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In Consultation: The Motherhood Marathon - Page 4


Address the psychological consequences of motherhood. For many women, the intensity of making a family worsens preexisting problems and raises new issues, such as feeling torn between home and work. Besides using relatively generic approaches for these (e.g., shoring up temperamental vulnerabilities to maternal stress and cognitive skills for thoughts of inadequacy), I've seen the benefits of adding more "mother-specific" elements:

- Prime the pump. Many of my clients are sprinting their way through the marathon of motherhood, so they benefit from finding ways to slow down and get more refueling. These might include getting more help from their partner or others, scheduling (and protecting) some down time, or resuming self-nurturing activities (e.g., crafts, meditation).

-Explore "ghosts in the nursery." Developing more coherent narratives about one's childhood both promotes well-being and fosters better parenting. So I'll help my clients reflect about their upbringing and how it shapes their reactions to being a mother today.

- Emphasize stress-relief skills. I routinely teach methods like diaphragm breathing, soothing imagery, and recalling pleasant feelings, and we'll discuss how a client could use them during a hectic day.

- Take in positive experiences. Unlike negative experiences, positive ones usually must be held in awareness for many seconds to become stored in emotional memory. But mothers routinely zip from activity to activity without "soaking in" good experiences that could become resources for resilience and self-worth. So I'll often review a simple, four-step method: turn a positive moment into a positive experience, savor it, sense it sinking in, and imagine it replacing old negative experiences.

- Consider medication, with caution. Psychotropic meds must be evaluated carefully for breastfeeding and pregnant women, with referrals to psychiatrists who have real expertise with mothers.


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