Maternal instincts, in my opinion, are a supernatural phenomenon that, frankly, I’d like to see make a comeback.
In fact, I’m alive today because of my mother’s instincts. One day she was overwhelmed with a sickly feeling that I shouldn’t walk home from school as I always did. She jumped in her car and pulled up just in time to see me start to walk in front of a truck. She was able to run out of her car and push me out of the way just in time. The driver hit her instead. (She survived.)
There are many other stories — maybe you have one — of simply knowing something was wrong with your child even though all logical evidence pointed to the contrary. It’s a gift; an inner knowing that our overwhelming unconditional love can sense. It’s a nudge that often whispers to us the right thing to do when we just aren’t sure what in the world we’re going to do.
Sometimes it’s knowing we must get a second opinion of that diagnosis. At other times, it could be letting them sleep near us or sticking to our guns that smartphones are not allowed until they get off our insurance at age 34.
It’s because we know our babies more than anyone possibly could, and we can often sense the best course of action when we account for their personalities, temperaments and physical and mental abilities and limitations.
Of course, not every woman is particularly maternal, and not every biological mother is either. And those of us who are aren’t always tapped in to this instinct all the time. Fear, anxiety or our own past traumas can muddy it up. Just last night, my toddler woke up crying that the back of her knee hurt. She cried and moaned, “Owie, owie, owie!” and in my mind I went straight to cancer. Then my husband gently encouraged me that it was probably growing pains.
But as I get a little older as a mother, I have some growing pains, too. I’m discovering that I do actually know more than I think I do, and the reason I often feel so helpless is because Google and social media has dulled my ability to detect my inner knowing.
When we get caught up in tidal waves of other people’s passionate opinions, a natural response is to start questioning our own. Or become wildly defensive, which is usually just resentment that our insecurity was triggered.
Just cruise a bit through Facebook and you’ll see what I’m talking about. We thoroughly enjoy any article, meme, blog post or opinion that confirms our own bias. All day long, friends whom I adore post things that make them feel good about their own choices. If they home-school, they’ll post an article about why home schooling makes kids smarter. If they want their children to co-sleep with them, they’ll post articles about how children who sleep in their cribs grow up with attachment disorders or, worse, become Ted Bundy.
Which is fine! What’s getting a little boring is letting someone else’s bias affect the confidence of my own choices. A good friend of mine — who isn’t religious — posted an article citing a study that atheist children are kinder than children who believe in God. Fascinated by this, I researched the study. Turns out, the study was a fraud and had been rejected for academic publication. This actually happens a lot, you see. When I pointed this out, she didn’t respond or take it down. Confirmation bias is a helluva drug.
So what a shame that these well-intended shares by friends actually have the ability to negatively influence our confidence and stifle our own instincts.
I think there’s something very appealing about growing still; listening and resting in our own spirit. Lord knows, I’m filled to the brim with other people’s opinions, so what about my own? How do I feel about this? I can trust my unconditional love for my children enough to at least let my heart have a voice.
So friends, go ahead and post your articles, memes and other things to express how you feel. But I’ve decided to give my instincts a vote, seek the counsel of people and resources I deeply trust and at least strive to have the humility to realize that sometimes I might get it wrong.
We’re all going to screw up something. We might as well accept it now and keep doing the best we can.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.