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Your_Majesty's avatar

Have you lost your maternal instinct?

Asked by Your_Majesty (8212 points ) February 3rd, 2010

Do you think maternal instinct is an absolute instinct that every women will have after they have a child?. I saw some realities about some mother that kills their offspring in their pregnancy and other kills their newly born baby. Do you think maternal instinct really exist for all women?,do you think that certain instinct will last long?. I know the main reason they’ve killed their child because of financial problem or frustrated for being left by irresponsible man who made them pregnant. I know some mother who go through this situation but still let their child alive and even taking good care of their child despite they’re faced with this reality.

Optional question:
Do you think that maternal instinct maternal instinct could/will be worn off as time passed?(e.g. when your child has became an adult and move out from your house). What about you? (please be honest).

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49 Answers

Likeradar's avatar

Some have argued that many of the women who have killed their own children have maternal instinct gone haywire- they love their child so much and so… twistedly? Unhealthily? that they don’t want them to have to live through not having enough food or other life problems, so they save them by ending their lives.

Also, it’s important to remember that maternal instinct and mental illness are by no means mutually exclusive.

But yes, I think it is very possible for a woman to just not have it.

ubersiren's avatar

In not so extreme cases, there are some moms who are just plain not very good at being a mom. I wouldn’t say my mother is a terrible mother, but I definitely don’t feel that she had the traditional motherly instincts that many moms I saw growing up did.

You can see a lot of abandonment in people who are simply not cut out to be parents. They have children for different reasons, and for some, I guess that instinct just doesn’t kick in when biology/mother nature presents them with a child. I know several men out there who have more parenting instinct than their female partners who have turned away from their families.

I wonder if it’s an evolutionary development. I wonder if this new wave of dads with motherly instincts has anything to do with evolution of human behavior… hmmm. Or maybe there’s not a new wave at all and it just appears that way (to me).

I got a little off track there, but I agree with @Likeradar about women (and men) who murder their children. Having or not having parental instincts may have little to do with it. It’s more that they are mentally ill.

marinelife's avatar

I hav the maternal instinct and I don’t even have a child. I treat my dogs like they were my children. I have a soft spot for any kids I meet.

tinyfaery's avatar

The hormones that cause what you call “instinct’ do not function the same in all women.

casheroo's avatar

“I saw some realities about some mother that kills their offspring in their pregnancy”

What are you talking about with this? Abortion? Or something else?

Every woman is different. People don’t kill because of a lack of maternal instinct.
I personally don’t really care to be around other children, or take care of them anymore since I’ve had my own. I find it awkward to hold other peoples babies..I just don’t feel “connected” and don’t care to. Doesn’t mean I don’t have maternal instinct for my own.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I know I have maternal instincts and they’re as strong as ever. I know I couldn’t stand being next to my child, though, when I had postpartum depression because my biochemistry was fucked up so I know that can happen to new mothers as well. I also believe that this instinct (and really it should be called something else) doesn’t at all exist in other women and it doesn’t have to, because not everyone should have children. There is no reason to expect a person with a uterus to have automatic maternal instincts.

tinyfaery's avatar

From an episode of Bones: “Just because I have breasts doesn’t mean I have magical powers over infants.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@tinyfaery heh, i love that show

Your_Majesty's avatar

@casheroo I won’t call it as abortion. I meant they attempt to kill their offspring for immoral reason(not legal).

wilma's avatar

My maternal instinct is as strong as ever. I still worry and fret over my children, grandchildren, and other peoples children.
Some women don’t have much of this, some have lots of it.
People are different.
@tinyfaery “Just because I have breasts doesn’t mean I have magical powers over infants”.
I love that!

