Like mother, like self ... or not?

Whether you like it or not one thing becoming a mum forces you to do is to reflect on the mothering you received. If you had a close, nurturing relationship with your own mum you might just take for granted that your relationship with your own children will be the same. But what happens if you don't have a good relationship with your mum or your dad. Or if you have in fact experienced neglect or a lack of nurturing as a child. Does this mean you won't be able to nurture your own children?

This is a very real concern for many new mums and I would say at least 50% of the women I see in my private practice have this burning question about themselves. In some cases it impacts on their ability to enjoy the early months of motherhood. I have a few thoughts to share with you on the subject as I believe the ability to parent can be developed irrespective of our own experiences of being parented.

Motherhood is a learnt skill

I remember holding my oldest daughter in my arms for the first time. I couldn't stop gazing at her at the miracle of this tiny baby. After the initial moments of bliss I was suddenly in a whirlwind of panic. What next, how do I take care of this little person? What do you mean I should know how to change a nappy, don't these things come with instructions? I really had no idea and as the weeks and months rolled by I figured out that I needed to learn to mother. I had expected that the mothering gene would be implanted in my DNA during the birth experience and I would automatically just know how to do it. However, I didn't and when I finally accepted that I was learning on the job I felt a load had been lifted from my shoulders. No longer did I need to be pre-programmed for this task but I could in fact find my way as I went.

Role modelling can work both ways

Let's face it, it's definitely easier to learn something when you've already watched and experienced someone else do it well. Being around a mother or a father who was engaged, present and loving makes it easier to role model these qualities yourself. However, it's not a show stopper. Research shows that mums can learn to nurture their children through watching other mums do it. And mums who have other successful relationships in their life, with a partner or with friends or other family, can also develop successful relationships with their children.

I think these findings are re-assuring to those of us who fear that history can repeat itself. As a mum you can choose how you want to parent and give yourself the space to learn on the job as you go. What the findings also reinforce is the helpfulness of being around other mums and friends with children and the ability to be able to share and learn from each others experiences.

I would like to hear your views and experiences on this topic. Please feel free to drop me a line.

Posted on 17 November 2010 in - Library - Family and Parenting

Mataji Kennedy

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