• Mon, May 14 2012

Are Parenting Advice And Professional Opinions Drowning Out Moms’ Natural Instincts?

scared momI don’t think there’s a person at this website who wouldn’t agree that motherhood is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. The responsibilities, the worries, the infamous mom guilt… It can all be a little overwhelming for even the most confident woman. But are modern women withering under the harsh demands of “perfect parenting” and the modern drive to balance work and family? Are we losing that all-important “mother’s instinct” that serves as a guiding force for our parenting techniques and approaches? There are certain clues that point to yes.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty  to Children in the United Kingdom recently released a rather disturbing study. As the Daily Mail reports:

Two in five new mothers have struggled to cope with the demands of parenting during the first few weeks after birth, with a similar amount admitting getting ‘angry’ with their baby, according to a poll.

A further one in five were frequently very upset at their child’s crying during the first eight weeks, a survey by the NSPCC has found.

Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of new mothers wanted more professional advice before their baby was born, on subjects such as such as how to deal with anxiety, fear and depression, the effects of their own sleep deprivation and how to cope with their baby’s crying and sleeplessness.

The piece went on to address the “emotional turmoil” or parenting a young child. 

We can all agree that the terrible twos kind of suck, but “turmoil”? That’s a really strong word to describe a process that may be difficult, but most of find rewarding and positive.

And almost 75% of us want more advice on how to parent? The number of parenting guides, internet resources and support groups for new moms is greater than ever before. If I want tips on how to cope with sleep deprivation, I can kind at least a dozen suggestions from just a couple minutes of Googling. From there, it’s just really just trial and error to find something that works fro me. Moms are discussing parenting techniques more than ever before, and still the majority of us are looking for additional outside advice.

This idea lends support to a theory I’ve been building for a while now, that parents are more afraid than ever before. We’re lacking confidence in our own abilities. And because of that, we’re searching for validation from any source available, be it pediatrician, child psychologist, or just a blogger on the internet. We want someone to tell us that we’re doing it right, that we’ll be okay.

I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t advice that new mothers need, it’s support for their own ideas. Maybe we should be telling each other what to do less, and encouraging one another’s personal views more. The judgment swirling around modern moms can be pretty overwhelming, and it only serves to reinforce the idea that there are “right ways” and “wrong ways” to parent. If you don’t see the problem with this, consider that absolutely no one agrees on what the “right way” is. Not doctors, not psychologists and certainly not mothers. We all have our processes and our own beliefs.

Studies such as this one make me worried that the trend is only continuing. So I want to ask our readers, just how can we help moms to trust their instincts? How can we instill some confidence in our fellow parents and help them learn that there is no right or wrong way to parent, as long as you’re doing the best you can for yourself and your family?

(Photo: Lucky Business/Shutterstock)

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  • Motherhood is Messy

    It is such a difficult time when you have your first baby. Your exhausted and stressed. I hope that parents are reading books and parenting blogs in order to find support, tips, and a supportive community and not coming away feeling like they aren’t doing a good enough job. Moms stay away from things that aren’t making you feel positive and go to resources that line up with your instincts about parenting. You know more than you think. Love goes a long way in raising your baby… go with that!

  • Tiffany

    I understand this. I talk to other mommies who insist I MUST start using babywise and trying to make my 10 week old sleep if he’s been awake for more than 45 minutes or that I should wake him up if he’s been asleep for a certain amount of time..but that just seems wrong to me. I decided to just say screw it to all that advice and let him sleep when he wants and let him be awake when he wants. No tips, no tricks, no trying to make him sleep through the night if he doesn’t want to (he does though, with the use of NO tricks. he just decided to one night). I get so much random advice about motherhood I just decided to drown it out and go with my gut.

  • Deconstructing Mummy

    I am a professional psychologist working with mothers on these exact issues and also a mum myself. I agree that too much “expert” information can confuse and even “childify” an adult mum. This post mentions two conflicting facts: plethora of parenting information on the one hand, mothers feeling at a loss on the other. How can these two be reconciled? I would say based on my experience from both worlds (expert and mum) that mothers need to be helped to trust their new role and accept it as a new part of themselves. This is harder than it sounds, as personality changes, priorities, old childhood traumas as to what constitutes a good mother, sexuality issues and anxieties about being a responsible adult surface with motherhood.
    Yes, I am a true believer in instinct, but a mother’s instinct can sometimes be compromised by her own psychological history, and the same holds true for common sense, ability to judge and make decisions, self-confidence, capacity to contain anxiety etc. We can’t generalise when it comes to motherhood. Each mother is unique and motherhood is a process rather than an end result, a road to travel everyday.

  • Robinson

    Thanks for raising such a sensible issue because today momm’s have some different methodology to handle their children.The figures you mentioned above based on a survey is matter of concern that why a mother is not able to handle their children?.So i appreciate your effort.