Baby yourself: The importance of maternal self compassion

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Happy Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day is such a great time to pause and give thanks to all of the mothers, this generation and the previous generations of mothers who brought us to this moment.

As some of you may know, I am writing my dissertation on the development of the maternal identity. Recently, I had the good fortune to sit with eleven beautiful mothers as we explored several aspects of motherhood. Through them, some learnings were reinforced and new ones emerged.

Two of these learnings seem appropriate to share for Mother’s Day...

  1. The importance of Maternal Self Care, and...
  2. The importance of Maternal Self Compassion

Lately, I have read several newly published books describing the ways parenthood might not be as rewarding as everyone would like it to be. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood and Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time are the most recent of several books that solely look at parents and their journey. The authors of these books do a great job talking about the stressors of parenthood.

After reading these books, the only question that comes to mind is: What do we do about this?

I see mothers being under great pressure to get it right, and one significant indicator of whether we are good mothers or bad mothers is how successful our children are. The existing research demonstrates that we have the mandate to raise successful children, but there is very little support to accomplish this. It is not just the mother who raises a child. Culture is a part of this equation, too.

The two topics I mentioned above, Maternal Self Care and Maternal Self Compassion, are two ideals that can possibly help bring the joy back to parenting.

Maternal Self Care is not a new concept. It has been floating around probably since “motherhood” became a thing. Maternal Self Care means that we take the time to tend to and care for ourselves. It might be counter intuitive to take the extra time for self care, but if what we are doing brings us joy, then it can bring joy to our family. Numerous research psychologist state that emotions are contagious. If the parent is stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed, then those emotions can spread through the family. If the parent is happy, at ease, content, then this can spread throughout the family as well. Maternal Self Care could be as simple as playing the music you want in the car, spending 10 extra minutes in the bathtub, scheduling some downtime over the weekend, a random Mom’s Night Out, or joining a Stroller Stride that gets you out of the house.

Maternal Self Compassion is a new concept that is emerging from my research. It builds upon the work of Paul Gilbert and Kristin Neff, both of whom write about the power of compassion and empathy.

I am defining Maternal Self Compassion as, “that in the face of the cultural pressure to be the Perfect Mother, the Sacrificial Mother, the Super Mother, we develop the ability to have warmth, compassion, and understanding for the self when we do make mistakes as mothers.

This does not mean that we are not accountable for our actions, but we face them with warmth and understanding instead of self-criticism. It can be hard when we fall short of these standards. The veil of shame can descend when our reality does not meet our ideal. The self critical aspect of shame has the potential to be paralyzing. Maternal Self Compassion calls us to develop our internal compassionate voice that gently acknowledges the situation and gives us permission to be the Good Enough Mother.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Warmly,
Meggan

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About

I provide education, resources, and support for families who are struggling with issues such as sleeplessness, feeding, scheduling, or general parenting issues. Through my training in the Millette Method© and graduate level education, I take into account sleep location, baby temperament, attachment, and parental well-being when developing a collaborative plan.

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