Self-esteem and motherhood

Woman with blonde hair in a shoulder length bob, wearing a a dove grey sweater, smiles and playfully cuddles her son with dark brown hair.

Just before I became pregnant with my son, I stumbled upon this sobering study and was gifted a glimpse of the future. According to the University of Tilburg’s decade long research, it takes an average of three years for a women’s self esteem to return to baseline after giving birth. So, months after you’ve sorted the sleep troubles, succeeded with toilet training and tamed the terrible twos (hopefully) – your self esteem will still be suffering with the seismic shift of motherhood. Unfortunately it seems that a flailing self-esteem and motherhood go together hand in sticky hand.

And it’s not surprising. Motherhood may sometimes be wonderful and fulfilling but it also catapults us into a world where we’re worn thin. Weathered by numerous demands on our time and our mental capacity. We struggle to maximise potential at work, and back at home it’s equally hard to be fully present with family. If you feel like you’re constantly on the back foot across all areas then you’re not alone.

But actually, it may not the pressures per se that does the damage to our self-esteem. It’s possibly the idea that we should be barely feeling them. The notion that we should have bounced back long ago and be taking it all in our stride.

Using self-compassion in motherhood

In Motherly, Jennifer Farrer gives an everyday example of mum life:
“Your husband opens the cabinet to grab a coffee mug and finds a melted heap of what once was a pint of ice cream on the shelf. You think, ‘I am such an idiot!’ Observe what is really going on. When putting away the ice cream, were you cleaning the kitchen, packing lunches, talking to your husband about his day, and responding to client emails? If so, what was happening was that you were doing many things at once and accidentally put ice cream in the cabinet. Proceed with compassion. Reframe the situation as if it were happening to someone you care about.”

Once again self-compassion is the cornerstone of looking after ourselves. All throughout life but particularly in motherhood. From the early days to the teenage years, it’s all unchartered territory. And viewing every mishap with self-compassion can allow our self-esteem and motherhood experience to significantly improve.

If you want to find out more, than fellow psychotherapist and mum, Anna Mathur has written Raising a Happier Mother. A book which she hopes will encourage all mums to start thinking about their own needs. With the idea that a happier mum raises a happier child.

And, if you’d like to share your own thoughts on self-esteem and motherhood then I’ll always be interested. Simply comment below.

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