Navigating Matrescence as a High-Achieving Woman: Five Strategies to Help You Thrive

March 7, 2024

Vanessa Leveille

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I'm a therapist-mom who writes in hopes of helping moms of color navigate the matrescence journey and create a more harmonious and fulfilling life.

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Hi, I'm vanessa

Everything Changes in Matrescence

“Everything changed.” I hear this every time I work with a new client in my Matrescence therapy practice, where I provide online therapy to mothers in Massachusetts and Texas. As soon as we delve into the changes they experienced upon becoming a mother, they express how everything in their life shifted.

Many of the women I serve are what I call “high-achieving.” For them, the reality of motherhood may not align with their expectations, leading to challenges in navigating the changes during Matrescence.

So this sparked some thoughts, and I wanted to share them with you. 

In this blog post we’re going to talk about what a high-achieving woman is, and what her journey in Matrescence may look like when she is challenged, and strategies she can implement to help her thrive in those early years of Matrescence.

high-achieving women and matrescence

Matrescence and High Achieving Women

Imagine this scenario, as many of my clients have described: You’re at the peak of your career, excelling in every aspect of your professional life. Yet, while sitting in a routine work meeting, it hits you—the overwhelming weight of stress and anxiety, the panic rising in your chest, and the realization that something isn’t right. They notice that they don’t quite feel like themselves anymore.

Regardless of how they arrived at this eye-opening moment, each woman I work with shares a similar experience of reflecting on who she was and who she is becoming.

So, before we dive deeper, let’s clarify two key concepts: Matrescence and “High-achieving.”

What is Matrescence?

If you spend enough time with me, you’ll soon discover my fascination with Matrescence. I have been both dumbfounded and excited by what I have learned about Matrescence. Why wasn’t I aware of this concept before becoming a mom? And how can I ensure as many mothers as possible know about it?

Matrescence is both a developmental stage and a transformative process that women undergo when they become mothers. It’s specific to mothers, and you don’t have to give birth to experience it. However, parts of Matrescence may vary based on your lived experiences, socio-economic backgrounds, and whether you gave birth. Similar to Adolescence when a child becomes an adolescent, Matrescence is marked by psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual changes as a woman becomes a mother.

Matrescence starts as early as when a woman is trying to conceive and last throughout a lifetime. When a woman has a felt-sense that she has entered Matrescence is entirely a personal experience, essentially she will arrive at Matrescence when it finds her. For some women, it begins the moment they learn they are pregnant, and others, when they hold their child for the first time. Because, remember, it is both a development and personal process.

The Markers of Matrescence

While every mother will journey through Matrescence differently, there are key markers that are telltale signs that you are experiencing Matrescence. Here they are:

1. Mixed Feelings about Motherhood: An ambivalence about motherhood emerges. You’ll experience a range of feelings and thoughts about motherhood that go from challenging to enjoyable. It’s feeling like you love your children but you’re unsure about motherhood.

2. Ideal Motherhood vs Reality Motherhood: You’ll recognize the striking difference between what you thought and envisioned about motherhood versus what it actually looks like. This realization can be a hard pill to swallow.

3. Pressure to Be the Good Mother: You may put immense pressure on yourself to be a good or even the “perfect” mother. You just want to get it right, and falling short may lead to shame or guilt.

4. Changing Relationships: Your relationship with yourself, your partner, friends, family, and community may change. You’ll likely spend time reflecting on how these relationships have changed and what you want them to look like moving forward.

5. Maternal Lineage: Narratives about your maternal lineage and the foremothers before may arise as you reflect on how you were mothered and parented, and how your experiences shape your mothering and who you are as a mother.

While Matrescence isn’t new, we’re only now beginning to have open conversations about it. For more insights, dive into Dana Raphael’s work, the same woman who coined the term “doula.”

What is a High Achieving Woman?

Now, let’s chat about high-achieving women.

A high-achieving woman is an individual, typically ambitious and driven, who strives to excel in various aspects of her life, including but not limited to her career, education, personal development, and relationships. She appears to be doing it all and has it all together, balancing her career, personal ambitions, and family life effortlessly.

Here are some defining characteristics of high-achieving women:

1. Ambition: These women are motivated by a strong desire to accomplish significant goals and make meaningful contributions in their chosen fields. They often set ambitious targets for themselves and work diligently to achieve them.

2. Drive and Determination: These women exhibit a high level of determination, resilience, and perseverance in pursuing their goals. They are not easily discouraged by setbacks or challenges but instead use them as opportunities for growth and learning.

3. Success Orientation: High-achieving women prioritize success and excellence in everything they do. They strive to be the best version of themselves and are constantly seeking opportunities for personal and professional growth.

4. Competitiveness: Many high-achieving women are naturally competitive and thrive in environments where they can challenge themselves and others to achieve greatness. They often set high standards for themselves and are driven to outperform their peers.

5. Self-Motivation: These women are self-motivated and proactive in pursuing their goals. They take initiative, set priorities, and are not afraid to take risks in order to achieve success.

6. Resilience: High-achieving women are resilient in the face of adversity. They bounce back quickly from setbacks and are able to adapt to changing circumstances with grace and determination.

Overall, a high-achieving woman is someone who sets ambitious goals, works hard to achieve them, and is driven by a strong desire for success and excellence in all aspects of her life.

Does this sound like you?

