Mothering the Mother

Article by Andrea Paterson

Photo Credit: www.andreapaterson.com

Mother’s day is over for another year, and it may be worth stepping back and taking some time to reflect. How did you feel on Mother’s Day? Did you have expectations that went unmet? Did you feel cared for and appreciated? Was it relaxing or stressful? Did it bring up emotions related to your birth or postpartum period? Are you thinking about how long it’s been since you first became a mother and seeing how much has changed? Mother’s Day can bring up mixed feelings, but in general it’s one day a year when mothers get some of the recognition and care that they deserve. But here’s the thing–new mothers need care every day, especially when they’re struggling with a difficult adjustment. One thing we know about treating postpartum mood disorders is that mothering the mother is a key component in getting back to wellness. New mothers are vulnerable and require support. This played out for me in completely different ways in my two postpartum experiences.

When my son was born I was living in relative isolation. I didn’t have friends nearby, my own parents are hundreds of miles away, and there was very little by way of community in my neighbourhood. I spent my days alone in my house with my first baby, struggling to cope and not even realizing that I was suffering from lack of support and simple human contact. In the early days when babies are taking multiple naps it can be difficult to schedule outings, and I rarely went anywhere except to the grocery store.

When my daughter was born four and a half years later I was living in a different neighbourhood. In my new home I’m surrounded by other parents. There is a vibrant and active community of mothers that I have had the privilege to immerse myself in. Friends dropped by in the early days with food. Being in a very walkable community made it easier for me to get out of the house and company was literally just a few feet away in our co-op park. My own parents were still far away, but they came to visit. My son goes to a wonderful preschool where I know he’s being well cared for and I consider the teachers there a part of my village. Every day I practice gratitude for my beautiful community of peers and I have been able to enjoy motherhood this time in a way that eluded me after the birth of my son.

With Mother’s Day over, don’t forget that the new moms in your life still need your care and support. One of the best things you can do for a struggling friend is provide some “mothering”. Go over and do a few chores around her house, bring food, do her grocery shopping, watch her baby so she can have a nap. These gifts will be treasured beyond any gift you could bring for the baby. The people who brought me food when I was sick with hyperemesis and again shortly after my baby was born will forever be considered heroes. I needed to be mothered, and people stepped up. Small acts of kindness made a world of difference. These days I find myself saying, “So THIS is why people enjoy motherhood!” It’s a sentiment that has taken me five years to arrive at. A new community was integral to my wellness.

Pacific Post Partum Support Society was integral as well. Counsellors at PPPSS are pros at mothering the mother, and their kind, patient concern got me through some very dark days. Not everyone has friends or family nearby. If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to PPPSS counsellors are always here to listen.

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