Being a Therapist & Becoming a Mom

I know what you’re thinking right now after reading the headline…so I’ll tell you right now that I am not expecting!  Rather, this is a guest post by Rachelle Norman, MA, MT-BC.  Rachelle is a fellow music therapist who owns a private practice in Kansas.  Be sure to check out her blog for more thought-provoking articles like this one:

I’ve been pondering something of a chicken and egg scenario. Six and a half years ago, I became a board-certified music therapist. Three months ago, I became a mother. I know that becoming a parent has changed me as a therapist, but I also know that being a therapist has formed who I am as a parent. Things have changed in my life, but what prompted the changes? Being a therapist or becoming a parent?

One major change in my life has been an increased focus on self-care. As an enthusiastic new therapist, I worked myself pretty hard in a full-time job while building a new private practice, and I was on a path to burnout for sure. I started getting better about drawing boundaries between work and home when I got married, but it was becoming pregnant that really forced me to re-examine how I was using my time and energy. All of a sudden, my body no longer allowed me to haul around a bunch of extra equipment or drive so many miles to see clients. I needed to be deliberate about self-care to stay healthy so I could serve my clients effectively. Now that our daughter is here, I am more deliberate than ever about making sure I’m getting enough sleep, exercise, and healthy food and that I’m spending plenty of quality time with my daughter and my husband. Making time for myself and my family frees me to be focused on my clients and their needs during the workday. At the same time, knowing that I’m putting forth my best effort at work enables me to enjoy the time at home even more.

Another change in my life over the last several years has been dealing with my perfectionist streak. Perfectionism worked for me as a student, but it is not usually compatible with being an effective therapist. Music therapy sessions never go exactly as planned, and clients are not entirely predictable – we are bound to make mistakes, and we have to be flexible, ready to make in-the-moment changes as circumstances demand. Of course, parenting can’t go entirely according to plan, either. Becoming a parent means giving up some measure of control. So does being a therapist. Maybe it was being a therapist that has prepared me to deal with the less glorious moments of parenting. In turn, maybe being a parent will help me to be more forgiving of myself when things do not go according to plan in music therapy sessions.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, becoming a parent has brought into sharp awareness again how grateful I am for the work that I do. Every day I get to share music with people. I get to walk with them through this part of their life’s journey. I now work mostly with older adults, and I am continuously humbled by hearing their stories and learning about their experiences. Becoming a parent has highlighted this privilege of my work as a music therapist. Being at this stage of life gives some expertise back to my clients – many of them have been there already, and even if they cannot remember today’s events clearly, many of them do remember what it was like to become a parent. My respect for my older adult clients grows every day, and I feel less pressure to be some kind of all-knowing expert therapist and more joy in being part of the community that supports its elders in the twilight of life.

So, who came first – the therapist or the parent? Of course, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. I just know that I am grateful for my family and for the work that allows me to share life with so many amazing people everyday. Being a parent and being a therapist – both are great blessings in my life.

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