The lovely Loretta at More than a Mum writes about an article she read on evidence of a mothering gene. Her response to it made me really giggle as she describes her initial lack of mothering instinct and then how she ended up being surprisingly not ‘grossed out’ by breast feeding.
The very idea that there exists a mothering gene sounds so bonkers to me. Now as a psychologist I know genetics has a huge influence on our personalities and I can accept that this means there are some women who are more predisposed to have a natural mothering instinct than others but to extend this to consider that our ability to mother has a genetic basis would be so unhelpful.
It is our ability to change our behaviour that is the very reason that I work predominantly with parents rather than children themselves. Of course a child’s genetic make-up predisposes them to have certain personality traits but as parents we have a huge influence on their developing social skills, values, self-esteem and confidence. It is so hard to quantify just how much they learn from us.
I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t share the same wishes for their child – to grow up to have a happy, fulfilled life. But being a parent isn’t a spectator sport where we sit back and shrug saying ‘I’m at the mercy of my genes and this is as good as it gets toots’ as we watch our little ones stumble through life. We have a responsibility to do our best and in my view this starts with ourselves.
I love the quote from Jung which I paraphrase as ‘the biggest impact on a child is the unlived life of a parent’. For a child to grow up being happy and fulfilled they have to know it is possible and we have to show them. I don’t mean giving our children a rose-tinted unrealistic view of life where it is all smooth, easy and without challenges. We want our children to grow up with confidence in their abilities, to value friendships and family, to know how to make friends, solve problems, know their strengths, feel optimistic and to grow up with the skills to deal with life’s challenges.
How does our life show them this if we are doing a job we are miserable in, if we complain about it, if we don’t have the energy to do hobbies, if we eat rubbish food and then slump on the sofa for the evening, if we are so stressed by the hours we do at our work that we have no time to play a game with our children or help them with their homework or even just sit and listen. Children learn first from what they see us do, so is your life showing your child what is possible for them? There are times when I have been aware of feeling so scared of failure that I’d rather avoid a challenge and not try, but it’s stopping and asking myself this questions that helps: “Is this what I want my son to learn from me- that the way to cope with scary things is to hide and avoid them?”’. My response is “Hell no”, I want him to have the courage to try new things and grow in confidence by giving things a go. This gives me the kick up the backside to face a fear.
There are times when we all lack confidence about our parenting skills and worry that we are not doing a great job. If we think that this is due to some genetic deficiency it suggests that there is nothing we can do about it and that there is nothing that we can change about the way we parent. How nuts is that! We all know being a parent is a tough job where you can easily feel overwhelmed and stressed. Although complaining about it with your friends and hearing them empathise makes you feel a little better, it doesn’t change how things are. One of the best ways to tackle this is to decide what areas are in your control, explore how you want things to be different, taking small steps towards changing the situation and identifying your strengths. A great first step is to learn how to stop feeling guilty about not being the perfect mother and build your confidence so you start to trust your decisions – if you haven’t got your FREE copy of ‘Working Mums-How to ditch the guilt demon’ then sign up to get it here instantly.
So back to Loretta – she knows, she gets it and I love to hear the confidence in her decisions shine through and as she says “being a good mum is surely down to way more than just your genes.” Abso- bloomin-lutely!
(Thanks to osiatynska for flickr photo)