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Friday, October 21, 2011

Backseat Parenting

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Steve Jobs

As a new mother, it’s hard for me to ignore other people’s opinions. Isn’t almost everyone who’s had a kid more qualified to take care of Daniel than me? Well, no. But that’s how it feels sometimes. So on our recent trip to Mexico when people would tell me, “Julia (hoo-li-a), he’s hungry,” or “Julia, he’s tired,” or “Julia, he’s cold,” it was hard to hear my inner voice. With parenting, and with other things, even when I hear my intuition, it’s hard to trust.

In this instance, others’ opinions play into fears I have about my adequacy as a mother. How could I know better when I’ve only been a parent for four months? But time and again, I find I do know better. I try what someone else has told me, he keeps screaming. Then I try what I thought to do and he calms down. Not every time, but often.

With each success, I trust my instincts a little more. True, I’ve only been a mother for four months, but I’ve spent infinitely more time with him than anyone who’s handing me advice. As my friend’s mom (who had fifteen children) likes to say, “Every child is different, so study your child.” I’m no baby expert, but I know my son pretty well. One thing I can say about him with confidence is that when I guess wrong about what he needs, he tells me. As anyone who was in the Atlanta airport on Tuesday evening can attest, he is a very effective communicator.

Is there an area of your life where you find it hard to trust your instincts? Why?


  1. Dave Owsik, Jr.(julie's big bro)October 21, 2011

    Julie: listen to other but trust yourself. These little guys and girls sure dont come with instructions, but you are right when you say they can communicate. You also develop an instinct as a parent about each child. If I remember correctly, you also were an effective communicator at Daniel's age. Do they still have the awful smoking rooms/lounges in ATL. Maybe Dan was crying for the people in there?

  2. Over the years, I've struggled with trusting my instincts in interviews. I'd get that gut feeling an applicant wasn't a good fit, but it I couldn't say why, I'd ignore my gut and hire them...and it always came back to bite me.
    so lessons from Daniel, I wonder how many of us where born effective communicators and socialized to be less effective because society doesn't always find effective polite? Could that be why we don't always trust our instincts?

  3. Chris BradyOctober 22, 2011

    I have really strong instincts about the politics and dynamics at work. I have made the right call about leaving a job or an employer three times. In each case, I beat the layoffs that inevitably occurred to coworkers who decided to stick it out. Right now, my intuition is telling me that it is time to leave my current employer. I'm feeling all the signs of my own dissatisfaction and I'm finding it hard to trust the new leaders. Maybe it's my age; I don't feel like starting over somewhere. And another part of me is leaving it up to chance, knowing that I will be able to recover no matter what happens. But the feeling of not listening to your intuition is troubling, isn't it?

  4. in·stinct1  /ˈɪnstɪŋkt/ Show Spelled[in-stingkt] A noun inborn pattern of activity or tendency to action common to a given biological species.
    2.a natural or innate impulse, inclination, or tendency.
    3.a natural aptitude or gift: an instinct for making money.
    4.natural intuitive power.

    I like all of these shades of meaning for "instinct." What especially appeals is all four meanings indicate that instincts are innate or natural. We all have them. We just need to trust them. Not one definition implies that instincts can be learned or acquired: we already have them. I agree with Carol that maybe we are socialized NOT to heed our instincts. However, I don't think our instincts ever leave us. Listening to my gut can be more demanding, but I can usually live with the consequences when I do.