HGl3ee's avatar

I know mine is all fired up and rockin already! And I don’t even have a child.. yet ;)

Just_Justine's avatar

I never had a maternal instinct. It is strange but I was thinking of this today. I had my son and he was an accident. Bless his cotton socks! I was also a single parent, I was married but my husband left me shortly after my sons birth. I really battled with this maternal instinct thing. It just wasn’t there. I didn’t feel like killing him though! I still don’t have it, and he is grown up now. I did my best. I had to work and look after him all alone with no support at all. Plus he was a difficult kid with ADHD. In a way I never felt the same after having my son. I never really felt ok if that makes sense. Oddly I nursed and cared for my family (mom and dad) not to a large extent but I fussed over them and cared for them for ten years. But I think this and my son, I did a good job simply because I felt I had to. It left me drained tired, resentful. I wish I had had the maternal instinct but I did not. My own mother confided in me that she didn’t either.

I think some women have some don’t. But its a very not talked about subject because we are supposed to have it, all of us. I think some women land up on medication because of it you know?

I often wonder if my child had been different? easier it might have been different. But doubt it. I never had any more children and I don’t miss my son being out of the house, I am glad! I do love him, but have no desire to take care of him or anybody for that matter at all. I suspect that being a parent to my own family due to their issues and lack of nurturing could have led to this? If you want to chat more about it you are welcome to PM me.

Just_Justine's avatar

—@ubersiren I think society makes it a mom thing, my ex husband is more maternal than me

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Just_Justine I agree with you, more people such as yourself should feel free to discuss these aspects of parenthood

liminal's avatar

I am a mom and I am pretty sure instinct has nothing to do with my being willing to help my children learn to wipe their butts. There are days when it is all about making the best choices I can and nothing about how much I love them. Some women who have deep, seemingly instinctual, feelings of love are quite capable of harming their children, we hear the stories of abuse and neglect all the time. I often wonder if parents felt permission to also express negative emotions, about being parents, if there would be less abuse.

wilma's avatar

I’m sorry @Just_Justine
I’m happy for you that your son grew up and is on his own now. You must have done the right things. You are a strong woman to do what you did. I admire that.

Just_Justine's avatar

@wilma I must have sound rotten saying that! He’s a great guy, I just don’t have that need to ask if he is ok, I know sounds odd. I don’t mean to sound odd. Thank heavens he is oblivious to all this or is he?? who knows

Just_Justine's avatar

@liminal so true as it’s so frowned upon or has been. Remember that Oprah show with those women who were tearing into women who didn’t find parenting all that great. I think circumstances can make the issue worse too you know. Like lack of money, lack of support, lack of knowledge all sorts

Likeradar's avatar

@Just_Justine I definitley admiring you telling your truth about this.

nebule's avatar

I never seriously intended to have children and when I got pregnant I was only really coming round to the idea…but it wasn’t planned at all. I struggled immensely with maternal feelings…and I struggled to bond with my boy too. I believe being a single mother having a boy made it harder…when the relationship had gone so terribly wrong and I suffered verbal and emotional abuse from his father. When I was pregnant I got a 3D scan of Theo and he looked exactly like his father, I was gutted…disappointed but couldn’t tell anyone…how horrible was I??..How dare I feel such a thing??!!

He’s three now and I love him with everything I have and am but a maternal instinct… nope….I don’t think so. Very much like @Just_Justine I know I have a duty and by God am I going to fulfil that with every ounce of passion I have. However, I do dread the day he moves out and can’t imagine life without him. I believe my mothering has organically grown not out of instinct but out of necessity and a heart to ensure that my child feels loved and cared for regardless of anything else.

It does not come naturally to me though to nurture. I find myself working really really hard at it and still questioning myself at the end of the day.

janbb's avatar

No, my maternal instinct hasn’t gone away; there are only two people in the world I would instantly give my life up for and they are now 27 and 30! Did it make me a perfect mother? Not by any stretch of the imagination; becoming a parent was a huge growth impetus for me, I had to struggle daily with my selfishness and frustration in the early years. Do some women have it and some some not? Sure, and I think your life situation, the personality of your child and your own personality can strongly affect the nature of your “maternal instinct” or abillity to parent effectively.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@lynneblundell I feel that way sometimes too…my first looks a lot like me but also a bit like his bio-dad…I hate it…I don’t like seeing my ex in his face and the way he is

YARNLADY's avatar

In the U.S. our society is so far from instinct that mothers have to be taught how to take care of our children. Some of us really take to that, and some have no interest in it at all.

