In Defense of Mother’s Intuition
Whether you consider yourself a good parent or a bad parent, there is one thing we all have in common: mother’s intuition (gut instincts).
You feel sick to your stomach, experience a sharp pain or have a sudden excruciating vision of your child in peril. I am a huge believer in motherly intuition. Not only do you know your children best, but you also have a built-in gut instinct that guides you on this journey through motherhood. We can just sense when something is wrong with our child. While many of these gut instincts turn out to be false alarms, the cases of motherly intuition coming true are astonishing.
The internet is full of stories of mothers who knew their child was injured before the call came in, of mothers who could sense something wrong in their child even when test results came back normal. Some may call it coincidence, but I cannot even fathom questioning the legitimacy of this connection. If you ever have strong feelings with regards to your child’s health or safety, please, please, PLEASE honor that call from within.
These instincts may help you when your child is in danger, injured or needs you; however, they are not enough to get us through the day-to-day struggles of parenting. There is no instinctual wisdom on how to stop a toddler from biting at daycare or getting your kids to stay in their own beds or teaching your teen how to use deodorant (ew).
While we may have an inclination of how to handle daily parenting duties, that wisdom does not come from our gut. It comes from… brainwashing.
How We Were Brainwashed
No, you weren’t abducted by aliens who probed your pregnant belly and plugged you into mind-control devices. Your brainwashing came from sources much closer to you: your parents and caregivers.
Every interaction with your mother, every show you watched on TV, every moment of your life was training your brain. We are all programed, brainwashed by our experiences to respond a certain way. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Our interactions also teach us empathy, kindness and gratitude. But the evidence is overwhelming: we live what we know.
When your child throws a fit, your attitude, emotional response and actions are a direct result of your programming. Did your parents threaten you when you acted up? Spank you? Were your caregivers pushovers, enabling your every whim? I am not saying that you had bad parents. They were merely passing down their programming… generation after generation.
This brainwashing teaches us how to respond to certain scenarios. Without any additional support or education to supplement our upbringing, we end up slaves to this programming. I constantly hear (and have often repeated), “It worked for my parents, and I turned out just fine.” While this may be true, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve upon what our predecessors knew.
We are programmed to think that motherhood is easy and instinctual. We are programmed to respect and honor the wisdom and actions of our elders even when they are counter to our own beliefs and instincts. We are programmed to think that all children learn and grow in the same way and thus will thrive off the same parenting methods. We are also programmed to think that it is weakness to ask for help. We need to break these negative traditions that we are handing down to each new generation.
Reprogramming Our Mom Brains
I am not a perfect mom. I don’t even think super moms or perfect moms are real. I struggle constantly with my parenting. After consulting my parents, in-laws, friends and mom-group acquaintances, I was still struggling to manage many daily parenting issues. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. To make my life as a mother easier and spend more time enjoying motherhood, I am moved to retrain myself as a parent.
Re-programming our mom brains isn’t about becoming a perfect parent. It isn’t about tossing out all the lessons our parents and caregivers taught us. It is about accepting that we have more to learn so that we can gain the skills we need to parent more effectively. More importantly, we need this change to allow ourselves more time to enjoy motherhood and to care for ourselves. Less time fighting, more time living!
Now try not to panic here. I am not trying to add more to your already full plate. Yes, it will be an investment of your time, but you will earn so much time back by eliminating the yelling, arguing, bargaining and punishing.
Re-programming our mom brains is not as complicated as it seems. It all comes down to two simple concepts: open-mindedness and practice.
Opening Your Mind to Reprogramming
I am shocked by how many people find self-help and seeking personal growth to be a sign of weakness. We are willing to read tutorials and watch how-to videos for baking, make up and home projects. So why is it so bad to hard to make changes in our lifestyle/routine and attempt to better ourselves?
Be honest with yourself. That is the first step to opening your mind to the process. There is a reason why you are drawn to parenting tips and eager to vent. Something is off and you don’t like it. Admit that you want a change, admit that there is a problem(s) to address, and most importantly, admit that you are worthy and deserving of a happier motherhood experience. You are not all-knowing and that is ok. Let the experts and success stories guide you on your path. It doesn’t make you weak, it proves you want to be a better mom.
To accept the change and open your mind to a new (and likely better) way to parent, you must rid your mind of judgement, be willing to make mistakes (and keep trying when you do), be patient with yourself & your children, and let go of your ego. Humble yourself to the experience and allow yourself to grow to be a more patient, more prepared, and happier mom for your children.
You have not failed if you seek help in your parenting. It is not dishonoring your parents to learn from the communal wisdom of millions of other moms. Go into your parenting with an open mind and see what opportunities will be open to you.
Practice, Practice, Practice
(I am a huge baseball fan, so please pardon the cheesy analogy). I know how baseball works, I know the mechanics of the game, and I know how to hit a home run… but that doesn’t mean I can do it. I am not a major league baseball player (obviously). No one expects someone to pick up a bat or ball and be a successful ballplayer. So why don’t we look at parenting and relationships in the same way?
This goes back to our preprogramming that tells us that our instincts are all that are needed to parent. Have you ever been a parent before? No. Even if you have spent time with kids before, you cannot possibly know what it will feel like to be in the moment… with a screaming toddler at the grocery store or a sick kindergartner who refuses his medicine or an angsty teen who thinks life is unfair.
Being a parent is something that we have never done before. We have zero experience. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the skills or proficiency necessary to be successful. We just need to apply the lesson we learn in other fields- sports, school, and hobbies- practice!
If you learn about a new routine or mom hack, try it out. Not once, but many times. Don’t expect to get it right on the first try… possibly not even the 100th try. But keep trying! Keep practicing. Remembering that it takes time for changes to set in will help keep you motivated in your practice. Before you say, “that didn’t work for my kid,” be sure that you gave yourself (and your child) enough time to adjust to the new concept or habit. Let others know what you are practicing so they can support you in your efforts. There is nothing worse than a spouse or grandparent countering all your hard work.
Take It One Step Further
Getting back to my baseball analogy… besides practice, what else does a ballplayer utilize to get better at his sport? Coaches! Many other moms came before us. Thousands, nay! …millions of people have devoted their lives to studying children and developing parenting strategies to make life easier for moms and better for our children. Join a group, take a class, participate in a workshop, hire a coach. Family and parenting coaches are amazing resources and they are dying to see you succeed. You can find a coach to work with directly or utilize their resources online. Don’t assume help isn’t available to you. You will not regret investing in your parenting… time, money or even just heart.
I am not a parenting coach. I don’t even feel that I am particularly good at parenting. I yell, barter, bribe, threaten and punish way too often. I cry a lot. Do you know what I am good at? Trying. I try REAL hard. I admit my faults & struggles and allow others to guide me. Some days, I rock at mommy-ing, some days I am a hot mess, and some days I am just winging it. But I am always trying, always practicing.
I am not writing this because I have found the perfect solution to your parenting dilemma or the magic book that has all the answers. There are so many resources available. Many takes. Many theories. So grab a parenting book, take a workshop, listen to a podcast, find a personal or family coach. Delve in headfirst to your transformation, really stick it out and practice what you learn. Your children will be grateful for the positivity and happiness you bring to the home, the world will be grateful for the children you raise, and you will be happy to have a little peace, a little sanity, and a lot more happiness in your own life.
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