Parenting: Trusting My Gut

{How high is too high? How much freedom is too much?}

I recently read a post from the lovely Megan from Writing Out Loud about Parenting Against Instinct. In the post, Megan talks about how she often holds herself back when her daughter, for example, is climbing the ladder to a slide. This is something I often do also, but I wouldn’t call it parenting against my instinct (or I’ll use the words gut and intuition which I think in this instance, are interchangeable). In fact, when I read Megan’s post (which I loved), I don’t think what she describes is parenting against her instinct either. The longer I parent, the more I trust my gut. What I have to hold back is my own insecurities and anxieties and external pressures on how I should parent.

What is Intuition?

When it comes to instinct or intuition, I think an automatic sense of knowing what to do is assumed, and this is  especially applied to new mothers. When I first became a mother, I found very little of it “natural”.  In fact I found the transition to motherhood very difficult.

I believe trusting my gut (or instinct, or intuition), is something very different. I believe women have an ability to accumulate vast amount of conscious and sub-conscious information over time and make sense of it to get a feeling for things, even though the exact reason for the feeling can’t necessarily be traced.

Trusting my gut comes down to this: I know myself, I know my children and I know my family’s situation better than anyone, plus I’ve invested much time and energy into my family so I can fall back on my intuition to help me make good decisions for those in my care. It’s not guess work or magic, it’s applied knowledge.

An Example

Just recently, I arranged for my daughter to visit her Aunty’s home for a sleepover. She was a little unwell but my sister was happy to have her (and I trust my sister completely; she’s like a second mum really). My daughter REALLY, REALLY wanted to go to her Aunty’s house, and there was a potential that she would be fine. It was hard to tell my daughter that I decided that she couldn’t go. She was absolutely devastated.  As it turned out, that night she deteriorated and was very ill.  In the past, I would have probably would have spent a lot of time trying to work out if I was being over protective, and being influenced by my daughter’s desperate pleas. But I felt very clear in my decision because I had “the feeling”. My daughter got over her disapointment and we arranged for another time for her to have a sleep-over.  In this instance, I made the right choice.

Another Example

I often plan to do things on my own with the children because my husband often is working, even on weekends. On this day, I decided to go on a short bush walk with the kids. When I got to the destination (I hadn’t visited before) I felt it was not safe for me to go with all the children on my own. I don’t know why this is because I could only see the start of the trail.  I probably should have researched it better myself but it was a new area and I was trying to scope out where great walks were. Sure the kids were disappointed but we still had a nice drive and stopped at a park instead. Later, my husband came with us and we enjoyed the walk but there were many parts we had to hold the younger children’s hands and so I’m glad I didn’t go on my own.

{Bush-walking}

What is Insecurity?

I often have to hold myself back when I parent but it’s my own insecurities and anxieties, and also external pressure on how I should parent that I fight, not my intuition. I’m quite an anxious person so it’s something I’m aware of.

An example

There are many times when I become reactive when I parent depending on whom I’m around and what their expectations are.  I’m not proud of this. Sure, I learn from other parents in a positive way, but I also am influenced in a negative way. What is right for one family may not be right for me and my family. I often worry about being judged for my decisions but at the end of the day, I have learned (or am learning) to stay true to how I believe I should parent.

Another example

We recently spent a day 4-wheel-driving at Double Island Point.  We found a spot on the beach to swim and set up a makeshift camp. There are always cars driving past on the beach so we needed to watch the children carefully, but I was an over-anxious mess. In fact, I was so anxious, I ended up sitting on the beach constantly ordering my husband to watch the kids because I convinenced myself they were going to be run over. HA! When I’m really anxious, I often freeze and become reactive and this is a perfect example of this. I didn’t have a nice day, and I really didn’t facilitate giving the children a good day either. Fortunately, they had fun anyway but my husband had to deal with a deranged wife for the day! This wasn’t  intuition, it was anxiety. If I would have gone with my gut, I would have fought off the I’m-frozen feeling and got into the day by spending it playing close with the kids so I could ensure they were safe because the danger was real. Lesson learned.

{Soldier Crabs at Double Island Point}

soldier crabs

How I know the difference

It sounds a little strange but I’ve come to know the difference between my intuition talking, and my insecurities talking.  My intuition speaks in a deep calm and decisive voice, and my insecurities are jittery and unsettling. My insecurities are about me and what I feel, and my intuition is applying what I know (even though I don’t always know why I know) into caring for my family.

When I get it wrong

I still get it wrong…just like that day at Double Island Point. However, getting it wrong is one step to getting it right next time. It’s just another exercise in wise parenting.

Of course, intuition isn’t the only factor to consider when parenting. For example, my children enjoy a variety of play experience with sticks but in a busy playground, and out of respect for others who may think differently, I ask my children to refrain from playing with sticks at certain times. Then there’s my faith, what I know of my children’s physical and emotional abilities and many other situational reasons that affect the way I parent and help me make good decisions in the moment. So, as well as these other factors, I often trust my gut to help me make good decisions because it’s not just a feeling, it’s knowledge.

