14 Surprising Myths About Parenthood

Myth: You can rely on maternal instinct.

Truth: Not always. What many of us call maternal instinct often turns out to be maternal anxiety. How many afternoons have you rushed home, certain that the ambulance you heard was heading to your house, where the sitter surely had let the baby wander out alone to the wading pool? Or checked the messages on your cell phone, convinced that the school nurse had called? Apparently, worry is as essential to motherhood as the ability to make a peanut-butter sandwich.

This isn't to say you should dismiss those gut feelings; intuition is a real thing that all of us have to a varying degree, says Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., author of The Mother Dance: How Children Change Your Life (Harper Perennial). But before you panic, have a good talk with a clear-thinking friend who can help you sort stuff out, Dr. Lerner suggests. "The challenge is to calm down -- we cannot be in touch with our inner wisdom and intuition when we're anxious or intense." And by all means, pay attention to any strong or persistent gut feelings you have about something truly important, such as your child's health. Says Dr. Lerner, "I've seen many cases in which a doctor disqualified or even shamed a mother who had a concern about her child's health or development. The mother turned out to be right."

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