A Research Paper By Julia Viladomiu, Motherhood Coach, NEW ZEALAND
What Is the System of the Mother?
The paper that lies ahead is based on 15 years of experience working in the educational sector, lots of curiosity, study, and life as a mother myself.
After all those many years I have always been interested in the child that I had in front of me working in the classroom as a teacher.
Over the years, though, the element that has triggered my curiosity the most has not been the child itself, and all alone, but also the system (family, environment) that he/she was brought up in. How those elements were the greatest influence in the pupil’s life fascinated me.
Working as a primary school teacher, the interviews with parents were equally profitable for them, getting information from their little ones, but also for me; to gather facts that would help me construct the “whys”, the hypothesis to their behaviors, curves of learning, and empathy skills.
That slowly brought me to get into deeper conversations with parents and that window opened my perspective and their struggles, not their children, but the parenting struggles.
With that in mind, my perspective shifted dramatically when interacting with the children at school. All of the sudden my focus was more on their families, their system, and how it worked, and I started wondering how the limitations that they were finding on their parenting path were affecting the rest of the family, especially the kids.
After years of working in the field and now with a coaching certification on board, I have decided to deepen in the niche of a woman feeling stuck and lost after motherhood. Without losing my interest in the children, my hypothesis to work on this paper would become: Can an infant benefit from a coaching relationship with his/her mum?
To try to give an answer to that question I will focus my attention first on their relationship as a microsystem, then on the child, and to finish on the mother.
Elements: The System of the Mother
In this paper, we will be focusing on the relationship between mother/child, which is, indeed a microsystem, part of a bigger one which is the whole family. To understand that, it is important to refer to what systemic pedagogy understands a system:
Systemic pedagogy tries to integrate parents into the education of their children by creating a link between family and school. Children take on the behavior of their parents, just as their parents took on the behavior patterns of their parents. Therefore, teachers need to have some knowledge of the generations that have preceded the child.
Systemic pedagogy focuses from its beginnings on the family, the community, and its cultural expressions. Thanks to the above, it’s easier to understand the behaviors and skills that the child possesses.
This framework helps us to understand that, what appears to be happening to just one member of the system, has an impact on the whole group. That taken to the microsystem being the relationship between mother/child has the same impact, even greater if we take into account what the literature establishes regarding this special link.
We could write thousands of pages in regards to the benefit of good bonding between the mum and the child, but to not further deeper on the topic of the relationship itself I will just leave a few notes made by Dr. Robert Winston, a specialist on early bonding and child development: “Infancy is a crucial time for brain development. It is vital that babies and their parents are supported during this time to promote attachment. Without a good initial bond, children are less likely to grow up to become happy, independent, and resilient adults.”
The research shows that children under the age of 7 are building their fundamental values and personality.
This starting statement can be directly linked to the studies carried on by Rudolph Stainer that are recorded as part of his philosophy, anthroposophy. One learning that we can transfer from this philosophy to use on our subject, is the following: Rudolf Stainer established that our lives could be running in 7-year cycles, and at the end of each of them we have grown and learned enough to experience a change. A dramatic change that finishes a phase to give you entrance into the following.
Not just Stainer mentioned the importance of this first stage of life, but also Aristotle mentioned the famous sentence: “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man”.Having opinions given centuries ago as a basis for this paper’s research may not be very accurate, but the most recent studies developed by Harvard and other remarkable institutions back up that theory.
For a child, the end of that first period would mean a change in their perspective and conception of the world around them, their limits, growth, understanding of the world and their surroundings… It is a big step, and the basis established before that moment is very relevant for the future development of the individual.
That change would be the first one of a few many, but most importantly because it is the crucial moment in which children stop being little children to start walking towards their teen years. This transition is like a rollercoaster, a permanent exploration of new limits and a growth process not just physical but most importantly, mental. A good environment at school and at home is more relevant than ever.
Studies also show that during those first 7 years, while the child is indeed, still a child, the figure of the mother and the father is crucial and essential and the bond between those figures is very relevant to settle the basis of the future conduct, management of emotions and the fundaments of their values.
Why Is the Mother the Focus of My Attention
On one hand, there is a lot of literature about what the infant needs, what the infant craves for, and what is best for the child to be happy, content, and in the best possible environment; emotionally and physically. And all that literature has one thing in common, which we could simplify in the following sentence: happy family environment and safe space, happy child.
On the other hand, though, there is not much on how to make it possible, as a parent, to accompany our children in this journey without losing sanity or feeling like you are an absolute failure at some stages of this amazing and beautiful journey. There are too many social demands, expectations, and loads of information to process in so many topics that relate to our children’s well-being. If a parent tries to get it perfect, the load is almost unbearable.
Despite the difficulties that parents may find on the path, positive development comes from a household that provides happiness and safety. That holds the secret to making everything work smoothly. But to be able to provide such a nurtured link the adult needs to be in the right mindset and portray clarity in their strategies, values, and courses of action in multiple scenarios.
