This word only entered my vocabulary 2 years ago and when it did it made such a huge difference to me both personally and professionally.
Suddenly so many parts of my journey as a woman and a mother made more sense. Suddenly my capacity, as a coach, to support and guide other mums strengthened and deepened.
And yet, I am mindful that I don’t often use the word because I know it will be foreign to so many. Let’s start changing this now.
The beginners guide to matrescence.
How do you even say that word?
Mah-treh-sense (that is my own weird version of phonetics) … it rhymes with adolescence
What does matrescence mean?
Matrescence is a word that describes the transition and transformation a woman experiences when she becomes a mother. In the same way we use the word adolescence to describe the transition and transformation a child goes through to become an adult.
This transition impacts a woman on many different levels: physically, psychologically, emotionally, economically, socially, culturally and spiritually.
Where does this word come from?
The process of becoming a mother was first called “Matrescence” by anthropologist Dana Raphael, who also coined the term ‘doula’ to refer to those who attend a woman during her matrescence. The word Doula has become commonplace in society today whilst Matrescence has not.
It is only in recent years that the term ‘matrescence’ has been revived, thanks to the work of clinical psychologist Dr Aurelie Athan.
Why have I never heard of matrescence before?
Although the word was first coined in the 1970’s it is only in recent years it has been given a real voice. Traditionally the focus of our ‘motherhood systems’ has all been about the baby – how to make the baby, grow the baby, birth the baby, feed the baby, sleep the baby and so forth. In this framework there has been no focus at all on the fact that when a baby is born, so is the mother. Mothers have been sent out into their new world without any support for the massive internal shifts they are about to encounter. This needs to change. The start of this change comes from having new conversations with each other … like this one.
What you have been feeling is “a thing”
Have you ever experienced any of the following things?
- Feeling like you have lost your ‘old self’ but not being sure of who you really are now?
- Feeling like you shouldn’t spend money on yourself because you don’t earn any (or as much) money now?
- Feeling invisible, less valued, now you are “just a mum”?
- Feeling guilty for wanting time away from you baby/children?
These are all part of matrescence. These are all part of how you have begun to evolve and change as a woman because you are now a mother.
Most likely these things have felt difficult, emotional, frustrating, lonely or confusing because you haven’t known they were part of a bigger process of change.
This is where knowing about matrescence can be so supportive and powerful for women. It begins to give you a new framework to explore your experiences within. A new lens with which to view your world.
You are not alone.
Suddenly the word matrescence allows us to see we are not alone. For me, I got to see I wasn’t the only woman who struggled with the question “where did my old self go and who I am now?”
I promise you. Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone. You only feel alone because you haven’t been given the language to talk about the transition you are experiencing.
Want to know more?
Here are some excellent ‘beginner’ resources to start exploring matrescence more deeply:
- TED Talk by Alexandra Sacks
- Amy Taylor-Kabbaz (who has been my matrescence mentor and guide) – you can read her definition of matrescence , listen to her podcast or read her book Mama Rising.
- Dr Jennifer Hacker Pearson from Tough Mothers podcast about matrescence
- Hear my thoughts on matrescence shared on the Tough Mother’s podcast
My wish is that one day matrescence will be as widely understood and talked about as adolescence is so please share this blog post with other mamas in your world. This is the time to begin a new conversation.