Anne Smollon: Keeping the ME in Mommy
After having her first child, MSW Rutgers alumna Anne Smollon felt as though she was, “Missing in Action” from her life. “I would look in the mirror and think, “Who am I? Why am I not combing my hair or washing my clothes?” She would hide from her loved ones, afraid for them to think that he was not happy with them, her growing baby, or her life in general.
From this feeling of life spinning out of control, Smollon began wanting to investigate. She talked to family members, women in grocery stores or at the community pool. As she started talking, a pattern emerged. Dozens of women felt the same sense of personal loss and confused identity, and Smollon coined this identity crises “M.I.A”- missing in action or Maternal Intrapersonal Anxiety.
“It is distinctly different from post-partum depression in that it is an intrapersonal experience. M.I.A usually occurs after the honeymoon period of having your baby, after the first 18 months. When you are pregnant, your body is changing, and then you are being bombarded by all the newness that a baby brings. M.I.A. can set in once the work begins to pile up, your child begins talking back and real life begins to set in,” she said.
After hours of conversation and years of research, Smollon self-published her book, Missing In Action: How Mothers Lose, Grieve, and Retrieve Their Sense of Self. The book explains M.I.A in depth, including details from Smollon’s personal journey as well as the experiences of other mothers who Smollon contacted. She also offers a ten-step list of goals for mothers to reach in order to flesh out their own feelings of self-loss. During the process of developing her book, Smollon consulted SSW Professor Dr. Shari Munch.
“I had Dr. Munch to brainstorm and dig deeper with me,” Smollon said. “Without her help, I don’t know if I could have done it on my own.”
Her book has received a myriad of praise. Judith Viorst, best-selling author of over seventeen books, including, “Necessary Losses” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” provided an endorsement for M.I.A. Smollon has also developed a workbook for mothers to help them stay on track in their own empowerment and self-discovery.
Beyond the success of her book, Smollon offers counselling for mothers, via email and phone in groups or one on one. “One of the first things I say to mothers is that they have to talk about it,” Smollon said. “Whether it is with a group of mothers, or your mom, dad, sister or your husband…you just have to talk about it because you will realize you are not alone.”
To Smollon, it is vital for women to find at least one thing that they love to do and are passionate about. She explained that for her, writing is what fueled her. It saved her life, helped her regain her self-esteem and gave her an identity beyond motherhood. She recommends that mothers push themselves to do what they love every day. “Practice it like a religion,” she said.
To learn more about Smollon, her work, or for more information about her counselling, check out her website In Moms Corner.