Some claim the idea of mother's intuition is sexist in that it reflects a biological disposition toward motherhood. Others claim it's the thing that guides them through motherhood. I think it's both.

I remember sitting in some undergraduate literature course when the professor mumbled something about mothering and femininity "not being biological" and I was shocked and appalled. No really, I was freaked out. I'm not sure how I got the idea, but I just knew women were "maternal" by nature. I mean, right? We must be.

Wrong.

So, so wrong.

The danger enters when we start assigning certain personality traits to that reproductive body.

The danger doesn't lie in the idea that women (generally) have a biological makeup that allows for reproduction. That's just a fact. Men make sperm. So they have a biological makeup that allows for reproduction, too.

The danger enters when we start assigning certain personality traits to that reproductive body. For example, the female, because it can become a mother, must also be innately nurturing, maternal, non-violent and calm. You know, motherly.

Right?

Wrong.

If women are biologically programmed to be mothers (beyond having the body capable of doing so), then it follows that "nurturing" mother traits must also be natural, and that, my friends, is where this whole thing gets really, really dangerous. To say women are "born mothers" or with some sort of disposition toward motherhood is to say that they are "born nurturers," which locks women into a rigid gender formation reflective of the 1950s, not to mention makes "non-maternal" traits "abnormal" (which is ridiculous, since women have all the "masculine" personality traits too, just like men have "feminine" ones).

I'm a lot of things, including, on occasion, a nurturer, but there are times when I am not a nurturer at all. And I can introduce you to quite a few females in my life who are about as nurturing as cacti. A couple of them are, incidentally, mothers. But that's another story.

We learn how to be mothers from the people around us. Or we just do it and hope for the best.

I don't think a "mother's intuition" exists any more than a "father's intuition." (And we all know that doesn't exist!) That was a joke. But seriously, from a social perspective, there is extreme danger in even insinuating that women are "born" with some sort of innate knowledge of how to be mothers. And frankly, I think it's nonsense that I've got some sort of "inner compass" accompanying my uterus that guides me in my motherly efforts. At least if I have a compass, it's seriously defective.

I'm giving it back and demanding a new model. Do they take returns? Is there a warranty? Should have saved my receipt.

We learn how to be mothers from the people around us. Or we just do it and hope for the best. As I understand it, in the old days women learned to be mothers from their mothers and grandmothers, midwives and close friends. Child-rearing was way more communal.

On the other hand...

Since you are the mother of your own children, it stands to reason that you would know better than anybodyelse what works for you and your family.

I have my personal experience of motherhood and I'll tell you right now certain things were instinctual. Like wanting my babies next to me at night and not letting them "cry it out." That felt wrong on every level to the depths of my soul. I know there are thousands of parents who do that. Cool. Whatever. But to me, it felt wrong, and I trusted my gut.

It felt right to have a lot of skin-to-skin contact, pick them up when they cried, carry them against my body, breastfeed on demand. These things felt right to me. It felt right to talk to them constantly, coo into their faces, stick my nose in their mouths to inhale their heavenly milk breath. It felt right to feed them what I was eating by chewing it up first and then giving it to them.

It felt wrong to give them (babies) sugar and processed foods.

It felt wrong to intervene if I know they can do it on their own.

It felt wrong to not let them play in the dirt.

It felt right to let them be naked.

It felt right to nurse a 2-year-old.

I don't know what feels "right" or "wrong" to you. How would I? That's your gut, your "intuition," and since you are the mother of your own children, it stands to reason that you would know better than anybody else what works for you and your family.

So does "mother's intuition" exist?

I have no idea. However, I do know that there are lots and lots of "experts" out there making a crap-load of money off women feeling like they don't know how to parent their own children, like they need a bunch of strangers with degrees telling them how to effectively raise their offspring. And the more they convince us we are powerless, ignorant and unable to "do this mothering thing," the more we'll seek the help of those "experts," and the more money they'll rake in. Sorry, but you can trace almost everything back to economic benefit.

So you know what? Maybe I do think mother's intuition exists. And father's and daughter's and son's and man's and woman's. I mean don't you have "intuition" in your regular life outside of parenthood? Don't some things just "feel wrong" and others "feel right?"

We try something, it works, it feels right, we keep doing it.

I mean this isn't rocket science, is it? We try something, it works, it feels right, we keep doing it. We try something, it doesn't work, it feels wrong, we do something else.

And yet for some reason we have to pretend motherhood isn't just a big back-and-forth of trial and error, like there's some "right way" and "perfect path," even though reality and people and life are constantly changing, and the experts can never agree, and what works with one kid doesn't work with the next, and sometimes my "gut" says "hide in the bathroom so the damn kids will leave you alone for 10 minutes."

How's that for "mother's intuition?"

I don't know. I think I'll trust it anyway. It’s gotten me this far, I guess.

Maybe it's the most reliable broken compass in the world.

More on parenting infants

Why this mom isn't vaccinating her child
Co-sleeping does not make you a bad parent
Do all babies need schedules?

Topics: