Matrescence: The transition to motherhood

Kinderling News & Features

Have you fully accepted what motherhood means? Amy Taylor-Kabbaz has made it her business (literally).  

As founder of the Happy Mama movement, Amy has spent ten years coaching and supporting women through their motherhood journey, and now she has a word that envelopes all that complexity.

Matrescence: an anthropological term to describe the complete transformation a woman goes through when she becomes a mother; and which she continues to go through for years to come.

As Amy shared on this episode of her Happy Mama podcast, the word is the “missing piece” in her working puzzle; providing a scientific framework for her passion to help women truly accept the changes that motherhood brings to our lives.

“I thought I’d just compartmentalise my life”

“More and more I realised just how little I accepted motherhood and what it meant for me for the first six years,” says Amy. “I thought I would compartmentalise my life. I’d be a mother here, but I’d be the old Amy in my work and my relationships and my dreams.

“I had held firm to the idea that I would never put myself on hold while raising a family. I hung onto this idea that I am still me, that I am still who I thought I was. I didn’t allow myself any space or time or compassion about what mamahood now meant.”

And that's the key to matrescence: accepting that you have changed, and it will take time to find yourself again. 

Listen to Amy Taylor-Kabbaz on Kinderling Conversation:

Just like adolescence, matrescence affects everyone differently

Amy says that while matrescence must be seen as a natural transition for women, it doesn’t mean that is easy or ‘the same’ for everyone.

“It changes every single part of us; your brain, your body, your hormones, what you want to be, who you think you are, your relationships, what you like and don’t like. And how you deal with it really depends on how much support you get, the people around you, and how much you are spoken to and held throughout the process.”

It’s not quick, either.

“You don’t get to your child's first birthday and go, ‘Woo! Made it. Back to myself now.’ My eldest turns 11 soon and I am still going through this. It takes many years to find yourself, and the right support to ease you through it."

 Put on your mama-tinted glasses

As Amy goes onto explain, refusing to accept the full gamut of change that matrescence brings to our life rattles our wellbeing and sense of self.

“When we don’t accept that everything has changed, we can get overwhelmed and angry and let those stories in our head run wild,” says Amy. “Surrender doesn’t mean we have to give up on our dreams, or stop pursuing the life we want - it just means, for a good chunk of our lives, we have to look at everything through mama-tinted glasses. And oh my god, that’s hard isn’t it?”

Saying goodbye to the 'old you'

Matrescence means acknowledging that in becoming a mother, we have transitioned into someone new.

“In all cultures we have transitions, like adolescence, where we celebrate the fact that the ‘old’ you is gone, but you are becoming someone so much better. And it’s these initiations and ceremonies and handing-over of wisdoms – such a beautiful process – that we have wiped from our lives as women right now.”

Embrace the positive

What does becoming a mother mean for me as a career woman? As a sexual and sensual woman? As a daughter and as a sister?

“Matrescence is actually an opportunity to completely redefine who we are,” says Amy. “If we can accept that and somehow become excited by this – to really own it and acknowledge it as a privilege - as coming through the next stage of being a woman.

“Instead of thinking, 'Why I am not getting this motherhood thing? Why is it still so hard?', press pause and say, 'Okay, I have changed, maybe I am no longer who I was, but maybe I could be better' ... between the million other things we have to do as mother, of course!”

Plus, the trickle-down effect on our children would be amazing.

“If a mother hasn’t given herself support and compassion, then they are quick to anger and burnout and that’s not what we want. Women need family and social support to thrive, so we can do the best job we can of mothering our children.”

Find more from Amy on her Happy Mama website and podcast.