Before I knew I was pregnant with my first child I knew I wanted to give birth without drugs or interventions. I never questioned that it was best for my baby and myself. When my husband and I agreed to a Cesarean birth for our second daughter, that was also instinct. Our instinct as parents was to do whatever was necessary to keep our daughter and myself safe and healthy.
Parental instincts are strong. When we face challenges, they kick in.
This post was initially going to be about babywearing. Babywearing was an instinct thing for me. When I was pregnant the first time I just assumed we would wear our baby. I wouldn't have been able to list the benefits at the time, but I knew it was necessary. When my first daughter was born we lived on a sailboat. Putting her in a carrier every time we left the boat was the safest way to get her off the boat and onto shore. We needed to have our hands free on the dock. Once we were on shore we didn't put her down because she was warm and happy being carried.
Having my baby close to me makes me feel like a good mom. It feels like how things are meant to be. If I'm struggling to get stuff done or the kids are cranky, all I have to do is pick them up and everything is better. Tiny baby or gangly toddler, it makes them both happy, without fail. It's instinct: my babies cry, I pick them up. (Or I just don't put them down in the first place.)
However, a few nights ago it occurred to me that sometimes parental instinct is more subtle, a little less tangible.
About a month ago, I was falling apart. I was depressed and overwhelmed. I knew something needed to change. My whole family was cranky, stressed, and tired. So we made some big changes. We purged the house of unnecessary clutter, toys, clothes -- everything that was not regularly used was given away, donated, sold, or stored out of sight.
The change was immediate and profound. Not to sound dramatic, but it was life-changing.
We also started a few daily routines to keep us on track. We already spend time together together at dinner every night, but we also started sharing our favorite moment from the day while we eat. And then we take a walk together after dinner. All of us. My husband, our two girls, and our little dog.
These moments at dinner and our walks are wonderful. It's not that we weren't a happy family before. We spend time together every day. We eat together. We love each other. But there is always something else going on that seems to keep our attention from fully focusing on each other.
When we're walking, it's just us. We can forget everything else.
Eliminating the clutter in our lives enabled us to relax and focus on each other, to spend more time talking, walking, and getting outside without thinking about laundry and bedtimes and work and whatever else might be distracting us.
I didn't realize until after the fact that this was parental instinct kicking in. I knew we were out of balance. I knew we had to fix it.
I knew instinctively when I was ready to have children. I knew I wanted to be a mother. Instinct helped me understand I needed to quit working and stay home. My instinct now is to spend time with my children and enjoy the time I spend with them instead of constantly thinking ahead to the next moment I get to be by myself.
Sometimes instinct is big and obvious. Sometimes it's not.
I love my little family. I want them to be happy and healthy--no matter what, whatever it takes.
And sometimes it takes less than you think.
This post is part of BlogHer's My 'I'm a Mom' Moment editorial series, made possible by Seventh Generation.
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