New Book About Motherhood And Brain Science Can Help Redefine Maternal Instincts

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When a person becomes pregnant, they are given a million pieces of advice, and most of them revolve around one sentiment: "Trust your instincts." The role of being a mom has changed throughout history, but one thing that has remained a constant is the idea of "maternal instinct." According to Collins Dictionary, maternal instinct is defined as "the natural tendency that a mother has to behave or react in a particular way around her child or children." But having a baby doesn't mean you'll suddenly have answers to all the questions you're bound to have, and you might experience a lot of worry or stress while you are trying to figure that out. This leads a lot of women to believe they aren't doing a good job as a parent, but that couldn't be further from the truth. 

Outdated parenting books can make some ridiculous claims, so many people understandably choose to avoid these self-help guides. But don't count out every parenting book on the market — after experiencing the trials and mental hurdles of motherhood firsthand, author Chelsea Conaboy felt the need for a parenting book that assured new moms that it's okay to not be okay sometimes, so she wrote one. Her book is entitled, "Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood", a science-based guide that dives into the emotional complexities of becoming a mother, and how society's definition of maternal instincts and expectations of motherhood might be doing more harm than good.

Your maternal instincts only get you so far when you're exhausted

In an interview with CNN, Chelsea Conaboy discussed her own assumptions about motherhood, expecting to know exactly what to do once she became a parent, but quickly learned that the "maternal instinct" she thought was automatic isn't always "hardwired for females." Conaboy revealed, "I felt like it wasn't ever really talked about in a way that I could reflect on what this change could mean for my internal life and my sense of self." While science suggests that there are certain hormones that allow a parent to be more attentive and aware of the baby's needs, the emotional and mental aspects of caregiving doesn't always match up. Conaboy found that a new mother may be able to logistically take care of her baby with ease, but the anxiety, depression, and loss of identity she may be experiencing takes a severe toll, causing a lot of mothers to think they aren't doing a good job.

According to studies by PEW research, eight in 10 women feel extreme pressure to be heavily involved in their child's life, while balancing work, relationships, and household management. All of these pressures can lead to a diminished sense of self, and cause guilt if you prioritize your own mental health while all other aspects of life are begging for your attention. In reality, it's only when you allow yourself rest, patience, and forgiveness that you are at your best, and your other responsibilities will benefit the most.