Maternal instinct, instinctively social?
“Take motherhood: nobody ever thought of putting it on a moral pedestal until some brash feminists pointed out, about a century ago, that the pay is lousy and the career ladder nonexistent” –Barbara Ehrenreich
Few women would admit that they have never thought about having a children. Furthermore, most women experience sooner or later a strong desire of procreation. There is something difficult to explain in the relationship a mother has with her children. Why does a mother love her children so much? Why is she ready to sacrifice herself in order to save her children? This behavior is called this maternal bond, or instinct. While typically occurring during pregnancy and childbirth, material instinct also appears within this states and defines a common attitude of women towards her progenitors. This could seem logical: women carry a strong responsibility on human reproduction. Men do as well. However, the process that a women needs to go through in order to give birth to a human being is a long and difficult. Being pregnant is a major upheaval for women: psychological implications are strong and physical pain should not be neglected. The responsibility engaged by women in procreation is far more important than that of males. We don’t need to fool ourselves: in very practical terms it takes a few minutes for a man to procreate, women have to live almost a year of constant challenges that certainly modify its psyche. A man can “produce” almost an infinite amount of children (as long as he lives), a women has a limited “capacity” to speak in utilitarian terms. As a man, leaving in a word with individualistic values, it is difficult for me to identify which are the arguments that motivate a woman to have and desire children. Maternal instinct seems to be the most accurate explanation to that bonding and desire to children. Maternal instinct finds its roots on evolutionary theory, biology and genetics. It is also a matter of common sense and empiric spirit. Nevertheless, it is precisely because of empiricism that the evolutionary explanations don’t answer all my questions. Why are women delaying the time they have children more and more each year? Why has the rate of replacement of generations gone to an unacceptable level in the industrialized world? Why more and more women, whether they are feminists or not, don’t feel the need of having a baby? Isn’t maternal instinct the consequence of an monogamous society? What is the role of culture and education on the way women feel about maternity? In my essay I will not try to fight against the scientific fact of a natural aversion of women to have children and love them. Either way, I will not try to sanctify culture and say that we are made of a “blank plate” ready to be engraved by cultural values. I sincerely doubt on an evolutionary explanation for all human behaviors, but I will use scientific evidence to develop the idea of a constant fight between the hardwired person and the social, cultural, moral person. Motherhood and the evolution of societies will help me to illustrate this assumption that will eventually define a very important aspect of our every day life: politics. By this mean, I will try to show that a certain shift from a specific behavior (maternal instinct) to a new kind of behavior, inconsistent with the theorical background and driven by cultural mutations, can lead to severe change on policies and politics (birth control, immigration policy, birth incentives etc) but over everything, it can lead to new ways of analyzing the question.
Finding a basis for maternal instinct is easier when we study the medical literature. Maternal instinct is not only the desire to have a children, but goes beyond this desire. Maternal instinct is a mother’s impulse to love and protect her children whether they are biological children or not. It is necessary to define what an instinct is. Instinct is the natural inclination...
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