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Allison McQuaid understands the struggles new moms face, and she’s here to help us work through it. The perinatal mental health therapist struggled to balance being a new mom with the demands of rejoining the work force, which led her to create resources to give other moms (and herself!) the needed tools to work through their stress and anxiety in motherhood.
Allison, tell us about you:
I am a perinatal mental health therapist in Maryland, dedicated to helping moms manage the struggles through motherhood including anxiety, identity challenges, and generally feeling burnt out.
What was the most unexpected part of your own motherhood journey?
I am a chronic worrier, but I didn’t anticipate the amount and depth of worries and intrusive thoughts I would experience during pregnancy and postpartum. I had an early loss in 2019 and was lucky enough to get pregnant again soon after, however, that led to what felt like constant worries about our baby. Shortly after our world entered a pandemic, and I felt even more anxious. No one could have prepared us for the feelings that came up being pregnant and postpartum during the start of the pandemic.
What struggles have you encountered balancing work and motherhood? How do you navigate them?
Transitioning back to work after 3 months was difficult initially because of my struggles with letting go of control. Thankfully we had family support, so it wasn’t an issue of not trusting our caretakers, but rather my own anxiety about something going wrong. I also struggled with feeling like I was doing two things “at 50%” and not able to give my full focus to either my daughter or my work. I found what helped to manage this was time; over time it got easier and better to navigate. I think that I showed myself through experience that I wasn’t going to miss “everything” my daughter did, and that I was actually with her more than I wasn’t. Using some thought reframing techniques really helped with that.
Talk to us about “mom guilt.” Have you felt it? How have you worked through it?
Oh yes. One of the most universal feelings in motherhood is mom guilt. What helps me work through it is looking deeper at the source it’s coming from: Am I feeling guilty because I feel like I’m not doing enough? Or am I feeling guilty because I’m comparing myself to others? Am I feeling guilty because I’m missing out on moments? That helps me to see the perspective of the guilt and meet it with self compassion.
How does Matrescence’s Mission to “mother the mother” resonate with you as a mom? In your career?
I love this Mission so much! First understanding the word Matrescence was something I had never heard until I started my perinatal training. The transition into motherhood should absolutely be a celebrated and focused time in a mother’s life when she is supported and cared for. That is what I think of when I think of mothering the mother, caring for yourself and your basic needs.
In what ways do you feel your path to motherhood was different or unique?
I don’t feel that my path or journey was particularly different from a lot of the moms I’ve talked to. Especially moms who became first time moms during the pandemic. One area that was different and slightly unexpected was my husband changing careers (from project management to career firefighter/EMT) when my daughter was only a few months old and I had just returned back to work. This was a decision that was well thought out and I was extremely supportive of, but it was still difficult at times.
What is the best thing you learned about parenting and who did you learn it from?
I’ve learned a lot of great parenting advice from other experienced parents as well as through colleagues in the perinatal mental health field. So many have landed on a similar recommendation: know your personal values and what the priorities are for you when raising kids. Three of my most important personal values are empathy, honesty, and compassion. (I also highly rank safety and humor!)
What is the most challenging aspect of being a mom, and how do you manage it?
I talk about this a lot on my page, but I absolutely think the overwhelming amount of information available about parenting related topics is one of the most challenging aspects of being a mom. Personally I manage it by curating my social media feeds to see supportive and diverse parenting accounts. Early on in motherhood I had to be more aware of my “googling” and set limits on how often I searched based on my anxiety. I also practice a “pause” and remind myself that most decisions don’t need an immediate answer and there is often more nuance to it that I can take time to think about.
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