Is Motherhood What You Expected it to Be?

Is Motherhood What You Expected it to Be?

I’m very proud to introduce my daughter, Natasha Gosselin, and her colleague, Sophie-Claire Valiquette-Tessier, as guest authors today on the porch.  This post springs from the research they are each doing for their graduate theses in psychology. We’re in for a wonderful discussion! Take it away Natasha and Sophie!

Can anyone even begin to describe the attachment of a mother to her child? We are not yet mothers, so we can’t imagine what it would be like, but as psychology students we are able to conduct some research about it.

The mother-child relationship is a highly studied area in psychology.  This relationship is thought to be incredibly important to an infant’s social and emotional development, laying the foundation for the infant’s relationships throughout their life.

However, very little research has been focused on the mother’s experience of this relationship.

The family is evolving in today’s society; there are a number of paths to motherhood.  Some give birth to a child, others adopt, and others become stepmothers when they join a partner who already has children. Some mothers parent alone, some with a partner of either gender, and some co-parent with a former partner.  To really understand motherhood, research needs to include participants in all of these family situations.

Too often, in psychology (as in life) we tend to focus more on what is going wrong than what is going right. There is a good reason for this; we need to identify problems in order to solve them.  But we believe that it is also important to study success, so that we can see what leads to this success.  That is the reason that our research is aimed at understanding family factors that predict strong attachments and high satisfaction.

Also, widely held beliefs concerning parenthood exist, and as a result, it is almost expected that mothers be nearly super-human nurturers. Our culture often sees heterosexual, first marriage, intact, stay-at-home mothers very positively.  Mothers who do not fit the script can be the focus of criticism.

Furthermore, research on parenthood generally focuses more on mothers, and fathers are represented as secondary agents in the parental process. With the increasing diversity of family configurations today it is important to correct this imbalance by adopting a more inclusive approach to the study of Canadian families.

Our lab at the University of Ottawa is now launching a national online survey focused on the maternal experience of Canadian moms as they enjoy, cope, and struggle with one of life’s richest experiences; raising a family (Natasha’s study).  A second online survey explores the ways in which different moms and dads are perceived in today’s society (Sophie’s research). We would be incredibly grateful if you could offer us the benefit of your experience by completing one or both of the surveys! [Note: the work is now done. Thank you if you participated.]

We would love to hear your thoughts about motherhood here on the porch!  Is motherhood what you expected?  What surprised you about the bond between yourself and your child? Do you think there are misperceptions about parents in different family constellations?

Photo Credit: Dane Khy

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