The average age that we are now having children has increased to over 30.
For many of us this means that we’ve built some success in our lives and have a career that is becoming well established. This can offer lots of benefits as first time parents. But it can also create some unexpected problems when we have our children.
I was 35 when I had my first child. I had a happy and stable marriage and home life. I had built a successful career and had run my own business for 6 years which offered me some security and flexibility. I was at a point in my life where I thought I was in the ideal place to become a mum.
What I hadn’t realised is that what had got me here, wouldn’t get me there. The skills, habits and attributes that had contributed to my success in my life so far, actually weren’t that helpful in supporting my transition into motherhood.
In my work as an Executive Coach and Maternity Coach working with other successful and achievement orientated women I’ve noticed a similar pattern.
Can you relate to any of these?
You’ve built your life so far on:
- Being the kind of person people can rely on
- Being productive and getting stuff done
- Being in control and being organised
- Being strong and independent
- Going above and beyond; probably putting in more effort, working longer hours and being more dedicated than most
All of these attributes and habits have most likely contributed to you achieving great success in your life and work. You’re probably admired and acknowledged by your friends, colleagues and clients for being this way.
This can create what the author of the book ‘What Got You Here Won’t Get You There’ Marshall Goldsmith calls the paradox of success.
This is where the beliefs that have carried us to this point in our life may actually hold us back. We believe that the things that have contributed to our success so far will be a great predictor of our future success.
In order to succeed many of us women have taken on qualities that can be described as masculine:
- Goal focussed
We glorify and reward fast-paced, productivity and achievement. We pride ourselves on our ability to be bullet-proof, independent and unstoppable. We have strong will-power, are resourceful and self-sufficient. Basically we’ve learnt to be SuperWoman!
But the journey into motherhood is often an unexpected and, sometimes quite frankly, an uncomfortable introduction to different qualities. An introduction to our more feminine qualities.
Feminine qualities such as:
- Intention focus
As Kimberly Ann Johnson reflects in her book The Fourth Trimester:
“The challenge is that if you have been primarily operating with this masculine orientation, the postpartum period can be an unexpected and startling immersion into the world of the feminine.”
Personally I found the days, weeks and months after becoming a mum utterly disorientating. It wasn’t so much the sleepless nights, relentless feeding and never ending nappy changes that I struggled with. The hardest part for me was not having control over my time. Getting to the end of the day and not feeling like I had achieved anything other than keeping my baby alive and well. I now realise this is the most important and privileged task in the world. But as a new first-time mum this didn’t quite feel enough. In hindsight the transition into motherhood that I found the most challenging was embracing my feminine qualities.
Kimberly Ann Johnson describes the new land we are transported to after we give birth
“where the pace is slow and languorous, and time has a hazy, mysterious quality. A day can pass so slowly that it seems it will never end. Yet weeks go by and it seems like we haven’t changed our clothes, taken a shower, or done anything but laundry and nursing.”
Did you find this new land strange and difficult too?
Did you struggle to rest?
Did you struggle to ask for the help you needed?
Did you struggle to let go of doing and just be with your new baby?
If so, maybe you too struggle to get go of some of the masculine qualities we’ve been conditioned to adopt.
It feels really weird to say that I found embracing my feminine qualities so challenging. Surely I should already be able to sit comfortably in my feminine qualities as a woman?! But from my own experience, and from having the great privilege of supporting other women on their journeys as mothers, this can actually be the hardest part.
That’s why I believe becoming a mother is one of the biggest transitions we may ever have to navigate in our lives. We have to be ready and willing to let go of who we are and what has got us here, so we can fully become the new person that motherhood creates.
“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.
She never existed before.
The woman existed, but the mother never.
A mother is something absolutely new.”
Being able to integrate this new identity, and often the new found feminine qualities, into our work when we decide to return can create another difficult transition. But one that offers many benefits and opportunities if we are able to embrace them.
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts.