What's getting in the way of your maternal instinct?

From rampant information to kids' toys, find out why your maternal instinct might not be as sharp as you thought

By Cynthia Reynolds
What's getting in the way of your maternal instinct?


Mothers have always had to work to maintain maternal instinct. We’ve had to figure out how to separate the sage advice of trusted doctors, caregivers, teachers, our parents and other moms from the stuff we should ignore. Moms today are also contending with a pile of new forces, each eroding our ability to hear and believe in our intuition. The result? Our maternal instinct seems to be running on empty. Here are our top four instinct-disturbers.

Information, information and more information

Research scientists, psychologists, children’s experts, caregivers, teachers and consultants all bombard us with information on how to be a good mom — from optimal Vitamin D exposure and best strategies for solving tantrums to how much you should praise your kids to making sure you serve green vegetables with every meal. You can’t escape it; it’s on the news, in books, on bus ads, in toys stores, on talk shows, in the parking lot at school and circling the playground. All too often we’re letting expert information bully our own inner voices.

What to do When you hear about new info, advice or a theory, take time to question it. Does it ring true to your views? Does it have enough merit to change your views? If it’s no on both counts, try and toss it from your mental bank.


Fear can trump instinct big-time. For example, while our intuition tells us kids need to explore and play freely outside, our fear of abductions has cut their radius of play to one-ninth what it was in the 1970s. We know it’s OK for kids to learn that they can’t always be the best at everything, but our fear of their academic failure has propelled tutoring for preschoolers to the fastest-growing segment in that field. Fear has become so prevalent — fear of dirt, germs, nature, sunburns, dog bites — that it is literally burying our collective instinct, not to mention our common sense.

What to do Remember what you loved about being a kid. Are you too afraid to let your own kids have those experiences? If so, try to remind yourself that your kids also need to play freely, explore and learn that they can’t always be number one. You learned that lesson and turned out fine, right?

Modern fathers

Most of us are grateful for modern dads — according to some estimates they are 50 percent more involved in child care than 25 years ago. However, sometimes when their parenting efforts get better results than ours, well, that can rattle our already tenuous self-confidence.

What to do Stewing over why the kids sometimes listen more to dad is something virtually every mother experiences. One thing that helps is simply talking about it with your partner or ranting about it with friends. If you can’t get time away, search out a mom blog online — it can be therapeutic just to nod and laugh to the many shared stories.

Kids' merchandise

Wall-to-wall strollers, shelves spilling over with sippy cups, potties that sing, toys that teach – the list goes on and on. Our instinct is a mere speck compared to the giant $6-billion kid merchandise industry that tells us what our children need to thrive. Whether you’re shelling out hundreds on a video baby monitor to watch your wee one sleep, or caving in and buying your school-ager the latest, coolest game console, somewhere along the line you’re definitely in the same boat as all those other moms who find it difficult to truly decide what their kids need.

What to do Keep in mind when shopping that your young ones are going to grow up and become teenagers—giving them the impression now that only the best, say sippy cup, will do is likely to create serious entitlement issues, among other negative traits.

This article was originally published on Jul 01, 2010

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