Monday, April 03, 2006

Is the Maternal Instinct Real?

I was trolling the internet when I ran across this article about the maternal instinct:

LookSmart's FindArticles - Mother's Day: maternal instinct may be a myth. But this mother's son still sees something special in motherly love

Psychology Today, May, 1988, by Paul Chance

Now, I find the idea of whether or not women really have an innate maternal instinct really, really fascinating - mainly beecause I don't have kids. And, as a single, child-less person, I know for a fact that the thought of staying home and raising children full-time (with all the attendant diaper duty, early morning wake-ups, feedings, nurturing, rearing, cooking and cleaning) sends shivers of horror down my spine. And I know I'm not alone.

Sure, I get all dewy-eyed when I see a mom and dad with their cute kids (especially if they have a whole brood and they are all just so adorable), and, occassionally I fantasize about what my own children will be like - athletic, strong-willed, angelic :) - and then I wake up. I start thinking about how much child care costs and who is going to change these adorable childrens' diapers and how many games I will have to attend and do I really want to start carpooling? And my dream of having children once again gets pushed to the furthest corners of my mind.

So this makes me question whether all that stuff about maternal instinct is real. If I really had it, wouldn't I be rushing out to have children despite all my fears? The article I read insists that the maternal instinct is learned, not innate. This quote sums it up:

Then the Pill happened, and the '60s, and suddenly a lot of women were discovering that sex and reproduction were not inseparable. And just as suddenly there were a lot of women who didn't show much interest in making little ones. So it really does seem that maternal love is not instinctive.

The prevailing opinion among experts now seems to be that motherly behavior is the product of learning. Women have and love children only because they were trained to do so. That was what their mothers were up to when they encouraged them to spend countless hours with Barbie

That, however, seems a bit cold to me, so I'm thinking it must be a combination of the two. That the maternal instinct is both innate and learned. And, even if you don't have it to begin with, you can certainly learn it.

The Bible doesn't really say a whole lot about parenting either. There are admonitions about how children should be raised, but these injunctions are not addressed to one particular parent. And, in Bible stories, I have seen instances of both the mother and father interacting regularly with their children.

So - what do you think? Do you think the maternal instinct is a learned behavior or is innate?

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ms mimi the mocha soulchild said...

I have always pictured myself being a mother, and having a family, yet I often wonder if something is wrong with me.

I love kids. Been working with them since the age of 14. Around the age of 25, or roughtly three years ago I had a strong desire to have children, which I'm assuming was biological. I was interested in someone who I thought maybe one day could be the "one" and for the first time in my sensible shoes life I found myself giggling like a high schooler about having somebody's child, and being a mom.

When I picked up my little cousin and held him against the chest I got this :::ahhh:::: mommylust. I felt this intense connection and desire to be a mom, which I assume actual motherhood amplifies. I was nowhere near prepared to actually raise a child, so I put the thought out of my mind.

Now, for some reason, although I still like kids, I finder harder and harder to picture myself with a child. Maybe the romanticism has worn off, or maybe I just had too many broken heart, but I understand now how difficult it is to raise children in this world, and the mommylust seems to have faded away with bills and fairydust. I could see my life without children, which is something new for me.

I'm on a career track which frankly is not conducive to family. I work 80-90 hours a week, evenings, weekends. I barely have time for a cat, let alone a relationship or a child. Eventually that may change, but I would not want to miss my child's life while I'm out there saving other folk's children, if you know what I mean.

Even my family, with their progressive do it for yourself sista, have a baby at 40, type women have hinted that I may want to think about children.

I know the biological clock is real. But I want to be married and in a loving relationship and have children inside the context of a family. I also have elected to follow the Lord, and wait until I get married to have a sexual relationship with anyone.

Still, I miss the ::ah::: feeling. After my last break up, I put away a lot of what I now clinically call those biological feelings that only manage to throw you off track as a woman and a christian, and maybe that is where it went.

Maybe it will come back, but if it doesn't that is something I will have to live with.

Refreshment in Refuge said...

I think the maternal instinct is real... like a momma bear with her cubs. Why did they think the instinct must appear before the child appears? What's up with that? Women nurture things whether it be plants or cats or children or boyfriends or husbands. That is the way God designed us. I know beyond all doubt that when we wait for God's timing, we reap huge blessings!

Athena said...

I don't believe in it because I don't have it. I know theres nothing wrong with me either.

It is purely a learned behaviour. Abused children statistically are more likely to abuse their children. Wheres the non learned nurturing instinct in that?

Just because some women like to nurture it doesn't mean all women like to nurture. Those women that like to nurture and say all women are "designed by God that way" are arrogant, and a little stupid.
(I just find nurturing people are always a little stupid.)

What about men? Some of them nurture too. But like women it doesn't mean its an instinct, it's a learned behaviour. Why would that be harsh? because your mother didn't instinctively nurture you? She nurtured you because she was taught to do that? Whats the difference?

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope the maternal instinct is just a learned behaviour because I just ended a relationship with a girl whom I thought would last but we eventually broke up because she has an extremely strong desire to have children and I don't. She not only wants one kid but two and she was already talking about this within the first month of our relationship! I am sure someone can understand that this really can freak out a guy and even if I do change my mind about having children down the road, I think we all know that raising a child still comes with tons of commitments and responsibilities and this global recession we are facing now isn't the best time to be discussing about this, right?

This was actually my first attempt at taking a relationship more seriously and I hope not all women are like this one or I will be doomed to be single for the rest of my life. I only wish that the next girl I meet will be more realistic and take things more slowly. Someone please tell me I still have hope.

muchie said...

The only problem with people these days is that they are selfish and want more for themselves so you find out them being freaked out by having kids.... The World has gone wlid i guess tts why pple are freked out.... think abt a situation wer u hev a kid and you hev to fend for the child... Naturally it comes out and you do what you have to do for the childs survival...