To be honest, it sounds a lot like myself and the women I serve in my practice. About 90% of the women I work with, who may not always necessarily identify as high-achieving, are, and they are the ones whose journey I love being a part of as a therapist.

Understanding Matrescence for High-Achieving Women:

For high-achieving women, the transition to motherhood can be particularly complex, as much as it is for any other woman. But here’s what I noticed with the women that I serve in my therapy practice, that I particularly appreciate. 

These women are so passionately driven, I see this as they pursue their professional goals, but also how they approach motherhood. And for many of the women I work with their in their first couple of years of motherhood, when Matrescence is new for them still.

Here’s the thing about high-achieving women and Matrescence: they are accustomed to setting goals, devising strategic plans, and executing them with precision. However, when faced with Matrescence, they find themselves navigating uncharted territory that they don’t have precision with. Suddenly, the carefully constructed plans and routines that once defined their success are disrupted by the unpredictable nature of motherhood.

They often find themselves grappling with a myriad of challenges that differ significantly from their pre-motherhood experiences. Matrescence challenges high-achieving women to redefine their priorities, adapt to new roles and responsibilities, and reconcile their professional ambitions with the demands of caregiving. When you’re accustomed to excelling in every aspect of their lives, this shift can feel disorienting and overwhelming. The pressure to excel in both realms can feel overwhelming at times, leaving many women feeling stretched thin and questioning their ability to meet the expectations placed upon them.

It’s a journey that requires them to confront their vulnerabilities, embrace imperfection, and cultivate resilience in the face of uncertainty. Because deep down high-achieving women actually struggle with things like burnout, have a harsh inner critic, struggle with self-confidence, and have difficulty setting boundaries, and also asking for help. All of things that surface so profoundly in Matrescence.

So what can high-achieving Mamas do?

Well, it isn’t to completely stop being high-achieving, because those qualities do make up who she is and have gotten her far. However, Matrescence forces you to have to examine your pace and process of how you get things done and the expectations you set on things. Since there are so many shifts in Matrescence, the shift around being high-achieving will change as well, and Mama, they have to.

Matrescence will challenge the high-achieving woman to lead with more confidence and resilience that will have less to do with her attaining, and more about her allowing herself to experience the fullness of her being present in her life.

In my therapy practice with the high-achieving mothers who are navigating Matrescence, I aim to provide a supportive space for mothers to navigate this journey, addressing the challenges of identity shifts, self-doubt, and perfectionism that often arise during this time.

My Suggestions for High-Achieving Moms Navigating Matrescence

Here are five strategies that high-achieving women navigating Matrescence can lean on to help them work through what will come up for them in this new season of life.

1. Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability: Life is unpredictable, and flexibility is key. Instead of viewing change as a threat, see it as an opportunity for growth and adaptation. Adjust plans, shift priorities, and recalibrate expectations to accommodate the needs of motherhood.

2. Practice Self-Compassion and Acceptance: Cultivate self-compassion and acceptance, recognizing that motherhood is filled with ups and downs. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t go as planned. Remember that your worthiness as a woman and a mother is not determined by your ability to meet unrealistic expectations.

3. Prioritize Self-Care and Boundaries: Self-care is essential, especially during Matrescence. Prioritize activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul, and set boundaries to protect your time and energy. Don’t be afraid to say no to commitments that detract from your well-being.

4. Seek Support and Community: Surround yourself with a supportive network of family, friends, and fellow mothers. Share your experiences, seek advice, and lean on others for support during challenging times.

5. Celebrate Small Victories: Motherhood is filled with small victories worth celebrating because the small stuff is worth celebrating too. Whether it’s successfully soothing a crying baby or finding time for self-care amidst a busy schedule, acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem.

Ushering a New Season of Womanhood in your Matrescence

Matrescence is a transformative journey that challenges high-achieving women to redefine success, cultivate resilience, and embrace the complexities of motherhood.

By acknowledging the unspoken realities of Matrescence and embracing flexibility, self-compassion, and self-care, high-achieving women can navigate this transformative period with grace and resilience.

My hope for the women that I serve, and women like you and I who can also be high-acheiving is that we recognize that in our Matrescence, if we boldly lean into it, it can help us live in more alignment with our own terms. Our own terms of motherhood and womanhood.

Remember that your worthiness as a woman and a mother is not solely defined by your achievements or accolades but by the love and care you provide to yourself and your family. Embrace the journey of Matrescence with an open heart and a willingness to embrace the changes it brings, knowing that you are capable of thriving in every season of life.


Seek Support from a Matrescence Therapist

If you’re a mom of color, who is also high-achieving, in Massachusetts or Texas seeking compassionate and culturally sensitive online therapy to help you navigate motherhood and Matrescence, I invite you to reach out to me. I am a therapist who specializes in working with moms of color and can provide you with the support and guidance you need to navigate the challenges of Matrescence and create a life of harmony, fulfillment, and joy.

Fill out the form on my contact page so we can chat more and explore how I can support you on your journey.

Remember, you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m here to help you overcome challenges, thrive as a mother, and discover the strength and resilience that lies within you.

If you want to learn more about the journey of becoming a mother, called Matrescence, download your free guide today and embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

Click link here to download the free guide.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this blog post. What resonated with you most? What questions do you have? Share your insights and experiences in the comments section below.

Together, we can create a supportive community for moms of color, sharing our journeys, encouraging each other, and finding strength in our shared experiences.

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