As we mentioned in the previous chapter the relationship between mother/child has a special impact on the well-being and development of the infant, especially during the first years of life.
That is the main reason why I focus my attention on this little microsystem, but there is more. I am a woman and a mother myself. Empathy plays a big part in establishing the basis of trust and confidence to open up in a space with another peer. Empathy drives this paper.
I have been there myself, I am still there sometimes, and I have missed what I feel I could now offer.
If we take the above information and transfer it to the impact of the parents’ mindset into the system, a system that is trying to raise a child and make him fit to live in a society, that can take a big toll on the adult mental health.
Most common problems presented by motherhood in the early years
Postnatal depression hits 10% to 20% of new mums during the first years of parenting in New Zealand. This needs to be addressed and dealt with by health professionals, but a huge percentage of the official numbers and calcification as “depression” are not taken into account. And there are a lot of parents feeling alone on a journey that, as we all know, it takes a village.
Failure is a feeling that lots of new parents feel related to, pressure, disappointment, insecurity… I have faced, over the years, many interviews with mums breaking down, not knowing, feeling lost… and also after that, after figuring out parenting a little bit… the sense of emptiness, of wanting to recover oneself and identity but all of the sudden not being sure of anything, feeling disconnected, unsure… uncomfortable on one self’s shoes is a predominant trace on mothers that have taken a little break on what used to be their life, to happily immerse in motherhood, but then walking through it without fully enjoying the moment in life that they had been looking for and starting to transfer the uneasiness to their life besides parenting. I have been there myself, lots of us have been, it is not a nice chair to sit on.
How Coaching Can Help That Mother?
My hypothesis is that there is no way to provide a good educational environment at school if the emotional basics of parenting are not covered in the first place. Can the infant benefit from his/her mum getting into a coaching relationship?
There is a void space that needs to be filled to give those mums, those women who are not diagnosed with depression or anxiety, a secure space to let go, to talk, and to be asked the questions that they are asking themselves, give them the space and TIME to do so. Offering them a companion on the way, someone they can relate to and feels confident and not judged.
In order to be reborn and shine to the top of their capabilities they need to commit to themselves. But often not knowing how to start can be the first blockage on the hard way.
Starting a relationship with a coach they will allow themselves the time to think, to invest in themselves, to reinvent without feeling guilty because they should be doing something else.
Steve Wolinski presents a systemic thinking coaching model that can back up the benefits of coaching with the mother. The three worlds that this author establishes are visible too in this microsystem. By raising awareness of the adult, and empowering them to change and get personal benefits out of working for themselves, they can also identify the great impact that it can cause in the other parts of the system.
Using coaching also as a tool to find “the village”, which we commented on earlier, could be also very beneficial for a group of individuals that is sicking empathy and compression. There is a reference to the importance of this type of coaching in this particular group of clients in an article published by the student Aneshry Yasar in the Whits Business school:
Finally, there is a need for working-mothers support groups, which the woman can link in to at any time during the maternity transition period. These groups not only serve as a support network, but it also starts fostering professional networking and role modelling.
Having stated that, we can confirm that the mother, by building a relationship with herself, and getting stronger and more confident, would not just be helping her but her whole system to improve their connections, their communication, and their capability of resilience. Most of all that process of growth and awareness would be a great impact as a side effect on their children’s development and well-being.
At the same time, we should be providing empowerment to become the best version of themselves, not just to get there on a personal level, but also to be part of a healthy system that provides everything that their infants crave and sustains a nurtured environment for the healthy development of the children.
Role modeling of taking care of oneself could also benefit the infant in many ways. By acknowledging our imperfections and our craving to get better we set an example to future generations, we open the door to self-care and awareness of one’s needs at a deeper level.
The limitations that this process would find are at the start of it. Getting help, getting out there, searching for a coach, or even for the mother to decide that she needs someone to talk to.
When immerse in this business and motherhood, oneself priorities are not priorities anymore. Mothering is busy, there is no time to look inside, and anyone’s priorities, especially the infant ones are first. Mums always get to be the last ones on the cue to get attention.
It is because of that reason that getting into a coaching relationship may not be easy unless there is a social push, an offering from others, and exposure to the possibility. And the results and outcomes from it are almost palpable.
Word of mouth and groups of mums together getting the benefit of coaching would be a very good way to start reaching out to them.
Anthroposophy Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
Javadifar, N. et al. (2016) Journey to Motherhood in the First Year After Childbirth, Journal of Family & Reproductive Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The Science of Early Childhood Development (2020) Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Supporting the Professional Mother Transition Through Motherhood: A South African Perspective. (2018) Wits Business School. By Aneshry Yasar.
Fraga, J. (2017) First Seven Years of Childhood: Are They the Most Important? Healthline. Healthline Media.
Systemic Pedagogy: Definition, Characteristics, and Benefits (2022) You Are Mom.
Postnatal Depression in New Zealand – Hpa.org.NZ (No Date).
Systems Thinking Module. Certified Professional Program. ICA