I WAS ALWAYS a very heavy sleeper. I’ve slept through it all, severe thunderstorms, crying siblings, my sister’s alarm clock. Nothing came in between me and my sleep. After I got pregnant with my first child, I wondered if I would be able to hear my child cry in the middle of the night. My mother said it to me what her mother said to her. Motherhood will change you. It most certainly did!
Not only did I awaken to their cries as infants, but I could hear every breath they took. In fact, now I hear my daughter’s footsteps walk all the way to my room when she needs to go to the bathroom at night.
This is what most of us understand to be one of the maternal instincts that we all automatically get immediately after we give birth. You know, the eyes in the back of our heads, the mind reading, and the trouble sensor. Are we all immediately showered with maternal instincts after the birth of our first child? If you say “no,” you are not alone.
Here are seven pretty interesting parenting myths.
Myth # 1: Parental bonding begins at birth; mothers and fathers feel the same about their newborn infants.
The fact: Extensive animal studies show that among rats, rabbits, mice and hamsters, for example, hormones trigger a maternal response that prompts the female to ready a nest or engage in other such activities before or after giving birth. However, researchers say that the hormone-related response is not so readily or uniformly clear among humans. The image of a mother immediately bonding with the child after birth is not always the case— especially for the first child. According to recent surveys, up to 40% of new moms admit they don’t feel genuine affection for their babies until the end on the first week. It actually takes fathers a longer time to bond with their child. Most mothers’ bonding process begins during pregnancy. An experiment providing ultrasound imagery of their fetus over a two-week period to both mothers and fathers resulted in increases in mothers’ but not fathers’ attachment to the fetus.
Myth #2: Having a child “cements” a marriage and brings a couple closer together.
The fact: More often, the birth of a first child disrupts marital harmony and requires adjustment. Among other things, the increased time spent with the newborn often reduces the time husband and wife spend together. The decreased time spent alone as a couple for first-time parents often contributes to a decline in marital satisfaction.
There might also be disagreements on how to handle crying, where the baby sleeps and things of that sort.
Myth #3: Fathers play with their children more than mothers do.
The fact: Mothers’ interactions with their children are generally caretaking, whereas fathers are behaviorally labeled as playmates. Mothers actually play with their children much more than fathers do, but as a proportion of the total amount of child-parent interaction, play is a major constituent of father-child interaction, whereas caretaking is much more prominent with mothers.
Myth #4: Parenting comes naturally; we always automatically know what do.
The fact: Parenting is hard! Especially for the mother. Islamically, our hard work and sleepless nights are acknowledged and well appreciated. There are many verses in the Qur’an declaring the value and honor of parents. One of these states,
We enjoined the human being to honor his parents. His mother bore him, and the load got heavier and heavier. It takes two years (of intensive care) until weaning. You shall be appreciative of Me, and of your parents. To Me is the ultimate destiny. [Sûrat Luqmân, 31:14]
We don’t always know what to do nor do we always know how to do it. This is hard for most parents to admit because they fear that they will be labeled a “bad parent.” We may feel guilty because we crave alone time, or become impatient with our children.
Myth #5: The best time for you to read the Quran and make salah is when they are asleep or away.
The fact: Although it is much easier to concentrate and be truly humble when you are alone, it is much better to do these and other acts of worship around your kids. It is important for them to see us put time aside from our busy lives for our Creator. When you see them engrossed in an activity, sit near them and read the Quran or do Salah.
Children learn more effectively from what we do, not what we say. How effective is it for us to tell them to leave their toys or games to go do salah if we don’t do the same? Not very effective, if not hypocritical. Kids love and are very good at detecting hypocrisy.
Myth #6: You need to buy lots of expensive educational toys to make playtime a time of learning.
The fact: Kids learn through play no matter how much or how little the toy costs. Play allows them to try out new ideas and practice skills they are learning. Ask open-ended questions about your child’s play. (i.e., Tell me about this tower you built. What will happen if you take away this block?)
Reading to them, asking them questions and dictating things you do throughout the day can significantly increase and nurture their vocabulary and analytical skills.
Myth #7: The best way to separate from a clingy child is to sneak away when he/she is occupied so he won’t notice that you’re gone.
The Fact: Coming from a mother whose child was stuck to her like a pencil to an eraser, take it from me— it only makes things worse! Sneaking away from a child may provide a more peaceful separation but it can also damage his/her sense of trust and security. The child may fear that you will disappear without notice, and will cling even harder, following you around to ensure you won’t leave again.
The best thing to do is to be honest with the child and let him/her know that you are leaving and you will be back as soon as you can. They might cry, yell or even throw a fit. Eventually they will learn to trust you and will know that you will not leave them without telling them –thus causing significantly less cling when you are together.
Parenting is probably the most difficult –yet most rewarding– thing we ever do. It is frustrating and exhausting, as well as gratifying and fulfilling. Above all, it is one of Allah’s greatest blessings bestowed upon us. Every time you feel like you are losing patience, take a little time to read some of the Qur’anic verses and the Prophetic aḥâdîth which detail the virtues of motherhood and which place so much significance on it that it is difficult to imagine anyone making it into Paradise without the consent of his/her mother. What a great honor!