Us mamas have doubt coming at us from all sides: everyone from our well-meaning mother in law to the old lady at the grocery store fuel that little voice in our heads which constantly says “You’re screwing up your kid.” But I’m here to give you a breath of fresh air, and to remind you that a mama’s instinct is pretty damn amazing.

What do I mean by “a mama’s instinct”? Well if you have to ask, that doesn’t mean you don’t have one. Our motherly instinct is in our genes, in our blood. It bubbles up out of us – unexpectedly and overwhelmingly sometimes – from a primitive place. Over 200,000 years of homo sapiens selflessly protecting their young no matter the cost. Our instinct is that feeling in our gut when something seems a little off, or when you just seem to know what your child is thinking or feeling. And damnit, we should confidently trust that maternal instinct. Because I know from experience, it’s always right.

title image for real simple mama a mama's instinct for mothers

I bet that all parents have a plethora of stories in which their intuition proved to be true; I have a few of my own. The purpose I share these with you is not to scare you or make parenting sound like a perpetual anxiety attack, but to show you that I’ve learned to listen to that little motherly voice. That girl knows what’s up.

My firstborn was a “daycare baby” from the age of about three months old until two years old. I hated it but I dealt with it because I had to work. My husband and I were teachers; that, plus all the snotty kids at the daycare, meant that my sweet boy got sick. A lot.

When I took him to the doctor at one point (he was about 1.5 years old), he was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. We were given breathing treatments but not much else, and were told that it would just have to “complete its course.” But it didn’t feel right to me.

Turns out, unfortunately for my kid, that I was right. We ended up with a five-day hospital stay, complete with oxygen mask and round-the-clock monitoring, for what was determined as bacterial pneumonia and RSV.

That was the first time that I really seriously considered the validity, and importance, of my maternal instincts.

It’s essential that we, as mothers, listen to our gut. We’re so in tune with our kids, especially if we identify as AP and/or stay-at-home moms; we know our babies so damn well that it’s scary. (I can tell if my sleeping baby’s going to wake up or not as soon as she starts moving – it’s all about how she moves her legs.)

We need to be encouraged to trust our instincts.

Now of course I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever take our kids to the doctor, or that our kids can do no wrong. That’s not what I mean at all. But when something doesn’t feel right, especially if it deviates from your “normal”, really listen to that little voice.

We can tell that our kids are getting sick because their demeanor changes, and they seem a bit “off.” I know my kids are coming down with something because I notice that they sleep longer. Rather than try to get them up so we can stay on time with our normal routine, I trust my gut that says, “They need rest more than a playdate. Don’t make this worse than it already is.” And so I let them sleep.

image from real simple mama sick toddler sleeping

My son took a soccer class this past spring, and was right on the line for being in the 2 year old class or the 3 year old class. The gym told us we could choose which one he should be in. My gut said to just let him be in the younger class, which encouraged more parental participation and was more of a “play” class than organized drills. I think many parents would have been embarrassed or pressured to push the older class because it’s more independent. But I know my kid, and I know what’s best for him.

So, look. I know that society and loved ones sometimes try to push us towards something they feel is “just what’s best.” And in my case, they usually do have my best interests at heart. But if you don’t feel comfortable letting someone else hold your newborn, don’t! If you don’t want to give up breastfeeding, don’t! If you’re ready to get a sitter so you can have a date night, do it!

Silence all those annoying little voices in your life, and listen to the one in your heart. All of us mothers need to hear it sometimes: trust your instincts. They’ve been fine-tuned for over 200,000 years. And they won’t steer you wrong.

Tell me about a time you listened to your “mama’s instincts.”