Matrescence Is The Making of You, Mama

Matrescence is the name for the transformative stage in a woman's life when she becomes a mother. The word matrescence was coined by Dana Raphael in the 1970s, resurrected by my teacher and mentor Dr Aurelie Athan recently and is now at the forefront of a growing body of research defining this profound physical, hormonal, social, cultural and spiritual shift in identity that accompanies motherhood. 
Right now, however, the conversation about mothers isn’t even about the women who are mothers. 
Right now, for the most part, our cultural conversation about motherhood is about the impact of our mothering on the development of children. 
We rarely talk about how mothering as a stage of life (matrescence) can develop women.
We talk about what mothering costs women. We talk about its challenges and heartbreaks. We talk about work-life balance; losing yourself; getting your body back; emotional labour; the glass ceiling. 
But we don’t talk about mothering as a physical and spiritual transformation; we don’t talk about it as a process of becoming our best selves; we don’t talk about mothering as a self-actualization process that makes us into leaders and the women we want to be.

To be clear: Matrescence is not the ONLY path of self-actualization, spiritual growth and transformation available to women. 

I would never wish my work to be used to imply that women who do not become mothers are somehow failing to fulfill their destiny or reach their full potential.

When we don’t talk about the transformative power of matrescence as an exceptionally common stage of life, with specific and predictable hormonal, biological, mental and social markers, then the milestones of becoming your next self are hidden from you – and it’s unbelievably hard to navigate any landscape without a map or directions.

  • Imagine, for example, that we didn’t know there was a stage of life called ‘adolescence’. 
  • Imagine that we didn’t know the impact of puberty and hormonal changes on our young people. 
  • Imagine that we didn’t know that this was a distinct and challenging time of life, and do everything we can to support them through it. 

We’d think that our teens lost their minds; they’d think something was wrong with them and wrestle a pervasive sense of shame and not-good-enough; our society would behave really punitively with them and withhold support for them; and we wouldn’t have ‘coming of age’ narratives or middle schools, highschools or clubs, activities and families designed around the experience of becoming an adult.

(In fact, before ‘adolescence’ was a thing, 12 year olds were considered little adults and put to work.)

But because we do know about adolescence, as a society we design institutions and families to facilitate the flourishing of our young people. It serves us as a collective to fully develop their capacities.

The process of adolescence – becoming an adult – is a significant one, and we honour and facilitate it. It’s going to happen, regardless; best that we acknowledge it, understand it, and facilitate it or there will be all kinds of damaging social and personal costs!

The same is true of Matrescence – except that we as a society do not acknowledge it, understand it or facilitate it. As a result, damage is done; and mothers, for the most part, are the ones who get damaged. The milestones and markers we need to deliberately navigate this time of life are hidden from us.

My work and my most recent book (Mama Rising) is part of a growing body of research establishing that motherhood is the beginnings of a stage of life called ‘Matrescence’ in which a woman is wholly transformed. 

Matrescence transforms women into new versions of themselves. We become  leaders and our best selves – but only when we actually know that this stage of life EXISTS and how to navigate it, skillfully.

Up until very recently, Matrescence has only been discussed in academic circles and journals – never really moving from the scientific to the lived. 

That is changing. 

And it’s about time. 

I have spent the past five years gathering the data, the stories and the understanding of what it means to be a mother without the “Map of Matrescence”. Nearly 5,000 women - yes, 5,000! - have been through my online programs, my coaching, my events and my retreats, and I know them. I can tell you exactly how they feel about themselves, and being a mama. 

And I can tell you, without a shadow of a doubt, what a gift understanding matrescence is for these women. 

When they know the milestones and markers of Matrescence, they can navigate this time of their lives powerfully – without overwhelm, perfectionism and shame. 

Want to begin your own exploration and understanding of matrescence? Join ‘The Birth of You’ now. 

Want to be part of the cultural change and revolution that is matrescence? Learn more about the Mama Rising Training.

Want to start these conversations in your workplace, organisation or community? Book me as a speaker.


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