DrMC's avatar

I think culturally we value parent hood, and the nuclear family less than we used to.

Motherhood is no longer a saintly profession, an honor.

It is now a burden, pressure is on to be liberated, work like a man, make more money. It is very common for the male spouse to work like he used to 50 years ago, but the woman is microwaving, loading the dryer, and wiping snotty noses while husband is on the couch. The woman has 2 jobs. The kids are just overtime. A hobby. The modern woman who does not hold a job but is at home raising a family can be disrespected by her college educated peers.

With this slow death of the specialization of the sexes, so too is lost the meaning of being mother.

A new generation is being raised. Does it matter? Time will tell.

In some families the male recognizes the nurturence gap and steps in. In others the male is good with the chores. There also is a gender gap and a community gap.

Ultimately people will interact progressively less.

Just_Justine's avatar

@janbb you so right a child’s personality and the parent counts for a lot

Just_Justine's avatar

@DrMC also so true, it just gets to be too much at times I would imagine even for moms with huge maternal instincts.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrMC I really can’t agree with a lot of what you say. All around me, I do not see parenthood being valued more and in our family it is quite important. The nuclear family as a model doesn’t need to last because it is not realistic – for many people their families included extended family and other caretakers and for certain classes, it’s always been so even during the nuclear family phase. Understanding family in a more inclusive way actually helps people interact and feel more supported rather than hinder interaction. Motherhood was never considered saintly or an honor – all that was just to get women to not question why they can’t leave the house – after all if you tell them it’s their godly role on earth to create and raise more humans, it’s better if you make it sound like this is just so taxing and all important that you can’t possibly have a career outside the home or want a political voice. (Read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan to see evidence of the fact that women were not happy with this arragement).

I also don’t believe women are pressured to not be mothers, these days. It is simply that, if they want, they can be productive members of society and have a job besides parenthood. Unfortunately with all the liberation that you speak of, gender norms didnt’ change enough because women are still expected to be primary caregivers to children and end up working as a mother and in their jobs. What needs to happen is for people to see the value in changing gender norms for men too. That way stay at home dads, men who are home makers and men who don’t want careers can be respected and seen as valuable. When that change comes into place, we will have a more equal society.

I am a mother and I work – my kids are not a hobby, to me and I take my role as a parent very seriously, more seriously than any other role in my life. The same is true for my husband who is a stay at home father for the time being. We believe in one or more caregivers (parents) being with children for a large portion of their childhood full time. When my first was born, I was that person to be with him. When my second was born, my husband is the person to stay with him. We are both interested in pursuing futher graduate education and having careers beyond that as well as having more kids. We are extremely functional people, we share all chores and activities. Our family supports my family (mother, aunt, grandmother) who live with us in one home. It works better than the nuclear model because my children benefit from interacting with others besides their parents and with an older generation.

So, I ask you, how does our family sound as if we’ve lost meaning of parenthood and family when that’s our biggest focus?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

oh I mean I don’t see parenthood being valued less not more. Sorry.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

Do you mean parental instinct? I don’t think there’s anything specific to mothers that makes them better parents… I agree there is a special connection between children and their mothers though, due to the physical carrying.
That aside, I’d say that my connection to my children is growing, not shrinking.

DrMC's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir yours sounds like it bucks the trend I see every day.

Here is the opinion of pew research
– pretty clearly there is strong sentiment that performance of parents – both mothers and fathers in recent years is worsening.

I will also give a gem to you, once given me.

A black woman, a respected internist and professor of medicine, was my attending (teacher) – she told me her theory of the downfall of black culture in the ghetto, and how it was related to slavery.

In Africa, there are stable social structures, ethics, religion, and family structure. When individuals are subtracted from this social matrix and inserted into a slave environment, used as breeders, and raised as non people it distorted the responsibility of the male. No longer were men expected to stay to support the family, they breed and move on. The woman is not expected to uphold the prior cultural values either.

