What is a Matriarch?

The simple definition of a matriarch is that she is a powerful, influential woman in a community or family.

Traditionally, being a matriarch is the last stage of a woman’s life. It comes after she has completed the day-to-day work and decision-making of being a mother which has now been taken up by the next generation.

A matriarch has more time to spend on her personal interests and contribute to her community, while still playing a valued role in her family.

She is a woman who has earned influence with the people in her sphere from her strengths, commitment, and ability to love with wisdom and without condition.

Matriarchs have an umbrella of people that they have chosen to love and support. Under her umbrella can be family, friends or community. She is comfortable communicating with them and is integrated into their lives.

A woman does not need to have ever been a mother in order to be a matriarch. She needs no permission. She can simply choose a group to support and make herself available to them.

The word matriarch should not be used interchangeably with the word matriarchy. A matriarchy is a society ruled by women.  A matriarch is not necessarily the leader or the decision-maker. HER VALUE IS IN HER VERY PRESENCE.

The Most Rewarding Stage of Life

The three traditional periods of a woman’s life are the maiden, the mother, and the matriarch.

The word matriarch is nearly lost in conversation today almost as much as the word maiden. The word “matriarch” may feel archaic, but it’s the best word we have to describe women who have earned respect and gained the wisdom to enrich a family or group.

Historically, there have been prevailing, ugly projections used to represent older women. Think of the witch or old hag. These images are associated with darkness and evil compared to the male archetype of the all-powerful and magical wizard. These images have weakened the vast, and not well understood, influence of older women.

These negative depictions of women are still a part of our cultural mindset today and are much more prevalent than any images of beautiful and valued matriarchs, damaging the matriarch archetype. Because of this women are often unsure, even reluctant, about moving into the role of matriarch. Sadly, mothers have a tendency to hang on to the role of mother as caretaker for too long, or longingly look back on their time as the maiden, instead of looking forward to their life as a matriarch.

This is unfortunate because THE LIFE STAGE OF MATRIARCH CAN BE THE MOST CREATIVE, FREEING, AND REWARDING OF ALL THREE STAGES OF A WOMAN’S LIFE. This is when a woman learns to know herself the best, grows strong in self-confidence, and is the most willing to challenge or disregard what she does not care for or believe in. 

Because of technology, education, and healthcare, today’s women have the potential to have the greatest influence, while living a rich life, more so than ever in the history of humanity.

This is now the longest period of a woman’s life, lasting up to 40 years.

Transitioning from Mother to Matriarch

Ideally, a mother starts her transition to matriarch while she is still solidly in her role as a mother.

This process starts when a child is still in the home. Allowing a child to do as much as they can independently, as soon as is reasonable, takes conscious awareness.

Keeping her own fears in check so as not to limit the growth of her child, a mother begins to gain her own freedom.

In the early stages of letting go, a mother can struggle with losing her role as she knows it, but seeing her children grow wings, and the promise of enjoying her new freedom as a matriarch is a tremendous reward.

The Matriarch’s Wisdom

Intuition comes from being in an arena, or area of specialty over a long period of time, and having gained expertise. For a matriarch, HER EXPERTISE IS IN LIFE!

She truly sees her fellow human being and celebrates other people’s accomplishments. She grows strong in her ability to listen and to have faith in the choices of others. She recognizes that she doesn’t have all the answers. She never has had them, and she has the wisdom to know that this is not her role.

A matriarch can’t take away other people’s pain, but she can ease it with her comforting presence. She is a reminder to those around her, through their hard struggles of life, that they are loved. They have a place where they belong and will always be welcome.

As she models being a matriarch, she gives other women a blueprint to follow in their own lives. This is one of the most valuable gifts a younger woman can receive.

Motherhood is not a Requirement for Matriarchy

There are many valued paths for women today.

Being a matriarch is a choice and an earned position. Every woman can become a matriarch, however, some mothers will never be a matriarch and some matriarchs will never have been a mother.

A matriarch is a woman from any walk of life who has gained wisdom and intuition from living and uses it to bring value to the world. Her gifts can be used to serve any group she chooses, nieces and nephews, formal and informal organizations, friends, or an entire community.

Conclusion

It is time that the term “matriarch” becomes just as common in a conversation as the word “mother” and just as understood. And that women look forward to the rich and generous life of being the matriarch.

Author’s note: I am a coach specializing in working with professionals. The majority of my clients are women. I’m also a matriarch, a mother, and a grandmother. Helping women understand their role, or future role, as a matriarch is a topic every woman that I work with eventually comes to discuss. It’s a life piece that is too often misunderstood. Clarity brings peace and purpose to women. I write this article in the hope of serving all women, their daughters, their daughter’s daughters, and all of humanity.

About Jamie Metz

Jamie is a coach, writer, and avid walker. She has walked over 1000 miles in foreign countries to explore cultures and to become more comfortable in the world. She has an MA in Psychology and is interested in how we create more brilliant lives through collaboration models, creative thought, and a better understanding of life transitions.

9 Comments

  1. Cheryl Gilligan on March 11, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Jamie, thank you for this eloquent expression of the matriarchal opportunity that all women can participate in. Over the past two years, due to your prompting, I have undertaken the opportunity of learning in defining what that role will be for myself. I have learned so much over my lifetime, and I have needed to carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully shape this knowledge and experience into a role of creativity, unconditional love, wisdom, earned influence, and one component that I think is worthy to fit into the matriarchal algorithm, grace. I paused as I read your statement, that this could be the longest period of my life, it was powerful and really resonated with me as I considered that possibility. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and influence, I am doing well.

    • Jamie Metz on March 12, 2020 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Cheryl. Thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts. I will continue writing on this subject for a while and you caught my attention with “grace”. This is surely a piece of being the matriarch. I would like to explore that in my future writing. I am so glad you are well. It’s good to know.

  2. Karita Gonzales on March 12, 2020 at 3:14 am

    This is fantastic! Love you!

    • Jamie Metz on March 12, 2020 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Karita, So nice to hear from you. Thank you for your kind remarks. This topic is important to me and my hope is that younger women will find it helpful. Love you too!

  3. Brandolyn on March 12, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    I am grateful for your leadership and active-demonstration in/on this important topic for women. Thank you for encouraging and empowering me in a positive manner!

    • Jamie Metz on March 12, 2020 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Brandolyn. Thank you so much for reading the article and responding. It means a lot. And hopefully, it will help the article be more easily found on google.

  4. Dana J Morfin on February 28, 2021 at 10:16 pm

    I love this definition of Matriarch! After being a mom and watching my children take over and raise theirs. I am pleased by my roll as a mother and now be able to move on as a Matriarch of my family! Thank you! I love reading your blogs!

  5. Dorothy Hull on May 7, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    Love this!

  6. Rita on June 10, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    Matriarch in the family is a challenging role to fulfill. I’ve had a lot of strong women in my life even my own mother who had a quiet authority. I would also refer to it as the backbone of the family.

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