a huge life transition which is often underestimated in our society. Many traditional societies have rituals that mark a person’s change in identity, but in the west many of these have been lost or now focuses on the material aspects of that change – such as the “baby shower”- rather than the spiritual or mental change.
Women may choose or feel pressured into continuing to work close to their due date. There may be a desire to save as much of the precious maternity leave to be taken after the baby is born, or a drive to leave things “finished” for whoever is coming to pick up the work during maternity leave.
Many women don’t get to know how precious that preparation time is – not necessarily acquiring the material goods the baby will need and decorating the nursery – but making a mental adjustment to the change they are about to experience?
Women are statistically leaving having children until they are older. For many this is expressed as a desire to be more settled and established in their chosen career with a perception (in many cases is borne out by evidence) that their career progression will be “on hold” for quite a while. But having “made it” thus far women may also feel quite ambivalent about leaving their work as it has formed a significant part of their identity. This loss is rarely acknowledged publicly.
Are they meant to morph into mothers as if by magic? How many women, while establishing themselves in their career, have seen or experienced in any meaningful way – brief visits to other friends don’t count - the realities of life with a baby or even young children?
We are fed media images of what motherhood should be like – all shiny, clean, happy smiling babies and their couture-perfect mothers. Who can possibly measure up to that? Conversely women are frequently labelled with negatively-loaded stereotypes – think about: single mothers, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers. What images do those labels bring to your mind?
Women frequently feel that they will become a mother by instinct as soon as the baby is born – and for some it is like that – but if you were starting a new job, how long would you give yourself to feel competent and confident in our new role? Six months? And then you would have got the job because you had some relevant experience!
So many mothers I’ve worked with say “this is not how I thought it would be”. There are repercussions for your career; relationships alter – with your partner, your family, your friends – some positively and some negatively. Other women wonder where their identity went in all this.
All change is unsettling whether is wanted and embraced or resisted and imposed, but it is important to recognise that there needs to be time to mourn what is being left behind; a time of transition where things might feel uncomfortable and unsettled; followed by a time of embracing and enjoying or accepting the change.
Coaching can be valuable in re-establishing your identity and helping you work out what you do want in your role as a mother. It can put you in control of some of the changes in your life and enable you to move forward, happy with the steps you’ve taken and the decisions you can make.
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Karen Hayns MSc - Future PerfectSeptember 11th, 2017