Nature vs. Nurture, and that thing called “Maternal Instinct”

I fell down the rabbit hole again this afternoon…. Maybe it was that part of me who still laments the fact that she wasted 10 years studying to become a Midwife only to find out that it simply isn’t worth it in the US. Regardless, I am not sure how I got there but I wound up reading article after article about pregnancy and childbirth.

One article eventually led to a string of other articles talking about that blasted thing called “Maternal Instinct”. Most of them were written by people who did not want or have children, but whom felt it necessary to tell everyone that such an instinct did not exist- that it was a social construct driveled up in the Victorian Era; something which is only “felt” by women because Society says it exists… And yet I would wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment.

Now, granted, the Industrial Revolution gave rise to plenty problems concerning the Motherhood Cult, Parenting, and every associated thing under the sun. I am usually the first person to bring it up in a discussion on Parenting and Childhood development- usually concerning the damage created by Industrial Revolution’s change to the outlook of parenthood and its associated responsibilities and expectations. I do not believe, however, that Maternal Instinct is one of those byproducts.

I do believe that some people are just hardwired at their very core to be parents and caregivers. Others people? Not so much. But some really, genuinely are… And for both groups, the compulsion or revulsion is… Well… Natural. It is a drive; an instinct. I think, however, the problem is in how we are actually defining that instinct.

Anything that talks about Women and Children, and the choice to or not to have them ultimately focuses almost exclusively on the choice itself. They act and write as if whether or not you want to birth a child of your own is the deciding factor as to whether or not Maternal Instinct exists. But in reality, how much does that actually have to do with anything?

I don’t think it does, really. I believe that Maternal Instinct is better defined as how you feel when you are around children; are you happy around them, or do you feel revulsion and constantly look for the nearest escape route? Do you feel a desire to care for them, or would you rather throw them to the Wolves? These are all very relevant feelings. Those feelings can influence the decision to have (or not to have) children, certainly, but it is the feelings about children in general that are more important in my eyes.

I have a knack for calming a child down, they often listen to me better, and a wide variety of other things. No matter how much I dislike a child that I am around, either, I am still driven to care for the child; to play with it, feed it, care for it, and do all that other “motherly stuff” that comes along with it. Furthermore, I genuinely enjoy it a lot of the time; I hear it all the time from both family, friends- and even complete strangers. They say things like “You would make a good mother” or “you have such a way with kids”, and it is true.

It is a fundamental and core part of who I am: I enjoy children, and I enjoy caring for them and being around them. Ultimately, this would not change whether I actively wanted children or did not. I know this to be a fact, actually, because my Husband and I have bounced around between actively attempting to conceive, to electing to be childfree, to finally settling on “if it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t then no loss”. During all of this, my decisions on whether or not to have my own have not impacted the joy I find in the children around me; it has never diminished the joy I have or children, nor my enjoyment of caring for them.

In other words, the answer to my question of “how much does the choice to have or not to have children actually have to do with anything?” is… Well… Nothing… It has little if anything to do with it in reality; I don’t think that the choice or want to have children actually has very much to do with Maternal Instinct at all. That does not mean that everyone has it, of course- or that people who do not are broken or wrong in some way… But I do still believe it ultimately exists. We’ve just been looking at it and defining it the wrong way and focusing on the wrong thing.

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4 thoughts on “Nature vs. Nurture, and that thing called “Maternal Instinct”

  1. I am amazed that you studied for some time in Midwifery. I actually want to have a midwife if for any reason we are blessed with a child. I feel that they are much more attune to the woman and her needs as well as the child’s. I truly support midwives and all they do!

    Reading about your thoughts on this really hits home. Sometimes I amazed at how much I relate to you and yet we are so different! Maybe not as much as I think!

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    1. Being a Midwife was my life’s final goal for a long time. I studied it jointly with Herbal Medicine in an unofficial capacity from the time I discovered it around 11 years old to the time I realized it wasn’t worth it (when seeking out official accreditation) at 20-21. In order for me to feel as if it would be worth it, I would have to move somewhere within the Netherlands, or at least somewhere around that general location, and I simply didn’t want to do that. It really is unfortunate. I wish you luck on your own journey, though, should you give it a go!

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        1. I wouldn’t say that we put too much trust in them. But I would say that we have too high an opinion of modern medicine and too low an opinion of natural methods. But I can also understand why. The Natural Health community- Herbalists, Midwives, Doulas, etc- have ultimately done that to themselves. When the majority of your community and members are anti-pharma, crunchy / hippie medical conspiracy theorists who constantly bash Modern Medicine and uphold NAtural MEdicine as “perfect” and capable of curing anything…. I can’t say I blame the modern medical community for thinking they’re all off their rockers and questioning / distrusting the medicine and methods they are using.

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