As much as we love our babies to no end, we can all agree that taking care of a baby is not a walk in the park. New moms are always expected to love and enjoy every second of becoming and being a mom. While much of it is indeed merry, it comes with a lot of challenges. With the first ultimate challenge being that the only feeling society allows a mom to express is a steady stream of gratefulness and joy, whether or not the feelings are true.
When I learnt that I was pregnant, I was over the moon. With very minimal pregnancy symptoms, I had the chance to love and cherish every second of it. But just a few days after giving birth, I immediately felt disorientated by matrescence – a word anthropologists use to describe the process of becoming a mom. I feel more and more distant from my previous life as I enter a new one, motherhood.
I am constantly wrestling with the cultural conditions of what is expected of me, and what I should be doing as a mom. I didn’t expect to feel so much so soon. It is constantly about either giving or taking, and never a balance between both, it is an emotional tug of war as I try to figure out how to care for myself and my baby at the same time (which often leads to some crying in the shower later on in the day). Everyday basic needs become out of reach and everywhere I look, celebrity moms online hanging out with their kids, my friends who recently gave birth smiling away as they carry their newborn in their arms. Motherhood looks chilled, and it makes me wonder if I'm doing things wrong.
This image of being a ‘perfect mom’ and investing in the idea that pure joy is the primary emotion of motherhood is hurting new moms everywhere. It creates a fantasy about motherhood, and when reality doesn’t measure up to these fantasies, we become disappointed and ambivalent. New moms will start to feel like these struggles are their own fault, and that the reason they are so stressed and overwhelmed is because they can’t control their own emotions.
Just like how adolescence describes a teenager’s transition into adulthood, matrescence describes a woman’s passage into motherhood. The funny difference is that everyone understands that adolescence is a new and awkward phase, but when it comes to matrescence, moms are expected to keep their cool while in fact, they are losing control over almost everything in their lives. Matrescence comes with all the physical and psychological changes it naturally entails, beginning from pregnancy and continues after the baby is born.
I personally feel that this term should be more out there in the open, and progresses to become a norm. Only then can you break the sad cycle of isolation and apprehension. For fear of being judged, too many moms are ashamed of their struggles, and about their complicated experiences at home with a newborn. Normalising matrescence can be achieved only if we encourage all moms to be more real and open with each other - so that both the challenges and pleasures of matrescence can be accepted in our culture just like the ups and downs of adolescence.
Like teenagers entering adulthood, moms need just as much emotional support and understanding. As much as we want to devote our every day to nurturing our babies and everyone else around us, moms need a little bit of assistance in meeting their own basic needs first. It’s a whole new life that new moms are living in, and as much as it is a beautiful one, adjusting to the rhythms of a new life isn’t always comfortable. P.S. Motherhood: The Ultimate Learning Curve