I would describe this process as similar to the breaking down phase of “brain washing” used in the Korean war to convert captured American soldiers. Usually however the next step is insertion of a new ego onto the blank slate. (Long live chairman Mao)

The de-nuclearization of the American family, and society could allow insertion of good, for more modern ideology, or it could be left blank in a lord of the flies sort of way. Filled with drugs and apathy.

Your family has mastered this situation, but you are vocal, opinionated, and therefore are intelligent, have a strong sense of your self and identity. You have strong opinions, so therefore you likely have a complex set of self determined morals. This is unique, and like yourself, uncommonly rare.

Not so for the average American. Few would have your sense of self. I see the alternative play out every day. I do not see cases like yours often. Actually lawyers have stated a preference for jurors that are single mothers, with multiracial children “because they are more gullible” – yes. One really did say that. The specific point to be made is that they perceive a greater likely-hood to accept an external sales-pitch for the morality of a particular position. This might be open-mindedness, but the lawyer who plans to profit is seeing it negatively and for profit.

In early colonial times the efforts of indoctrination of christian culture worked well for some African derived individuals. Special individuals have arisen to buck the glass ceilings to become great performers, producers and leaders. Christianity may have been abandoned, but it requires a special individual to excel without a clear social context to perform within.

You must admit, that there is prevalent belief that today’s challenges are greater, it is more difficult to perform well, and while some continue to struggle ahead, it is not surprising if our next generation would suffer.

I have no interest in going back 50 years in the advances of civil rights. We just have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. We now need to address the rights of this nation’s children.

Just_Justine's avatar

@DrMC It is interesting how the topic has expanded to the degeneration of family and the internal moral constructs of each person. By moral values I mean being able to construct a workable situation regards childrearing despite current social conditions. Or social consensus. I think that is where intelligence comes in, in terms of working what we have got, and using our own inbuilt moral values to determine our belief systems in order to best justify whatever path we choose to travel. My mother was a working mother and due to this I was abused for seven years very violently because simply she was unaware, and had no idea where I was for eight hours everyday. She figured she was the new super woman and worked and had kids so she had it all. I worked because there was no one else to do anything, not supply food for my child, nor wipe his nose.

In another post I posted “where have all the good men gone” I seem to have morphed into a nostalgic person seeking more simple rules for life instead of always building and defending my own matrix of understanding life an how it applies to my own individual circumstances. Some might have seen this question and thought I was a bit simple of mind! I just wish things were so much simpler. But it goes back to the question which was what if you have no maternal instinct? But you do manage to overcome this without killing your offspring and again, it is a case of lack of network or just basic societal expectation of how women should be. Most of us here are intelligent and I sense try to keep it simple in order for most to understand. But mostly because the topic is so complex it becomes never ending and worse of all none conclusive. I had no maternal instinct was it because of lack of support or simply it wasn’t there. Either way is an acceptable explanation. Perhaps for my own sake I need to analyse it and know why.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrMC I understand what you’re saying and can go off tangents on most of your new topics – but it seems that you uphold a kind of ‘people are sheeple, they need religion and others to tell them what to do and how to do it’ in order for there to be order in society – and well maybe it’s true that many are being left without direction, but I don’t think people were happier or any more self-actualized when they had a pretense of direction around them…our world is changing, neo-colonialism, globalization and recent political changes are making an impact…we have to move forward and evolve, not go backwards to a system that only worked on the surface for a particular portion of a particular class of a particular race.

DrMC's avatar

@Just_Justine if I am reading you correctly, then you are reflecting maternal instinct off societal expectations, norms versus maternal modeling, and childhood trauma.

My side spin is simple, it comes from an engineers perspective towards human behavior.

When a rare event occurs (the bit falls off the machine) – it’s a fluke, and the assembly line is working

When an outcome occurs often – there is something wrong with assembly line, and not the employee or supplies used. (loosely applied six sigma)

If the majority percieve parenting as more difficult, and less effective, then maybe it’s not the individual.

There is of course a conservative theme to this. If things were conservative this would not be so. I think that’s a biased oversimplification.

