We recently chatted with Perri Shaw Borish, a board-certified psychotherapist in Philadelphia and founder of Whole Heart Reproductive Mental Health, on the topic of maternal mental health. So, whether you’re a new mom, a mom of littles, tweens or teens, or even a bird launcher (heard this term instead of “empty nester,” and I LOVE it), this might be coming at you on the exact day you need it, or it’ll be something you can save for a day when you can use some reminding.
Here are five things a maternal mental health expert wants to say to you now.
5 Things Mothers Struggle With & How To Overcome Them: Advice From A Therapist
Hello, TME readers! I’m Perri, a board-certified psychotherapist specializing in reproductive mental health. I treat women across the entire reproductive journey — from fertility challenges through menopause, including pregnancy, postpartum, and perinatal loss and grief. I’ve helped mothers overcome perinatal and postpartum mood disorders, and navigate the different seasons of motherhood.
Over the course of my 20-plus years of being a therapist, I’ve seen that there are five areas women commonly struggle with throughout motherhood.
Be present for what actually is.
Motherhood is often much harder than anticipated. There are all kinds of societal and familial expectations, as well as our own internal expectations. It’s important to process these expectations, let them go (they’re just distractions), and instead, be present for what it actually is.
Good-enough mothering is good enough.
Mothers judge themselves constantly. But it’s important to understand that there’s no perfect way to raise a child. You will not always have the perfect answer or solution, and often, you may find yourself doubting your ability to mother. Every mother faces challenging moments, makes mistakes, and feels loss or guilt or sometimes shame.
Being a good mother is not about being perfect. Perfect does not exist. Good-enough mothering is what your child needs. Your children need you to be healthy and well, so you can provide a safe, loving, secure base for them. Good Enough is Good Enough.
Accept being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
We think we have control over things, but we don’t. As mothers, we don’t actually have control over how our children feel or what they do — especially as they get older. This fact can be scary and can leave mothers feeling helpless and afraid. One of the biggest challenges of motherhood is accepting that we don’t have control — and still being OK. One of the big things we work on in therapy is helping mothers to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
If worries get in the way of day-to-day functioning, seek help.
As a mother, one of the fundamental tasks is to protect our children, so it’s understandable that we worry about them! Worrying about your children is completely normal. However, if worries start to get in the way of day-to-day functioning, such as sleeping and eating, then it’s time to talk with a doctor or see a therapist.
5. Nurturing Yourself
Even just a few moments of self-nurturing goes a long way.
So, how do you take care of yourself amidst all of the judgment, expectations, fear, lack of control and lack of time? How do moms nurture and soothe themselves while trying to do the same for their families?
I think taking a minute to check in with yourself — check in with your body — is really important. What is your body telling you that you need? Is it rest? Water? A few minutes of silence? And whatever that need is in that moment, can you give yourself permission to satisfy it? Or is it something you can do later that day? There are so many ways to nurture yourself in just a few minutes, but it’s important to know what “nurture” means to you. For some moms I’ve worked with, sitting down for a cup of tea in the afternoon was an important reset. Others swore by a short nap, going for a walk or calling a close friend.
The importance of finding a way to nurture yourself doesn’t change as our kids get older. While our kids’ needs shift, our bodies and needs are shifting as well. Hormones change and fluctuate, and this can impact the way we feel emotionally, physically and cognitively. Our families need us to be as healthy and whole as possible, and it’s up to us to listen to our bodies — and take care of ourselves.
Thank you, Perri.
The Mom Edit, in partnership with Whole Heart, is sponsoring a screening of “Holding Space,” a documentary showcasing five women’s stories about their experiences with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders, including Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety, and their steely resolve to get well.
This event is open to everyone and concludes with a Q&A featuring the creators and storytellers of the documentary. Join us on September 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fitler Club in Philadelphia.