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Dipti Tait Hypnotherapy
Celebrity Hypnotherapist Dipti Tait

What is Motherhood Grief – Here are the 15 Hidden Symptoms

Motherhood Grief - Lily Allen

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Lily Allen may have been suffering with Motherhood Grief. ‘My children ruined my career‘ is the recent headline to cause controversy, however I absolutely salute Lily for her candid and deeply honest sharing of something I feel deeply passionate about. It’s a topic I write about in my second book Planet GriefMotherhood Grief.

Motherhood grief, often unseen and unacknowledged, is a profound struggle faced by many women as they navigate the transition into motherhood.

Motherhood grief goes beyond the loss of identity, career, and autonomy, mothers also contend with societal criticism and negative perceptions that further compound their grief.

As a clinical psychotherapist as well as a mother myself who has been faced with motherhood grief, I now help mothers explore how these damaging narratives perpetuate the invisibility of motherhood grief and offer strategies for recognition and healing, including boosting self-esteem.

It’s important for me to share the context of how I have come to describe this term of Motherhood Grief.

I was in my late twenties and had spent a few years building my career up in the television industry, pursuing my ambitions, and striving for success.

I worked hard, made sacrifices, and celebrated all my career success milestones along the way. But when motherhood came knocking unexpectedly, after being told I could not have children, this news brought with it a wave of uncertainty and upheaval.

Suddenly, the carefully laid plans I had for my career were thrown into disarray. Late nights in the office were replaced by late nights soothing a crying baby. The drive and ambition that fuelled my career aspirations now felt overshadowed by the overwhelming responsibility of caring for a little one.

It was a crossroads moment, where I found myself torn between two worlds: the professional path I had carved out for myself and the newfound role of motherhood.

Society’s expectations only added to the confusion, with pressure to “have it all” leaving me feeling torn and inadequate. In the midst of this turmoil, grief settled in.

I mourned the career milestones I thought I’d achieve, the opportunities I’d imagined pursuing, and the sense of fulfilment that came with them. It was a loss that cut deep, leaving me questioning my identity and purpose beyond motherhood.

Navigating this complex terrain required a shift in perspective. I had to redefine success on my own terms, acknowledging that my worth extended far beyond the titles and achievements I once coveted.

Motherhood, I realised, was not a detour from my career path but rather a new chapter in my journey.

Embracing this new reality meant letting go of preconceived notions of success and embracing the fluidity of life.

It meant finding fulfilment in the small moments, the everyday joys, and the profound bond I shared with my child and 15 months later – children. But it also meant acknowledging the challenges and sacrifices that came with balancing motherhood and career aspirations.

It meant facing the uncomfortable truths about the inherent biases and systemic barriers that often hinder women’s advancement in the workplace. Yet, amidst the uncertainty and upheaval, there was resilience.

I learned to pivot, to adapt, and to pursue new opportunities that aligned with my evolving priorities. I found hypnotherapy and began my training as a psychotherapist in 2012 and I also wrote about my grief, and my first book Good Grief was published in 2016.

And as I journeyed through the maze of motherhood and my new attempt at career number two, I discovered a newfound sense of strength and purpose.

I realised that success was not about climbing the corporate ladder or achieving external validation, but rather about finding balance, fulfillment, and authenticity in every aspect of my life.

Let’s go back to my professional understanding of Motherhood Grief and let’s get under the hood of the invisible and unspoken layers.

Societal Criticism and Negative Perceptions

In the Western world, mothers are frequently subjected to unrealistic standards and harsh judgements that undermine their worth and contributions. Examples of how mothers can be viewed negatively include:

Devaluation of Unpaid Labour

Mothers are often undervalued for their unpaid labour in childcare and household management. The phrase, “What have you been doing all day?” reflects a pervasive belief that caregiving is not legitimate work, leading to feelings of invisibility and unappreciation.

Mum-Shaming Culture

Mothers are scrutinised and judged for their parenting choices, feeding methods, discipline strategies, and more. Mum-shaming comments such as “You’re doing it wrong” or “You should know better” contribute to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

Idealised Motherhood

Society promotes an idealised image of motherhood characterised by perfection, selflessness, and unwavering devotion. Mothers who deviate from this ideal, whether by prioritising self-care, pursuing personal goals, or expressing frustration, risk being labelled as selfish or negligent.
 

