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The "parenting" gene

moonchildmoonchild Registered User Posts: 3,296 Senior Member
edited June 2012 in Parent Cafe
Thinking about my own parents, and then about my kids, I'm wondering if the tendency to be nurturing is somewhat inherited. My mom was never the "mothering" kind, although she dotes on her dog, or whatever animal she happens to have at the time. I won't go into the details here about her tendency to let her kids raise themselves, but I'm wondering how much of this trait is inherited, and how much might be a product of the times. It was sort of a, "kids should be seen and not heard" era. Think "Mad Men." On the other hand, I had friends whose parents were very involved- even in the 50s and 60s.

As a young child, I felt that I missed something. I remember that spending time with my mom was limited, and special. As a teenager, however, I was glad she wasn't around. I was a cheer/song leader at my high school, and my mom never went to a game in two years to see us perform- but then she didn't criticize me, either, which I also appreciated.

Looking at my own kids, I see differences in how they might be with their children. Son will definitely be involved. I'm not so sure about Dd (27) if she chooses to have children, and she says she probably won't, which makes me a little sad. Funny thing is, she is great with kids and they love her. But she doesn't think she is wants to be a parent. She says they take too much energy, and she says she's too self-centered. Thinking about my mom, maybe she's right. But then, I turned out ok, even without the hovering our kids get today.

How do your kids feel about being a parent? Do you talk about it, and do you think their inclinations are inherited, or something that the times we live in influence them to a great degree? Curious.
Post edited by moonchild on

Replies to: The "parenting" gene

  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes Registered User Posts: 32,500 Senior Member
    My parents kind of let me raise myself but we were close.

    My sister has absolutely zero interest in becoming a mother. She admits she is too selfish. She has pugs, those are her babies.

    I want kids, kind of, but I have little interest in being a super involved parent. I want to be a working mom with a stay at home dad.

    I think it's probably more based on how we're raised, and whether we liked that or not, that decides what kind of parent we'll be. However, there is also probably a nurturing gene of some sort. My sister has never been a nurturing person whereas I'm always the mama bear with my friends. We've been like that since we were very young.
  • moonchildmoonchild Registered User Posts: 3,296 Senior Member
    It's true that the nurturing traits are there (or not) from a very young age. My Dd was never really a little mother to her little brother, like so many first born girls seem to be. And my son was always mom's little helper. He'd be a good stay-at-home dad, except he really likes being out and making a difference in the world.
    I am glad that women can choose to parent or not these days without it being a big deal. In my mother's day, women had to get married and have children or be considered "an old maid," or just strange.
  • NewHope33NewHope33 Registered User Posts: 6,208 Senior Member
    I wondered about this growing up decades ago. There were some moms who just seemed at ease with the job ... others who struggled to understand why forcing non-musical sons to "practice until it's right" might not be a prudent course.
  • hyperJuliehyperJulie Registered User Posts: 1,542 Senior Member
    It's another one of those nature vs. nurture issues.

    If anything though, I would definitely say nurturing seems to run in my family. My mother was definitely always the mama bear type. In fact, even now that I'm working for the summer at the same company as her, her claws definitely come out when my boss is being a not so nice lady (which is how she usually is).

    I've definitely heard "Okay, mom" from my friends many times. I'm always the one offering band-aids and a hug, so it doesn't surprise anyone when I tell them I want kids. My siblings are more or less the same way. My sister is less so, but my brother was always very nurturing with my younger brother and I, and now he is an adoring father to possibly the most adorable toddler on the planet. My little brother also seems to have it in him, seeing him with our nieces and nephew. He often can act a bit selfish but when he sees that someone is truly in need he seems to always manage to do little things that surprise us in a pleasant way.

    My dad is definitely also a nurturer. Many of my fondest childhood memories are of him walking us to the park at all ages and playing with us. Perhaps most amazingly, from when he met my mother, he has raised my older brother and sister as his own even though they biologically aren't. I'm pretty sure my nieces don't know that their grandpa isn't actually blood-related to them. Amusingly enough, when my mother became pregnant with me, she was really concerned that when I came around dad would be too enamored with his own child and wouldn't care about my brother and sister anymore. What did he end up getting yelled at for? Paying too much attention to the older kids and not enough to the baby. :)
  • mythmommythmom Registered User Posts: 8,305 Senior Member
    A dear friend who is a vet told me that mothering varies by species and individuals within the species, often linked to the amount of oxytocin in the system. He said that animals high in oxytocin can't leave their young behind and always take them with them, and obviously the opposite produces the opposite condition.

    I know which group I'm in because I could never trust or bear sitters.

    I had the opposite kind of mom who wasn't really happy until her children gone and her husband passed away. She came into her own, back to her carefree days. Her favorite age was 17, and now at 88, that's about how old she seems. She is having a wonderful time.
  • momofthreeboysmomofthreeboys Registered User Posts: 15,334 Senior Member
    My husband has more "nurturing" instinct than I. He could have been a SAH dad and he would have been good at it. Nurturing is not an adjective that i would use to describe myself ever. One of my 3 boys is very nurturing. Perhaps there is a genetic component to it or perhaps it is oxytocin. I loved having my children but I was very pleased to raise them and am enjoying the process of them leaving. I feel kindof like how mythmom describes her mom...I love my husband but I absolutely could live without kids and a husband. I don't think my husband thinks I'm a 'bad mom' and I'm not, but I know he knows that "mommyhood" was not my favorite life segment.
  • JimboSteveJimboSteve Registered User Posts: 834 Member
    I would make strong efforts not to confuse trusting children with independence with parenting. In other words, helicopter parenting is not good parenting.

    Nevertheless, I feel constantly dismayed by the borderline neglect that characterizes the parenting of some of my friends and acquaintances, which I think even worse than the North-Korean-great-leader setup that characterizes others.

    Since I was twelve, I've looked forward to being a parent with a mixture of awe and fear and anxiety and hope. I have little doubt that parenthood will be the most meaningful experience in my life, and I really, really wish that I won't mess anything up.

    Many people do not feel this way, and it confuses me: why would you create another human being if you had only passing interest in the endeavor? Many people do feel this way, or at least profess that they do, and yet end up as obsessed or neglectful parents. How?

    Some of my friends with three or four siblings have such selfish, disinterested parents. Mothers who never cuddle with their sons or daughters. Fathers who never play catch or wrestle with or talk to them. Parents who trust others before their children. Parents who ignore them so much that independence becomes a curse, or who control them to the extent that they don't know what to do when they enter college because they've never made a choice before in their lives.

    I'm not sure if these parents start out that way or if it happens over time, but I can't see myself ever being like them.
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