Opinion: Maternal Instincts Are a Myth
I've been burned all my life with the expectation to find a husband, settle down, and have a few kids. This has always been an issue because I don't want to get married, and I seriously do not want to have kids. I mean what part of nausea, illness, swelling, lack of sleep, physical exhaustion, and then the grand finale of often PTSD-inducing, excruciating birth, the after-effects of tearing, stitches, bleeding, incontinence, breast-feeding, the beginning of motherhood and more sounds appealing? Do I even have to bring about the lack of affordable child care, the absence of universal health care, inadequate paid parental leave, skyrocketing housing prices, stagnant wages or high rates of student loan debt? What about the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade?
For weirdo conservatives, delaying or avoiding motherhood shows a severe loss of traditional family ideals. In this framework, women have been manipulated into putting motherhood before educational or professional aspirations for centuries. Parenting has always been considered a natural component of adult existence throughout human history. Women are expected to assume this role of ‘mother’ when they hit the age society decides she's ready to. A giant part of this is that our bodies are supposed to automatically know what to do. Apparently when a woman is born, the doctor downloads the “how to perfectly mother and raise a human being” handbook straight into our brains.
Why is it believed that women are biologically inclined to become mothers? It is a very recent – and poisonous – belief that the selflessness and kindness that children require are specifically built into the biology of women and are available at the flick of a switch. It was created over many years by men who sold an idealized portrayal of what a mother ought to be, deflecting our attention from what she actually is.
According to a new study on the parental brain, the notion of maternal instinct as something innate, automatic, and uniquely female is just a myth. A very misogynistic myth that has persisted despite feminists' best efforts to disprove it from the moment it entered public discourse. Dr. Darcy Lockman, the author of “All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership”, says “It’s the love part that is innate, and fathers love their children as deeply as mothers,”. Sure parenting is open to all sexes, but only moms are expected to feel guilty after parental shortcomings. Leta Hollingworth, a psychologist, claimed in the 1916's The American Journal of Sociology that women were coerced into thinking that their highest use was as mothers for the same reasons that soldiers were coerced into fighting in wars.
Conservative politicians who are "pro-family" have been motivated by a belief in maternal instinct and the deterministic power of mother love for decades. It upholds archaic notions of masculinity that teach fathers that they are secondary – helpers, babysitters – and incite mothers to think the same about them. It invalidates same-sex relationships, transgender, and nonbinary parents, whose capacity to raise their children is frequently questioned, as well as their rights and recognition.
Natural maternal instinct does not qualify a person for parenthood and shouldn’t bind them to be one. Parenthood shouldn’t be the only qualifier for having “made it in life” and pro-birth individuals need to recognize the hardships of choosing to be a parent or not in these trying times.
By Evelyn Summers, Copy Editor