Lack of Work-Life Balance

Working mothers often face criticism for not devoting enough time and energy to their families, while stay-at-home mothers may be judged for not contributing financially or professionally. The pervasive expectation that mothers should effortlessly balance work, family, and personal fulfilment sets an unattainable standard that perpetuates guilt and anxiety.

Manifestations and Signs

These negative perceptions and societal criticisms can manifest in various ways, including:

  1. Self-doubt and insecurity about parenting abilities.
  2. Anxiety and guilt over not meeting societal expectations.
  3. Shame and embarrassment about asking for help or prioritising personal needs.
  4. Anger and resentment towards partners, family members, or society for perpetuating unrealistic standards.
  5. Isolation and withdrawal from social interactions to avoid judgement and criticism.

Impact on Self-Esteem

The relentless barrage of societal criticism and negative perceptions can profoundly impact mothers’ self-esteem. Constantly feeling judged, undervalued, and inadequate can erode their confidence and sense of self-worth, leading to feelings of unworthiness and incompetence.

Boosting Self-Esteem

As a psychotherapist, it is my role to help mothers rebuild their self-esteem and reclaim their sense of worthiness. Strategies for boosting self-esteem may include:

  1. Encouraging Self-Compassion
    Helping mothers cultivate self-compassion by practising kindness and understanding towards themselves, especially in moments of perceived failure or inadequacy.
  2. Challenging Negative Beliefs
    Assisting mothers in identifying and challenging negative beliefs about themselves and their abilities, reframing self-critical thoughts with more compassionate and realistic perspectives.
  3. Celebrating Achievements
    Recognising and celebrating mothers’ accomplishments, no matter how small, to reinforce feelings of competence and self-efficacy.
  4. Setting Boundaries
    Empowering mothers to set boundaries with judgmental individuals or toxic environments that undermine their self-esteem, prioritising relationships and spaces that support their growth and wellbeing.
  5. Cultivating Supportive Networks
    Encouraging mothers to seek out and nurture relationships with individuals who validate their experiences, offer encouragement, and provide emotional support during challenging times.

Motherhood grief is not only characterised by internal losses but also by external pressures and societal criticisms that undermine women’s worth and wellbeing. 

By acknowledging the damaging narratives surrounding motherhood and offering validation, support, and strategies for boosting self-esteem I help mothers navigate their grief, reclaim their agency, and cultivate resilience in the face of societal expectations. 
Together, we can work towards creating a culture that honours and uplifts the diverse experiences of motherhood.

What are the symptoms of Motherhood Grief?

Here are some common symptoms that individuals experiencing motherhood grief may encounter:

  1. Overwhelming sadness or a persistent feeling of emptiness.
  2. Intense mood swings, ranging from moments of deep despair to fleeting moments of hope.
  3. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions, often feeling mentally foggy or scattered.
  4. Irritability or anger, sometimes directed towards oneself or others.
  5. Feelings of guilt or shame, particularly about not meeting perceived expectations or not being able to cope.
  6. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including hobbies or social gatherings.
  7. Changes in appetite or sleep patterns, experiencing either increased or decreased appetite and disrupted sleep.
  8. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or muscle tension, often as a result of chronic stress.
  9. Social withdrawal or isolation, avoiding interactions with friends, family, or support networks.
  10. Difficulty bonding with the baby or experiencing feelings of detachment.
  11. Persistent worry or anxiety about the future, particularly about one’s ability to meet the demands of motherhood.
  12. Loss of sense of identity or purpose, struggling to reconcile one’s pre-motherhood self with the new role of motherhood.
  13. Feelings of inadequacy or incompetence as a parent, doubting one’s ability to meet the needs of the child.
  14. Experiencing intrusive thoughts or memories related to past experiences or perceived failures.
  15. Physical symptoms of stress, such as racing heartbeat, sweating, or shortness of breath.

It is important to note that experiencing some of these symptoms is not uncommon in the transition to motherhood, and they may vary in intensity and duration for each individual. However, if these symptoms persist or significantly interfere with daily functioning, it’s essential to seek support from a healthcare professional or therapist who can provide guidance and assistance in navigating through motherhood grief.

The Initial Consultation is a 90min Session on Zoom

In the Initial Consultation session we will go through your reasons for having hypnotherapy and I will be able to tailor your individual programme to suit you.

Before booking in, it will be useful to Get Your Emotional Wellbeing Score and that way we will both have your personalised report to work with.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you.

Much love,

Dipti x

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