Self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary. To care for our children, we must care for and nurture ourselves.
Hi! And welcome to Mom’s Well-Being, my name is Dr. Claire Nicogossian, I’m a licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. I’m also a wife and mom to four daughters. I created Mom’s Well- Being several years ago to provide moms with knowledge, skills and support for the most life-changing role a woman can have-being a mother. In my professional role I go by Dr. Claire, but it is my most cherished role that has given me a name many of us share, Mom. Being a mother has changed me in ways I could have never have anticipated. As a mother of four daughters-teenage fraternal twins, an eight-year- old, and six-year- old, life is busy, chaotic at times, and lovely. I am so grateful to be a mom and continue to be in awe with the parenting process as I nurture and raise my daughters to develop their gifts and become who they are meant to be in this world. Parenting is a never-ending job, filled with highs, lows and many unexpected moments. And I’m sure you can relate; being a mother has changed me in ways I could never have imagined. As a mother to four children, I am learning that as I raise my daughters, so to am I developing and refining myself as a person, and a mother.
A mother, in my opinion, is the most influential person in a child’s life. A mother is a protector, teacher, guide, nurturer, role model, and caretaker. Whether a child has a mother who is nurturing and loving, or distant and neglectful, and in the worst of circumstances abusive, or perhaps a blend of all of the above depending on circumstances and how she cares for herself. The relationship with one’s mother sets a foundation from which all other relationships will spring.
To be a mother is sacred, not only for the mother but also the child.
When I became a mother, I understood at an intimate and profound level how sacred it is to be a mother. This knowing was experienced; it couldn’t be learned through reading a book or at work in the therapy hour, it happened when I became responsible for my twin girls. I was the caretaker for two precious babies, with little experience to draw upon, it was then, and in many ways, continues to be the ultimate learn-as- I-go job.
My fraternal twin daughters were born six weeks premature and stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks. I felt overwhelmed with responsibility, helpless on how to care for my tiny babies, and at the same time in awe, gratitude, and peace that they were relatively healthy, and finally here. The range and layers of emotions were real and at times in contradiction with one another; fear and appreciation, worry and calm, overwhelm and confidence.
But the most surprising thing about becoming a mother was the internal dialogue that started in my head; a voice I didn’t expect. The one that often said, “I hope I don’t mess them up. Am I doing this right? What if they grow up and resent me? Will I ever get my life back? How come no one ever told me about…” (Oh, fill in the blank, I’m sure you understand!).
I found myself in the early years of mothering feeling, thinking and wondering, do other moms feel this way? Surely, I can’t be the only mom who feels this way. And I often thought about how no one ever told me the changes that happened in motherhood, especially with every relationship once had. Every relationship changed when I became a mother; with my husband, friends, my parents and sisters, and most profoundly, myself. It was the part of me, the self, that went into a hibernation when I became a mother. My children needed so much of me in those early years that I put caring for myself, and often my relationships, on hold until I was about to lose my mind from stress or exhaustion. I wasn’t prepared to balance caring for my children and caring for myself.
When I became a mother, there were limited books and information emphasizing the need for mothers to focus on personal well-being and self-care; most of the priority was on caring for one’s children. And it was out of this gap, through my experience mothering and supporting parents in the therapy hour, that I felt a calling to create a place where mothers could find support and increase self-care and well-being.
Motherhood is hard and of course lovely, but it stretches you literally in your body, mind, and spirit. And with so much focus on caring for children, let’s not forget the mothers and fathers, that they need support and caring as well. It can’t be all about the children; there has to be a balance of caring, because as parents, we set the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health in the home. When we take care of ourselves, through a commitment to self-care, we are better able to nurture and care for our children, even in the most stressful circumstances.
That is what inspires my work every day. And after fourteen years of being a mother, even with all of the information I have available from education and experience, I know some days of mothering are so difficult, uncertain and scary, it’s hard to have hope or think it will ever be different. I never want a mother to feel alone. I never want a mother to feel less than or not necessary in her child’s life because of a struggle or situation. I want moms to let go of guilt, perfection, and care for themselves, because a healthy, happy mother is the greatest gift to a child.