Actually we have removed old memes, have an empty blank, an un-programmed expectation of modern parenting, and have not filled in effective counter-memes. This is failed North Korean conditioning in dramatic terms.

In simple terms however we are in a time of change, and maternal support is compromised, as other members of society move along with reforms.

In your case, if you were abused, neglected, and not given a model you should give yourself the same credit I give myself.

Just think of the horrors you endured, and how your children have not been exposed the same. You lived through version 1.0 beta. Your children can benefit from your protective influence. Cut yourself some slack, and see a counselor.

DrMC's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know you like to take the opposing view, but how carefully did you read what I wrote? Look especially at the last sentence. Your countering is usually stronger, maybe you were tired.

You must think I’m an 80 year old methodist fire and brimstone preacher.

You’ve generalized what I think, to your discredit.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrMC I read it carefully and I think no such thing – otherwise that’s what I would have told you – the main point I was making was the first half of my comment- the second half of my comment was in agreement with not in opposition to that last sentence you mention.

Just_Justine's avatar

@DrMC By analyzing the maternal instinct and societal support networks etc., you deduce I should go and see a psychiatrist? I really thought my admitting I had no maternal instinct and considering it from the perspective you brought up was a good bench mark for debate. If you check all my questions and answers I have been told that. Do I come across as so complicated? So lost? If so perhaps you and others are incorrect. I did say perhaps. Because of literal external stressors I do need to see a therapist but cannot see how every question I ask suggests that I need one, or each and every answer. I need to take time out to contemplate this.

Just_Justine's avatar

@DrMC ok, I retract that remark, I just checked all my questions, ok, looking in the phone book now loll.

DrMC's avatar

@Just_Justine im confused, shrinks are helpful, not bad. I really have insufficient information on your situation to say anything directly useful. I’m stuck bouncing off my global perception of the global situation.

Hopefully you’re getting the idea from what I wrote that parenting is really hard, and it’s sign of the times, and our strong obligation as parents to overcome.

While it’s reasonable to blame society (as I do) we can’t sit on that.

In your situation your mother not stepping up to issues, and in my opinion giving you a poor role model. To add insult to injury you were abused. This is a recipe for trouble. Give yourself credit. You can discuss and consider it. This does not mean you are crazy. It means any difficulty you have will be expected.

Can you lack an instinct? The taste receptor for sweetness has a gene, which cats have but in them it is defective. They eat meat. The forehead muscles in humans have a gene defect – in myosin 6. – It’s one of the key differences between us and our strong biting chimpanzee counterparts. When defective it allows a larger cranium. The locus is called “room for thought” Genetically anything is possible, but I am doubting that is the situation. There will be variable degrees of “maternal instinct” out there just like a bell curve of student grades, and rare genetic defects. I am betting this is not relevant to your specific situation. Essentially, a species incapable of caring for the young would quickly die out. You can thank darwin. It is highly probable that you have the genes.

Instincts are also modifiable – hypothetically, You can take strong instincts and modify them by learning. It is much easier to modify learning, than primary unlearned responses. The prolactin response, and other process are important, but headline garnering cases rarely are seen where mothers slay their own children. Perhaps the primary instinct is ignored for an overriding goal

I really think this issue comes to play when offspring are older than 12. (not that we should slay our 17 year olds, but understandably you may want to ring their neck) If nothing else, consider it is only 6 years till age 18. Instincts are much more powerful for a child age 2. I remember stepping in front of a speeding care to protect my son. They saw me and stopped in time. They would not have seen him.

If anyone thinks seeing a child counselor would help, more power to them. Believe me much worse could happen. The kid likely will resist but if you are sure such is needed, and you fear for the outcomes for the kid/s then just tell them you are doing it to be a better parent. (don’t tell them you will otherwise do something newsworthy)

Being a better parent gives lasting benefit. The model you role- will be copied. Advancing parent version 1.0 beta to 2.0 will be used for generations.

DrMC's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir now that I’ve slept the prior reply of yours bothers me less. Sorry.

