4 Apr 2012


This is the translation of the interview conducted from Maria Athini in February 2011 on behalf of www.babyspace.gr regarding the Motherhood Psychology  Groups.

The groups you are facilitating focus on the psychology of the mother, not the child’s. What led you to concentrate on the mother?

The mother is the first human being who teaches the world to her child, the first to set the foundations for the child’s sense of self, security, self-respect and personality. At the same time, a woman, already from the onset of her pregnancy goes into a process of intense psychological change. I call it “psychological earthquake” – this in my opinion is the term that best describes the intensity of feelings and of psychic upheaval experienced by a mother in the making. It is imperative that a mother gets the necessary and sufficient support during this time. A mother’s care should come as a top priority in our society. The mother is the beginning. A psychologically healthy mother makes for a psychologically healthy child.

Which do you think are the main issues a woman that has just become a mother is called to deal with, and how can this group help her in her efforts?

A mother’s work is multifaceted. As I said, leaving aside the physical tiredness, the hormonal changes and the fear of the unknown, a new mother goes through a lot of psychic tension and change. To start with, there is a lot of burdening social anxiety with regards to what constitutes a “good mother” – this is an unavoidable, automatic thought that comes from the mother’s environment and of course the mother herself. Most people have advice at hand as to how a mother should act to be good. Very few people wonder how a mother is feeling inside. Mothers are literally bombarded by internal feelings of anxiety, guilt, aggression towards themselves and their child, shame and doubt if they do the right things or have the right set of reactions. They feel tired, their bodies have changed, the pregnancy days where the care from their environment is usually there is long gone and they suddenly are deemed to “know everything” because “mothers always know what to do”.... The relationship with their partner has also changed, their “good old self” is no longer the same, there is limited if at all freedom to do as one pleases and generally speaking, nothing is the same anymore.

Another task that the new mother is faced with is the re-examination of the relationship with her own mother. Most women don’t want to turn out like their mothers, yet there are so many unconscious psychological identifications with one’s mother that sooner or later come out. The relationship with one’s own mother is one of the most pivotal and painful issues we discuss at the groups sessions. So, all the above are themes we look at closely within the group. The women-mothers or mothers-to-be, soon realise that they are not “weird” or “abnormal” or the only ones having feelings of difficulty or anxiety and this immediately leads to psychological relief. So the groups help women lighten the load through sharing and through realising their unconscious (i.e automated and not-realised motives all of us have) aspects that in the end sabotage her relationship with herself and her child. The biggest mistakes happen with the best of intentions. The women participating in the groups are encouraged to face their self with honesty and courage, setting a healthy base for their new life with their child and family.

In our times, many women read, ask and get information from experts regarding the care of their children. Why then as mothers do we feel guilt so often?

As I mentioned previously, most mothers “breathe” anxiety. The "expert following" relieves them from the pressure of “knowing” what to do. The downside of this is that most mothers are “childified” i.e regress to the state of a child who is passive and asks to be told. They typically ask 2-3 experts, they get confused and in the end feel passive and dependent. So the guilt remains as the woman has not gone into the trouble of thinking and psychically working as a mother, being able to withstand the tension, get the information and judge for herself. In short, in order to become a “confident mother” (as confident as a mother can get!), she needs to see herself as a woman-mother and not as a child-mother. That means independent thinking, understanding your guilt, filtering and processing the expert information. All these are not automatic, but constitute rather a process. A mother is made, in my opinion, and she needs help in this process.

How can a modern woman deal with her new role, her work and keep some time for herself? What does she have to leave behind in order to do everything within the limits of 24 hour day?

This is different for every woman. I want to make again clear that in order for a woman to feel at ease with her new self, time is needed. It is something a new mother can achieve gradually, using this time to observe herself, put things into perspective and then into practice. It is indeed very hard for a woman to be a mother, a wife, a friend, a professional, a sister, a daughter or her self! A 24 hour day cannot be stretched and seems very small. However, I firmly believe both from my professional and my personal experience that if she starts to feel balanced inside even in a small way, then she can figure out a way to get some time for herself. For example, if she succeeds in feeling less guilty when she leaves her child, she can schedule some time to get a treatment or meet a friend, this in turn renews her energy and she can come back to her child feeling better and thus able to give more. All our relationships are important during this time, because they make us who we are. If we stop being in touch with our selves and get lost in motherhood, then what message do we give our child? I need to remind you at this point that for a very long time, the mother constitutes the bridge with the outer world for her child. I am letting you figure out the consequences of isolation....

Do fathers want to join the group?
It occurs sometimes that the fathers feel a bit “jealous” in a sense of wanting to participate- and I can’t blame them. They too have their own anxieties and worries. However the groups are women-only as this allows for freer expression and different dynamics in the group. However, your question pinpoints to an important need for the fathers to be heard. I should maybe take it under consideration and form a group for fathers.

Could you give us some more information regarding the logistics of the group?

Yes. The groups are closed and are done in series. That means that the members in the group start together and finish together. The groups last approximately for 8 sessions (around 2 months) and meet on weekly basis for 1.5 -2 hours. This period of time is in my experience the bare minimum as women need more time to work through some issues. Some groups may last just 8 sessions, some others more. There is a clause however that the initial commitment of a member is for those 8 sessions.

We do have a specific agenda to work with, but the order or the time spent on each theme differs. Each group of women is unique and I treat it as such. The agenda is more or less the following:




SEXUALITY AND THE BODY (Breasfeeding, Weight)


THE NEW SELF ( Transition, Changes, Aspirations, Work)

My basic aim is to really get things going and encourage the women to open up, to be heard, to share and ultimately understand their self.

Going back to the practicalities, each group has a maximum of 7 people in order to have enough time and space for everyone to speak. For more information email: deconstructingmummy@gmail.com

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