From my experience with colleagues and interactions with mothers, I can only begin to imagine the whirlwind of experiences which mothers experience throughout motherhood. From the realisation that one will become a mother, all the different feelings begin to emerge which are related to becoming a mother. However for some, one major feeling prevails and makes the experience of motherhood less enjoyable, and this feeling is anxiety.
One can understand the function of anxiety which presents itself in motherhood, as suddenly the mother needs to be responsible for another life besides her own. In which, many “what if” statements present themselves throughout the course of motherhood. This is understandable as the mother would want the best possible experience for her kid/s throughout their lifetime. The mother who feels unprepared and inadequate as a mother would escalate her anxiety to one which could lead to a disruption in daily functioning. This is where anxiety can become an issue which could lead to the detriment of the mother and the child.
So let’s explore what can be done in order to reduce a mother’s experience of anxiety:
Perfection, Mistakes & Comparisons
Sometimes we tend to develop an idea of what is right or wrong for the child based on comments of other mothers who might be perceived as better mothers. As comparisons are made with other mothers, this initiates a never ending cycle of comparing one journey of parenthood with another. The reality is that parenthood is an individual journey of self discovery for both you and your kid/s. There is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ mother, one can only strive to be a ‘good enough’ mother (Winnicot, 1953).
The good enough mother is attuned to her child’s needs and tries her best to satisfy them. However this does not mean that this is always achieved, and it is important to stress on the fact that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes are actually encouraged for both parents and for children as they serve as the best educators. Allowing yourselves and your children to make mistakes is a more realistic way of perceiving parenthood as they will definitely occur on more than one occasion. Allowing mistakes to occur will naturally reduce stress as one cannot micromanage everything to the point in which everything works like clockwork, life is messy, let it be that way!
Thoughts & Catastrophizing
Mothers have many thoughts which race through their heads on a daily basis. These thoughts may become problematic when they start to disrupt the mother’s functioning and also the relationship with the child. Thoughts are thoughts, and are not necessarily a good predictor of any future encounter. How many times have you thought about something and it never happened? Keep in mind that thoughts are similar to clouds in the sky, as you watch the sky the clouds move at a different pace according to the wind. As they move they change form and even disappear from your vision. Thoughts have a similar composition in which they come into our consciousness, and if we allow them they will eventually leave.
- Do I need to be thinking about this right now?
- What is the function of this thought?
Sometimes we also tend to use the cognitive distortion of catastrophization in which we blow certain thoughts out of proportion. I invite the you to always think:
- “what is the worst that could happen?”
Asking this question helps the individual determine the real life implications of certain thoughts and decisions.
Self-Care & Support Networks
Remember we cannot take care of others if we are not first and foremost taking care of ourselves! Since being a mother is a role which requires a lot of nurturance to be devoted to the the child, the mother needs to take care of herself first and foremost, by engaging in activities which nourish her. These could take the forms of; exercise, hobbies, long baths, and enriching conversations with other adults, amongst others. Developing and maintaining healthy support networks, in which the mother can express her worries and developments as a mother, helps the mother in her journey through parenthood. These individuals may be professionals, family and/or friends who have the mother’s best interests at heart.
Hubert, S., & Aujoulat, I. (2018). Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1021. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01021