Wright Team | December 12, 2017

Making Sense of Motherhood:
How to Understand and Embrace Your Emotions as a Mother

To say motherhood’s fraught with emotion is an understatement! Of course, motherhood starts out as an emotional experience right from the beginning.

Being a mom comes with a lot of emotions, and making sense of motherhood can be a rewarding challenge.

From dealing with the ups and downs of your own emotions (hello, hormones!) to the wide range of moods displayed by a toddler (hello, terrible twos!) making sense of motherhood and the wide range of feelings can be a challenge.

Of course, motherhood starts out as an emotional experience right from the beginning.

There’s a flood of emotions mothers experience during pregnancy and birth. The joys of the experience are usually highlighted, but it’s perfectly normal and expected to also experience fear, sadness and uncertainty as well. In fact, one could argue these emotions are even MORE common, especially in the first months as mothers navigate their new role (and lack of sleep).

From the conception of our children and for the rest of their and our lives, motherhood is a platform for examining, growing and strengthening our emotional intelligence. In fact, examining how we “mother” and nurture other aspects of our lives and even ourselves is a powerful lens for self-exploration.

While motherhood is traditionally viewed as a state of nurturing and focusing solely on the growth of one’s child, it’s a missed opportunity to ignore the personal growth and evolution of moms’ emotional intelligence as well.

Through the lens of motherhood, you may start to examine your own experiences and relationship with your mother. You may discover unfinished business, thoughts, feelings and even resentments and hurts from your childhood. There’s no better time to explore the origin of these feelings and delve deeper into your own personal growth. Motherhood’s an amazing chance to dive into and explore the ocean of emotion.

The Wright Foundation has an upcoming FREE webinar!

The Myths of Motherhood with Dr. Gertrude Lyons

Join us on Friday, December 15th at 12pm CST for a special Idea Cafe: A Taste of Wright Graduate University webinar.

With all the “expert” advice bombarding mothers all the time, this is your chance to unpack the myths of motherhood and gain new insights on thinking critically for yourself and embrace all the true joys of your motherhood journey.

Sign up now – it’s FREE!

Making Sense of Motherhood: The Three Categories of Mothering

Mothering, and the concept of motherhood can be generally broken down into three categories:

Inherent to the state of womanhood is the ability to nurture. To nurture and grow is naturally a feminine trait. However, this in no way means all women should be mothers, or all mothers are nurturers. Nor does it mean nurturing is limited to women (Guys—you can strengthen your personal power by getting in touch with your feminine and emotional side too!).

It’s important all people foster their nurturing, caring and emotional side. In fact, the basis of emotional intelligence and sensitivity comes directly from the more nurturing and growth-oriented side of our personalities.

One of the common myths of mothering is that nurturing is an inherent quality all women possess and excel at. This often leaves new moms feeling inadequate and/or confused if they don’t instantly bond with their infant.

In reality, mothering’s a state that must be strengthened and evolved into. In our role as children and growing up, we’re self-focused. We learn to be concerned with our own needs over the needs of others. When we shift into the role of motherhood our focus on our needs may shift as well. We may become less concerned with our own emotions and growth and more focused on our children.

For women though, this distancing from self-concern can often happen even earlier on in life. During childhood people, especially girls, are often taught to “tamp down” emotions. We’re taught it’s not acceptable to be too emotional or to feel a broad spectrum of different emotions. We may have learned to put our emotions on the back burner.

In childhood, we may also be taught certain emotions are more acceptable than others. For example—fear and anger might be suppressed and subdued as we’re taught to comply and put on a “happy face.” We may have been taught the myth, it’s not okay for women to feel anger or to be too disagreeable.

This suppression of our emotional range can deeply affect our emotional experience as mothers as well as our experience as emotionally intelligent adults.

When we’re experiencing the emotional rollercoaster ride and making sense of motherhood it’s a perfect time to nurture our own feeling as well as those of our children. In fact, by focusing on broadening our own emotional range we will have a positive effect on our kids’ ability to cope with and experience different emotions.

Emotions are okay! Feel fear, feel anger, feel joy, feel sadness! Get in touch with your emotions and let them break through! It can only make you a stronger mother and a more vibrant human being.

Being Emotional: It’s Not Selfish

While writing my dissertation I explored the teachings of Alison Gopnik, psychologist and philosopher discusses the concept of motherhood as a gardener rather than a carpenter, an apt metaphor.

We often think of parenting as being like a carpenter, carving children into a prescribed likeness that fits a parent’s ideal. Gopnik proposes a model of caring for children like a garden.

 “Messiness and variability are a carpenter’s enemies; precision and control are her allies,”[1] while “[w]hen we garden, on the other hand, we create a protected and nurturing space for plants to flourish. It takes hard labor and the sweat of our brows, with a lot of exhausted digging and wallowing in manure.”

This concept of a mother as a gardener has such a critically important message and has been the drumbeat of the parenting program at Wright for over twenty years.

Dr. Bob Wright is consistently cautioning mothers on the parent and child training to loosen the reigns and let their children express their emotions, feel their feelings and make mistakes so they can learn from them.

During the parenting weekend retreat, Bob was conveying this concept and proposed the children, ages 5-12, cook the entire breakfast on their own for the over thirty participants and with no help from their parent (overseen by staff).

The children could ask intelligent questions of their mother and that was the only involvement allowed. The breakfast took a very long time, but they accomplished what they set out to do. The mothers were supported to identify their feelings which, for the most part, was fear due to the lack of control and potential unknown outcomes for their children.

Further exploration brought to the surface experiences from their own childhoods that had been buried. Brought to consciousness, these feelings could be felt, leading them to their own healing of these past wounds. The children benefited as well as they all shared how proud they were of themselves in accomplishing this task.

This is one example of how stepping back and allowing children to grow and learn is beneficial to all!

Motherhood’s an excellent time to focus on our personal growth. As we’re making sense of motherhood, we can learn and grow. We can guide our children and nourish them, but also give them (and ourselves) space to experience emotional growth. Providing room for self-exploration and expression will lead to greater confidence and an ability to handle all of life’s challenges and thrive!

Experiencing a range of emotions during motherhood’s not only natural but healthy! Focus on self-care, mothering and nurturing yourself along with your children.

Embrace the emotions of motherhood today! To learn more please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for a parenting workshop or a More Life to learn more about how you can embrace your emotions and use them as a platform for greater growth!

Click here to sign up for our FREE webinar on the Myths of Motherhood – Friday, December 15th.
We hope you can join us!


Gertrude Lyons, EdD
Gertrude Lyons, EdD

Gertrude Lyons is a human emergence coach and adjunct faculty member at Wright Graduate University. Her academic career spans from a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting, a master’s in psychology from Antioch University, and a newly completed doctoral degree from WGU. Gertrude is a wife and mother of two and resides in Chicago, IL where she continues to learn, grow, and develop her skills as a human emergence coach with the Wright team.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.

Portions of this post are taken from Gertrude’s doctoral dissertation, Expanding Mothering: Raising a Woman’s Awareness of the Opportunities for Personal and Psychosocial Growth and Development in Mothering—A Curriculum Evaluation Study.

[1] Alison Gopnik, The Gardner and the Carpenter, 18.

Featured image is courtesy of Alexander Dummer on Unsplash.