Do you thing that motherhood is “learnt” or “instinctive”?

September 16, 2013

The other morning on a run I was chatting to a friend about parenting. She was wondering how adoptive single dads, for example, know what to do with their children when a) they aren’t women and therefore “mother’s instinct”, and b) haven’t had nine months to connect with a baby.

I got quite upset with the assumption that mothers are born knowing what to do, because I felt quite differently. Despite lots of previous experience with kids and babies, when my own was born, I felt I had to “learn” not only a connection with him, but what to do. And in fact, Max’s dad was often way more attuned to what he needed than I was.

Mother’s instinct? I’m not sure I have that or even know how to harness it. I’m figuring that mother’s instinct is based on the premise that moms have a “sixth sense” when it comes to their kids, and are attuned to their needs, or when something is wrong. I must be honest that I don’t know of a time when I felt this, or harnessed it. Most of the time I’m fumbling in the dark, relying more on logic or experience or my parenting style than a gut feel or instinct.

I know this subject can be argued, and that we all feel differently. What are your thoughts? Do you have “mother’s instinct”? Did you always have it, or did you have to cultivate it?


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  • Antoinette

    I too needed time to connect with my kids when they were born and hubby was more attuned to our first ones needs that I was.

    September 16, 2013 at 8:29 am Reply
  • Jude

    oooh, juicy topic… I certainly didn’t feel very ‘instinctive’ for those first few weeks / months as I was getting to know my babies. I think ‘instinct’ kicks in the more we get to know and understand our kids, and having tried 34 ways of burning said kid, one could probably say that instinctively you knew somewhere along the line you would find one way that did work. So probably not true instinct, but rather the label we’ve given what we’ve learnt to do along the way. As with any journey, I think learning and exploring how to do what we’re doing better is a given, and if we relied on instinct we’d probably end of up children who should be kept in a jungle with other wild animals 🙂 (mine should mostly only be in a jungle with wild animals between 5pm and 6.30pm, so hopefully we’re getting there 😉

    September 16, 2013 at 8:39 am Reply
  • Tina Pieterse

    I think its a little of both

    September 16, 2013 at 8:56 am Reply
  • Maggie

    A lot of it is instinctive but you also pick up good advice from other mothers

    September 16, 2013 at 9:15 am Reply
  • Tania

    I wasn’t born with the “instinct” gene, the birth of my first child was a massive learning curve for me. Now I think that I did have instincts, I just was too afraid to trust them.

    September 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm Reply
  • Melanie

    I had really bad PND so didn’t bond with my eldest until she was almost 2. My husband bonded with her from the start. We adopted our younger child and we bonded immediately. I still don’t think I have as much of the instinct as my husband.

    September 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm Reply
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  • Jacoline

    It is most definitely instinctive. I was always good with other people’s babies, but could not handle when the babies got upset. When I had my baby, that changes. You know your baby, you are with him/her from the first second of their life. A mother truly knows best!

    July 30, 2014 at 11:56 am Reply
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