Maternal gatekeeping: Why a mother may feel lonely as a new parent

Maternal gatekeeping refers to a situation where a mother feels that only she is capable enough to take care of her baby.
A mom with her baby.
Maternal gatekeeping can be very mentally exhausting for a new mother. Image courtesy: Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 2 Feb 2024, 15:45 pm IST
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Have you been having constant fights with your partner or co-caregiver of your baby about how to put on the diaper, how to change the baby’s clothes, how to burp the baby? While this behaviour might seem very normal for you since you are the ‘mother, after all’, it might not be as natural as you think. You might be experiencing maternal gatekeeping.

Maternal gatekeeping refers to a situation where a mother feels that only she is capable of taking care of her little one. Health Shots got in touch with Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Nandita Palshetkar and Shreya Mitra, Postpartum and Parenting blogger, to understand what maternal gatekeeping entails and how to avoid it.

What is maternal gatekeeping?

In simple words, a mother undergoes maternal gatekeeping when she restricts her partner’s involvement in tasks regarding their baby. “She would want to decide how the child must be cared for, how the dad must spend time, analysing the quality time the dad spends, being unable to trust anyone else with the child etc,” explains Mitra.

Symptoms of maternal gatekeeping

While many things may seem normal for a new mom, there are particular behavioural traits that can help you spot maternal gatekeeping.

  • Feeling you can do a better job
  • Insist on choosing the child’s clothing
  • Feeling that your child might need you and avoiding your needs in the bargain
  • Giving detailed instructions and not letting others, who are taking care of your child, do things their way.
  • Not accepting any other way of caregiving, even shaming others who take care of your little one.
  • Resenting your partner or co-caregiver for not doing the tasks as well as you do.

Also Read: Raising Shaan aka Shreya Mitra: From battling postpartum depression to turning maternal mental health advocate

A couple fighting about their baby.
Maternal gatekeeping can cause a rift between a couple. image courtesy: Freepik

What are the psychological effects of maternal gatekeeping?

These symptoms might seem harmless, but they have a major impact on new mothers. Dr Palshetkar shares the side effects of this parenting style:

1. Increased stress

The uncertainty and conflict over parenting roles also create tense surroundings, affecting the overall well-being of the mom.

2. Isolation

This kind of isolation can end up in a narrow social circle and decreased support network, impacting the mother’s mental health.

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A couple in therapy
Therapy and taking professional help can help prevent maternal gatekeeping. Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Relationship strain

Excessive gatekeeping may additionally exert pressure on the relationship between the mother and father, inducing anxiety and fostering resentment.

4. Burnout

The physical and emotional toll of handling parenting duties alone may additionally lead to exhaustion and a decline in well-being.

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5. Reduced self-esteem

Constantly assuming childcare duties can also wear down a mom’s confidence, fostering a feeling of being liable alone for the child’s duties. This dwindled self-worth can impact numerous aspects of a mom’s lifestyle.

6. Impact on parental bonding

Maternal gatekeeping can also inadvertently hinder the father’s potential to shape a strong bond with the child. This additionally impacts the mother’s personal experience of shared parenting, impacting the overall family equation.

7. Larger consequences

Persistent gatekeeping behaviours may have lasting results on the mom’s intellectual capability, contributing to situations that include tension or despair through the years. Addressing and resolving gatekeeping problems is important for the long-term welfare of both parents and the kid. This can also lead to depression and anxiety.

Also Read: Actor Ishita Dutta: Never anticipated postpartum depression, but it hit me hard

Ways to keep maternal gatekeeping at bay

Here are some tips to prevent maternal gatekeeping:

1. Open communication

Establish a basis for open exchange of feelings with your spouse. Develop a safe space to discuss parenting expectations, issues, and aspirations for a mutual understanding.

2. Express appreciation

Regularly express gratitude for your partner’s contributions, fostering a happy atmosphere and reinforcing the collaborative efforts in raising your baby.

3. Share responsibilities

Actively involve your partner in numerous childcare tasks, distributing responsibilities equally to promote bonding and dedication towards co-parenting.

4. Encourage bonding time

Support and encourage dedicated bonding time between your companion and the child, and understand the significance of their time together to improve family connections.

5. Respect differences

Acknowledge and respect the differences in parenting styles, without judgment or attempt to manipulate. Embrace the diverse views that can enhance your child’s upbringing.

6. Seek Input

This demonstrates a collaborative method that fosters a sense of partnership in raising your child.

7. Set Boundaries

Establish clear boundaries to ensure that both dad and mom have the space and opportunity to contribute to parenting duties.

8. Self-Reflection

Regularly reflect on your own parenting beliefs and behaviours, and ensure that they align with a healthy and cooperative parenting style that benefits both you and your partner.

9. Professional Guidance

Professional guidance can offer treasured insights and techniques to overcome obstacles and strengthen your co-parenting rapport.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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