Maternal instict – is it real?

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Maternal instict – is it real?

We celebrated Mother’s day recently; since time immemorial we have been talking about our mothers to be the torchbearers or guardians of the greatest human qualities of love, giving and sacrifice. Can we look across a broader spectrum and not glorify the stereotype? Isn’t it putting too much pressure on a person to be the epitome of perfection? Let’s remember she is human too. Also she is a part of a ‘family unit’ where the father makes the other half of parenting; which is true for most cases leaving aside the single parents. And where does the father feature on this list of uncompromising good virtues? I have always believed that a family is built and children are raised by parents- mother and father who possess the values of nurturing, caring and love. Motherly instinct is an emotion that is not tied to a specific gender. Anyone who raises a child is a mother whether that person has given birth or not; at times even marriage may not be a part of this emotion.

Maternal instinct is believed to be a woman’s nurturing trait that’s developed after giving birth. It is also a given that she’d know what the child needs and thus transition into parenthood naturally. The process has inadvertently focused on women and children. This reinforces the idea that women are innately equipped to care for their children; anything that deviates from this arrangement is considered to be negative. Does not confirming to the age old beliefs of being the stereotypical mother be negative really?

Many experts are of the opinion that maternal instinct as perceived by the society is a myth as all people regardless of their gender and sexual orientation can develop a strong bond with their children. They also understand their children well- right from the time of their birth to them becoming adults and even beyond. They know when the child is well or if something is bothering him or her. Their sixth sense comes to play when children land into troubles. Yet maternal instinct is not an instinctive process but most of it is learnt.

These instincts can be attributed to the motherly drive seen in women. The difference being that they come innately where women are believed to nurture or care for their young ones without any previous knowledge or experience. Drive on the other hand is a state of motivation that is in response to a need. It is believed to be due to the hormonal changes that take place in a women’s body during pregnancy that in turn impact emotions and behaviours. It is also true that not all women experience the maternal drive whereas many fathers may experience it even though they haven’t been pregnant ever. So what is seen is not really the motherly instinct but a caring instinct in all parents. It is an acquired behaviour that strengthens with time and experience making people the ‘good parents’.

As a society we put expectations on women to instinctively know all about bringing up her children and be perfect at it; this creates undue pressure on her leading to problems such as postpartum depression.

There may be some women who do not display the maternal instinct and may end up feeling incomplete or ashamed and blame themselves for it. To overcome this pressure it’s essential to understand that all women are wired differently; aren’t human beings supposed to be unique? Each mother or parent has his or her own way of doing things and there is no perfect way!

Young mothers need not worry about getting the tag of perfect mothers; it’s not a trophy to be won!

Mothers have a major stereotype stacked against them it needs to change. In fact the narrative for a mother to be perfect needs to change and men need to stop comparing their mothers to their wives. The mother had her way of raising her children and the wife has hers; there is no universal way of parenting just like there’s no perfect way of doing anything. With these shifts we’ll have much happier women and much happier mothers.

PS Pictures is taken from Google with due credits.

Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Dr. Laxmi Todiwan
Founder Indian Women in Hospitality. She is a Professor, Corporate Trainer, Motivational Speaker and a Blogger. A multiple award winning hospitality professional with a career spanning over two decades; people engagement, training and development are close to her heart. She writes for hospitality journals, online platforms and columns in the local newspapers. Married to a Master Mariner she loves to write on the maritime industry as well as the lives and relationships of the fraternity. She expresses her thoughts on her blog and website,

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