Mama Myths Series: Motherhood Should Come Naturally
Let's be honest....no one knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to parenting. We are sold this package of "motherhood comes naturally" as if by magic we know exactly what to do in every situation when it comes to children. I can't tell you how many times my baby has been crying, fussing, or acting completely crazy and a well-meaning stranger or family member look at me like, "don't you know what to do?" Not only do I not know what to do, but I'm wondering if the other person does and could maybe share their wisdom (and please, please withhold judgement).
This lie gets to the core of the motherhood identity because it sends the message that the act of parenting is intrinsic. It is important to note that mothers do have strong primitive instincts and high levels of intuition and they need to be trusted and revered. For example, we feel a physiological response when our child cries so we can respond, or we know that we need to feed the child to help it survive so we feed him/her, as well as we feel protective of their safety so we make sure their environment is free from danger as best we can (and why we go ape-shit if they wander into the street, past the confines of the boundaries we set). However, there are several ways that parenting is not built into our DNA such as when to start solids, what is normal and explorative child behavior vs. problematic, or what school to send them to.
There are so many other examples but what is a typical distinction between instinct & intuition vs knowing what to do in all situations, is specificity. Intuition and instinct are not specific, rather they are more general. For example, you know you need to feed your child to help survive (instinct) but when to start solids, dairy or no dairy, how many servings of vegetables, and whether or not you should limit sugar are NOT always an intuitive or instinctual processes. We look to the "experts" in respective fields to help with those choices.
The issue that comes up most often is we confuse instinct and intuition for knowledge and education. It is impossible to know everything and you are trying to raise a human being that is as complex, interesting, and unique as everyone. You instinct and intuition can point you in the right direction, and we need a village of friends, family, wise ones, and experts to help with the rest. It is OKAY to lean on trusted others for support, knowledge, and ideas. Not because they know your kiddo better than you, but because sustainable parenting cannot be done in a vaccum.
The next time you are beating yourself up for not knowing exactly what to do, try this.....
1. Ask yourself, "what does my instinct or intuition say?" (hint. it can feel more like an alarm bell going off inside you instead of a narrative of what is happening) ex. my heart is beating really fast, or feeling scared, or a strong desire to be physically or emotionally closer to your child).
2. Thank your intuition
3. Ask yourself, "what is unclear about this?" or "where do I feel confused or unsure?"
4. Take a moment to see if you can answer your own questions while you are calm as you may get what you need and be able to stop there.
5. If you are in need of more support, it is okay to ask for help from a trusted source. Perhaps a wise one or mother mentor in your life, your child's pediatrician, a trusted parenting book, or a trusted parenting blog.
6. Remember that parenting is a constant learning process. You don't arrive at this place where it all the sudden feels easy, smooth, and natural. You will have to keep working at it, and that is okay because you are built for it.
About the Writer
Danielle is a mother, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a writer, a woman's empowerment advocate, and dedicated soul seeker. Writing has been a natural form of expression that originates deep within each of her experiences. Her purpose is to provide validation, encouragement, and support for every mom through her blog, the Motherhood Empowered Facebook Group, and in the therapy room.