Other Relevant Posts

Are Mums Guilty of Over-Organising Their Kids?

The New Normal

I Don’t Want My Kids to Be “Smart”

Playing With Your Kids (a confession)

Sacrifices

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Comments

  1. says

    I am constantly defending my instinctive parenting techniques to my in laws…..Im pretty sure 95% of my parenting is instinct and the other 5% is just to piss them off :) I have 4 boys and I like to let them do boy things – yes, I do occasionally let them scoot down our pavement with no helmet on (they might fall and get a brain haemorage – its a wonder I managed to survive in my childhood), yes I do let them brog down the hill on our steep backyard on a plastic trike with legs flying akimbo (they might fall off and get a scratch), yes I do let them climb up trees (they could drop 90 cms to the ground), walk on slippery rocks across creeks (they could slip and fall and get their bums wet), run through long grass (there could be snakes), etc. etc. if I listened to my in laws my kids would never leave the house!

    • says

      I think that is a really good point Eloise. No one know your boys (and their capabilities) like you do. I spent 2 years as a child in PNG and people wouldn’t believe the things we did! My mother was a VERY careful with my sisters and I but she also let us do things…you know? I guess, it’s a lot through her example, that I parent this way. When I was just 8, I cooked on open fires, climbed trees, swan in creeks and all sorts of things. It was an idealistic childhood really. Now some might thing that is outrageous, but at the time, in the culture we were in, with the experiences we had, it really was okay. Making good choices for our kids, and teaching them to make good decisions for themselves, is not a simple one-fits-all thing; a lot of it comes down to us as parents and what we know of our kids and circumstances. LOL about the 5%…that’s cheeky ;)

  2. says

    Fabulous and thought provoking post K! I never would have known you’re at all anxious about things. I loved Megan’s post and agreed with it too. Intuition is marvellous and should not be ignored. We’re not perfect though and we all make mistakes but you’re one super fabulous Mum! I find myself fighting anxiety in the way I parent too and I make conscious decisions to step away from the purely negative voices but rarely step away from intuition. Sometimes when you know something is “right” you just gotta go with it. xxxxxx

    • says

      HA! I’m glad I don’t seem a complete nutter. But I truly do get anxious about a lot of things. I’ve learned to rationalise it though…still gets the better of me sometimes. Perfectly said: when you know something is “right” you just gotta go with it. xx

  3. says

    This is a really honest post Kel and so true. It really does take a lot sometimes to hold yourself back from hovering over the kids or stopping them from doing something they should be allowed to do because they’re kids (like climbing trees etc). I actually find that looking the other way in those instances is a good panic-preventative (seriously, but only when you know the chance of serious injury isn’t too high).

    As for intuition, it’s so hard to gauge sometimes but so important not to ignore. Our philosophy is ‘if it just doesn’t sit right with us we won’t let them do it’. Great post, Jac (CRAP mamma)

    • says

      I do exactly the same: I often have to look away. It’s good to have my husband too to help me make decisions on what is dangerous etc…to help balance me out…

      It’s true intuition can be hard to gauge but the longer I parent, the better I can recgonise it and this has helped me be so much more decisive. I think too, using mistakes as a learning opportunity as a parent also helps me make good (and hopefully wise) decisions in future.

      I like your philosophy very well Jac. And I like you. x

  4. Monique says

    Society and its insecurities tends to either get in the way or form group anti/pro-this-and-that of the natural human ability of parenting…PRACTICAL DOING is in the proof of the ability of the parent and MISTAKES cannot be OVER ANALYSED. Socially, let’s SHARE and UNDERSTAND ISSUES rather than the POWER PLAY of regurgitated information on websites, in books, magazines that target and confuse parents /new parents …

    • says

      I agree Monique that the society we live in today makes it very difficult to parent intuitively. Sharing and understanding are such key ways of learning I believe. While I believe one should make a stand and try and change the way the world works for the better, at the end of the day, what I change right now is me, and how I react to situations and hope this will impact in a positive way on others. You are SO right in saying many articles are confusing to new parents (all parents)!

  5. says

    Thanks Kelly – great post! I definitely agree that sometimes we all try and do things a bit differently around other parents, and it takes a lot of strength – and practice – not to do that. And having that trust in myself has been one of my biggest parenting challenges… so far!

    • says

      Thanks for your post Megan, and your inspiration. I totally get what you mean when you say trusting yourself is one of the hardest things in parenting. This too has been a huge hurdle for me to overcome (and continue to overcome). You are a beautiful person and mum. xx

  6. says

    Such a perfect post. A mother’s gut instinct is there for a reason.
    I worry about Miss 15 and when she competes in Taekwondo comps, I can just bear to watch. Although I did martial arts too and my parents hated me doing it and wouldn’t come watch me compete :( I’ve managed to let my daughter pursue her passion and suppprt her all the way and deal with my anxiousness and giant butterflies myself on the inside.

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