news item – mom gene linked to key parenting skills

Okay ladies, this is a good one so I’m just going to dive right in.

Mom Gene Linked to Key Parenting Skills

What does it take to be a great mom? Of course there’s love, devotion, nurturing, and maybe the right gene.

In a study released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at the Rockefeller University in New York say they’ve found a single gene that could be responsible for motivating mothers to protect, feed and raise their young.

Say it with me now– WHAT.

To be fair, I should not put words in your mouths. Maybe you are not as flabbergasted as I am by the implication of this study. So tell me– what do you think about the concept that the whole of your parenting life could be consolidated down to a single gene?

There are a million issues to parse out here and I have dishes to do, so I won’t even attempt to touch on all of them, but there are two I really want to highlight here:

1) What defines a “good mother”? What is “maternal”? Are these things defined by something in particular (baking cookies together? sitting and cheering during both soccer games and soccer practices? not letting your daughter go to prom without a chaperone?), or by the absence of something else (violence, abuse, neglect, ignorance of basic safety)? How about the fact that “good mothers” vary across cultures and through history, and no modern, Western, American scientists could possibly isolate a single gene that accounts for the vast and varied spectrum of culturally appropriate parenting behaviors worldwide?

2) How much of our behavior, drive, love, intentionality and spirit can we really reduce down to genetics, and what does that say about us?

“Our studies certainly show that the type of receptor, or the total lack thereof, alters the ability to be a ‘good’ mother,” Ribeiro said.

If I am a woman who desperately wants a child, and then I have one and fumble clumsily through parenthood, do I possibly lack this gene? If I am an organized Type A woman who has little difficulty meal planning and getting laundry done, do I possess the “Domestic Wizardry” gene? If I am infertile and need the assistance of intrusive, expensive and painful medical treatments to get pregnant, does that mean I possess an “infertility gene” and was not meant to have children because my body was not biologically designed for it?

I could go on and on here about the “good mothers” I have known, including my own. I could highlight their strengths and weaknesses and paint a picture of how starkly different they are from one another, even if I used just the women from my extended family as examples. I think my life is richer from having such different and loving women in it– and I really don’t think anyone could possibly line them up, tally their so-called “maternal qualities,” and come up with a ranking system.

I think this one has the potential for a great discussion, so please let us know what you think in the comments (and if you make a post in your blog on this topic, link us up and we’ll add it to our Weekly Summary).

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How much stock do you put in biology’s role in your parenting abilities?

What do you think makes a “great mother”?

How do you feel about the implications this study could have on IFers and adoptive parents?

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