We all wear many hats.
In any given day I am a wife, mother, sister, daughter, business owner, clinical supervisor, counselor, autism specialist, neighbor, chef, housekeeper, carpool driver and COO of the family, just to name a few.
When I first started clinical work, I was fascinated by the role of parents in a family system. Sure, parents play a huge part in the mental health of their children, but I had a deep passion for learning more about the mental health and wellness of parents themselves. As I grew in my profession, I had incredible opportunities to work with parents in a variety of settings- as an inpatient counselor on the adolescent unit, to a parenting consult with an IOP program, to working with parents 1:1 in the private practice setting. It feels like that at this point I have seen it all. I can confidently say after so many years in practice, that the mental health of mothers is beautifully complex in a way that is different from any other type of client.
In honor of Mother’s Day I thought it would be fun to shed light on some of the common mental health stressors I see in mothers, and offer some encouragement. There are so many types of mothers, I couldn’t think of a better way to do this than to list them out, knowing I couldn’t possibly cover every facet of motherhood. But my overarching disclaimer is this- the world is critical of mothers. Regardless of the type of mother you are, or strive to be, the world will try to find fault in your mothering. Whether you work outside of the home when you “should” be home with your children, or you stay at home with your children when you “should” be out earning, there are many voices speaking over mothers, and not all of them are kind. My hope with sharing some of these patterns I’ve seen in working with mothers is to normalize stressors you may be experiencing, and offer hope and encouragement.
New Mothers/First Timers– Being a new mother is challenging. The world seems suddenly scary and overwhelming, and this little person so fully depends on you. New mother, I want to offer you praise and hope. The sleepless nights will subside, and your confidence will grow, and until it does, I encourage you to lean on your supports.
Mothers of Teens– Being a veteran parent is no joke. And raising teens in this day and culture is a full time job of its own! So many of my mothers of teens come in week after week expressing heartbreaking fear. Fear over their children’s safety, fear related to the cruelty of social media, and fear over the unknown. Mother with a teenager, you are not alone. There is no “right” way to do this, and I just want to encourage you to stay true to your values, even when the world seems upside down.
Mothers Who’ve Lost Children– I have not seen grief like the grief of a mother who has lost a child. Or multiple children. To grieving mothers this holiday, I want to offer you encouragement. Whether you were able to know and hold your child for decades, or just a few short days or hours, a mother’s love is infinite and your story is invaluable.
Special Needs Mothers– The invisible burdens you carry can feel overwhelming. The role of a special needs mother can be daunting and lonely. But it can also be beautiful and complicated. Mother of a special needs child, I want to offer you encouragement, that every decision you make, every moment you create for your child is special and necessary, and you do it with grace.
Step Mothers– Oh step mothers, what a role you play! Raising a child takes indescribable sacrifice, and so often I hear from step mothers the fear that they are invisible, or unwanted. Step mother, you are constantly weighing yourself against impossible standards, and that can begin to affect how you think and feel about yourself. I want to offer hope in the form of self-worth, that you know the value you bring and can access that, even if others can’t see it yet.
Adoptive Mothers– The journey of adoption is incredibly taxing, emotionally, mentally, financially and even spiritually. Adoptive mother, you are often questioning every choice you make. I want to offer encouragement in the form of confidence. That you trust yourself, your supports, your partner and your own decision-making abilities.
Grandmothers– I love working with grandmothers because of the unique status they often hold within a family system. Grandmothers can have such wisdom. But grandmothers often also struggle with worry, fears of the future, and feelings of uselessness. Grandmothers, I want to offer you hope through your own experience. You have lived through so much, and the resilience you model can be such a blessing to the families you influence.
Honorary Mothers– To all the aunts, god mothers, neighbors, MDO teachers, and other women who fill and support the maternal roles, you are so valued. So many times in sessions the mothers I work with praise the other women around them who love on their children. It takes vulnerability to love someone else’s child, but it carries so much value not only in the life of the child, but to the parents as well. Families don’t function without support.