Matrescence: The One Word You Need To Know To Feel Less Crazy


Through adolescence the child becomes an adult. They grow in physical stature, hormones rewire their brain, they form new relationships and adjust old ones, their identity is forever transformed as they set new goals and take on new roles and responsibilities. In much the same way, through matrescence the pre-child maiden becomes the mother. She grows in emotional scope, hormones rewire her brain to think of safety in terms of "are we safe?" rather than "am I safe?, her identity is transformed, goals and priorities may shift, and she takes on new responsibilities to a dependent human in her new role.

We recognise that the process of adolescence takes years, and do not judge the teenager if their thoughts seem erratic or no longer aligned with their "child" self. Our society does not seem to take this same kind view of matrescence, with mothers expected to have primal instincts for baby care suddenly kick in post-birth and a steady head. By recognising that matrescence is a real phenomenon, we can let go of the struggle and resistance mum can feel about "losing" her old self, as we recognise that she is adapting and changing, shedding and shifting her identity.

Yes, you may crave parts of your "old" life. You may feel guilty about missing parts (or all) of your pre-baby day-to-day routine. You may suddenly hate the paid work you used to do, or feel so inspired by it that you love it even more and can't wait to dive in to it every day. It may mean that your partnership and relationship is under a microscope, as you simultaneously seek security for the "us" and freedom for the parts of you that feel caged by societal constraints placed on motherhood.


This does not mean you are a bad mum. It does not mean that you don't love your children. It means you are going through a major review and re-emergence of yourself as a woman who mothers. Matrescence isn't comfortable or easy. It takes years, if it ever ends at all. But once we have a name for it, and know that it is real, we don't feel so crazy.


Through pregnancy we celebrate our feminine creative power, literally swelling with energy and life. The leaves of our pre-baby identity turn golden, orange, red and brown, until they fall away by virtue of birth. In new motherhood we are laid bare, the naked branches of our unfamiliar new role are stark reminders of the life we have left behind.

It is through matrescence that we burst forth with new growth, reaching our branches taller than ever before and turning our new green leaves to the sunshine. As we gather now, in winter, it is time to tune in to matrescence, the profound inner process of mother-becoming. Before we can unfurl our leaves and blossom, we must slow our busy-ness, and bear witness to those bare branches, respecting them for their lessons.




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