Those were the words that one mom at The Grand shared when I asked a group of parents to choose one word that described how they feel as a working parent.
It resonated deeply.
Yesterday was my daughter's 6 month birthday. This half-year has been filled with some of my deepest moments of joy and also my most challenging moments as well. Becoming a mother has been the greatest transition of my life and this week I learned that there is a term for it: matrescence.
Like adolescence, matrescence is a hard and sometimes awkward transitionary period of becoming a mother. Aurélie Athan, a reproductive psychologist at Columbia University, describes it as:
“A holistic change in multiple domains of your life. You're going to feel it perhaps bodily, psychologically. You're going to feel it with your peer groups. You're going to feel it at your job. You're going to feel it in terms of the big philosophical questions.”
The hardest part about this transition is adapting to all of these changes while maintaining a sense of self.
There was a moment when I found out that I was pregnant and I wondered if I'd be able to be a mom and a founder at the same time. I questioned my ability to lead and stay focused while bringing a tiny human into the world. I wondered if I’d be good enough or if I’d let both my work side and my family side down. I was scared and unsure about it all.
Then through conversations with my family, I realized that I shouldn’t limit myself and who I am at the core, just because my identity was going to shift. In fact, I tried to think of it as my identity and sense of self both expanding. It was going to be hard, but I was up for the challenge.
And it has been challenging. There are so many sleepless nights, anxiety around if I’m making the right parenting decisions, feelings of wanting to be in two places at once, guilt from not being able to be there for my colleagues, friends, and family the way I want to be. But it’s also been so meaningful and allowed me to be the fullest version of myself.
Though I still wrestle with feelings of being constantly conflicted, I also learned some things along the way that help me feel a little lighter:
Take the risk. I now realize that it's a greater risk to not take the risk, to not change and grow. Yes, though it's hard to do both (in my case, be a founder and a mother), I've noticed that time spent away from my daughter to do the thing that aligns with my purpose allows me to bring more joy and energy when I'm with her.
Be flexible. You never know how you're going to feel when you become a parent until you’ve gone through the transition. So yes, make all the plans, but be flexible and know that those plans may change. And give your family, friends, and co-workers a heads up on being flexible too.
Enjoy the little moments. I love this Japanese saying, mono no aware that translates to "the ahhness of things" and speaks to the awareness of impermanence. It helps me realize that everything in life is fleeting and encourages me to create a deeper connection with it as a result. So in the middle of the night when I'm exhausted and trying to rock my baby girl to sleep, I try to remember that she will only fit in the nook of my arm for so long and I squeeze her just a little tighter.
Find a peer group. The more we get out of our heads and share our journeys with one another, the less alone this transition feels. I'm fortunate to have friends and family that have been there before, and a peer group through The Grand.
At the end of our session with moms at The Grand, the tone shifted. We listened intently to each other’s stories and we talked about how being a mom can be a revolutionary game-changing experience, that it's awe-inspiring, and that there is incredible power and energy in it. And most importantly, we walked away knowing that we are not alone and that we have a peer group that we can turn to when we need it.
If you're a parent who wants to learn more about our future quest, Returning to Work After Becoming a Parent, please let us know by joining our waitlist. Both moms and dads are welcome.
I'd also love to hear your matrescence and patrescence stories, so please reply and tell me what you've learned throughout your journey.