I will try to reply regarding this.

Humans individually are like ants/bees/cells in a body.

We are not human, we are humankind, as a bee does not capture what it is that bees live like.

The idea that law, religion, societal norms are part of what captures the group and makes it and it’s members tick should be readily accepted.

The last 5 centuries have seen upheavals in our style of thinking, our religious practices, and our legal systems. From the Magna Carta we have progressed to abolition of slavery and civil rights. Woman can vote, raise a family, and are supposed to be (one would hope) earning equivalent salaries. It is now even possible to produce offspring from two females.

The social water we swim in defines us, if you take the fish out of water – trouble.

The military technique of “brainwashing” was used successfully by north Korea, and china to convert loyal American soldiers into loyal communist propaganda sources. This is a real process which involves ego destruction.

Basically you are broken down until you no longer believe everything you have learned, you even question what and who you are, and what your purpose is. From this blank slate you are reinforced into the ideology and “water” desired by the brainwasher. As nature abhors a vacuum, the ego needs an identity, sense of societal belonging, sense of norms, and or morals to uphold for that society.

You can rename the process of socialization, and the main ideas upheld for a society as memes.

Meme theory is very cool. Suffice it to say, a human without a society, is a scared lonely treat waiting to be eaten by something big with sharp teeth. Memes are essential and they have evolved to better serve us, while we have evolved to better serve them. If you are not of the evolutionary fold, then rewrite the above as “they were built, and we were built.”

Memes are worth understanding. They are what are actually doing the meta here on fluther.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrMC I hate what is done in the military and the brainwashing done in civil society – people are capable of more and should be allowed to think for themselves. I am aware of memes and socialization – my background is anthropology and my future is with sociology.

DrMC's avatar

@simone getting a little off topic but I’ll add one of the things that increased my odds of moving from agnostic to christian in my 30’s was the observation that inner city youth who regularly attended church were much more likely not to have teen pregnancies, gang involvement, and received better grades. (I had heard of a study that showed this)

This is in keeping with the observation of my professor, who herself thought that slavery removed needed memes, all at the time that was offered to replace it was Christianity. Lately we are beginning to see Islamic missionary work in the inner city, but previously it was only the christian missionary types who were selling memes in those neighborhoods.

I had a lot of other reasons for my “conversion” – but many are along this line.

Trying to loop back to the original question, I really think meme support of maternal behavior can make or break the experience, when it’s stretched to the limits by stress.

I did not realize you share my interest in anthropology. (I am not formally trained by a long shot)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DrMC those kids stayed out of trouble because church offered them community and cohesion not because religion is necessary.

liminal's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir :P you type so fast :P

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@liminal this is true..in 6th grade, I had a typing class that has gotten me to a good speed – I read even faster

snowberry's avatar

My daughter tells me she doesn’t have a mothering bone in her body. And she CHOSE to have kids!!!?!!! How does that work? Now she’s trying to get rid of the kids when she divorces her husband.

In her case at least, it’s not about anything except being extremely self centered.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@snowberry A mother who posses a maternal instinct will at least tries to fight for her offspring in such situation. She wants to know how does it feel when she become a mom,and turns out she can’t handle it. But what can I say?,it’s her decision,she’s an adult now. Is that mean she’ll give all her kids to her ex-husband for free?. She must at least try to learn,love,and get used her kids first before making that fatal decision.

snowberry's avatar

I guess she’s used to them enough, she doesn’t want to bother to try anymore. They are 6 and 12. Sad. But they will grow up knowing they weren’t all that important in her life.

Just_Justine's avatar

@snowberry maybe she is ill or something, I mean going through some sort of breakdown? it just seems odd. I mean I was never maternal but I did the best I could for my son, oh hell, I am still looking after him at age 28 long story. I just find that a bit odd that she would do that. Not sure of all the circumstances and hope I don’t sound judging. Because we never know a persons frame of mind or pains you know.

snowberry's avatar

@Just Justine She is messed up, you could say that. Looong story. Life looks like it’s going to be challenging for a long time, and we’re only getting started

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