There’s a big difference between mom’s jeans and mom’s genes. According to relatively new scientific research, this difference is becoming even more pronounced with the debate widely open over the existence of a mom gene.
Obviously, this type of scientific research sparks some contention amongst those with their own opinions. And of course, everyone is entitled to their own thoughts on whether or not a ‘mommy gene’ exists. The good old ‘nature vs nurture’ arguments really come into play when thinking about whether mom’s need a certain gene to raise kids. Realistically, they don’t, but perhaps this gene makes parenting easier if it does exist.
Whatever you think about it, no one can deny that scientists are pretty brave (or crazy) for diving into an argument that is obviously going to divide and cause outrage amongst moms. This research basically wants to say that some women with this gene are just genetically built to be better moms. Science is black and white, but moms are filled with hormones and emotions, so this argument is a hard one.
For the sake of science, let’s say that a ‘mommy gene’ does exist. You have to admit, some women out there have their ovaries bursting at the sight of a newborn baby whereas others are like, ‘umm what do I do with it?’. Maternal instinct is a thing even if the ‘mommy gene’ isn’t. Either way, there are some very interesting facts about this gene that are worth reading, even if you don’t agree with them.
It is fairly well known that estrogen is a key hormone that affects expectant moms. What is lesser known about estrogen is that is could be directly linked to a gene that predisposes women to be ‘good’ mothers.
Estrogen is released and floats around the body in what seems to be a systematic way. Of course, when estrogen levels are wrecking havoc once a month for woman there seems to be nothing logical about it all.
The ‘mommy gene’ is something that receives and encourages estrogen. If this receptor is damaged or non-existent or fades away over time (science hasn’t proved that’s a thing but who knows), it directly affects the ability to be a nurturing mom. Sure, you can still be nurturing, it might just be a whole lot more effort without this gene. Of course, there is a lot more to understand about how this gene receives estrogen and science is working on that one. For the time being, just hope that your receptor is in tact!
As with so much understanding of the human body, the ‘mommy gene’ was discovered through experimenting on mice. Ethical issues surrounding this are a whole other ball game, but there was plenty of interesting stuff to come out of this research.
Basically, this gene was found in mice and discovered that it was receiving and generating estrogen around the body. Mice who had a lower level ER alpha level didn’t spend as much time licking and nurturing their babies.
When this gene was suppressed altogether, mommy mice didn’t even care when their babies were hungry or in danger. So they literally went from being attentive moms to neglectful ones when this gene was messed with. Obviously, we’re not mice, but this gene is thought to act similarly in humans. Scientists go as far saying that in mice, without this gene the ‘ability to be good parents was lost’ (expect a few blogs from rodents tapping into Mommy Wars debates soon). Nonetheless, surely in humans there’d be something else to kick in the ability to parent without the gene. Surely!
There are many women out there who just don’t get these maternal instincts. Sometimes women in their 30s are contentedly childless, even amongst their childbearing friends. Some women choose their careers over kids, and thankfully society is starting to recognise that this is ok. Thank goodness it’s not the 1950s anymore.
What this ‘mommy gene’ suggests is that it could be responsible for the biological clock not ticking over. Some woman, perhaps those with the gene, are super keen to have babies as soon as they’re financially and emotionally stable. Others keep putting it off, focusing on their career and travel goals. Some women want to start a family early in their 20s and others are prepared to be moms in their 40s, or not at all. Either pathway is totally fine and it is a personal choice, but maybe it’s a choice based on whether or not this gene is actively influencing us or not.
It seems like a pretty natural thing for moms to protect their children, no matter how old they are. From protecting them from falling off a slide as toddlers to protecting them from heartbreak as teenagers by chasing off potential lovers, moms seem to naturally tap into this instinct. Or maybe, they only do if this ‘mommy gene’ is present.
What the research with the mice found was that when the gene was suppressed, mommy mice actually didn’t care if their babies were in danger. This included being in danger from those scary humans in science labs while doing their experiments.
This is a bit concerning, but hopefully in the human world, common sense would prevail over a potential genetic fault. While humans are still animals, our brains definitely process things differently to mice. There is still hope for those moms without ‘the gene’ to stop their toddler running in front of a moving car, at least.
When it comes to discussing anything about parenting, there shouldn’t be any surprises that hormones are going to pop up. Essentially, the ‘mommy gene’ is located in a part of the brain that taps into the neurons in the hypothalamus. This thing controls and regulates hormones (or at least tries to, good luck!). And some of the hormones that the hypothalamus regulates are directly linked to maternal behaviour.
So when the ‘mommy gene’ is most active, it is switching on these hormones by creating a protein in the brain that directly feeds into the hypothalamus and triggers maternal responses, or something like that. That’s some pretty high end business happening in the brain. They say that babies essentially manipulate moms’ thought processes and rewire their brains after giving birth, so maybe this is where the ‘mommy gene’ comes into play. Just in case pregnancy wasn’t messing with everything else in the body, the brain isn’t safe either!
So if there really is a ‘mommy gene’, where is the end point for it? Since science loves taking humanity to the next level evolution, does this mean there is a potential to genetically engineer a ‘super mom’ of sorts.
Imagine if women can have this gene implanted or heightened when they are trying to conceive. Imagine if this gene can be boosted on steroids so that it overrides everything else. Imagine if this gene… Ok, you get the picture. This gene, if it is a real thing, could really be blown out of proportion. Currently there are no plans in the science world (that we know of) to genetically engineer moms. But hey, when we have chips implanted in our wrists and all that to paywave items at the store, you never know what can happen.
Or, you know, moms could just keep being moms because pretty much all of them out there are superheroes, with or without a proven gene.
Science is cool and all, but it does tend to lack a bit of empathy. While the discovery of a potential ‘mommy gene’ and estrogen receptor is ground breaking and really interesting, it does somewhat discredit the number one thing needed to be a mom. That is, of course, love.
Moms, expectant moms, and hopeful moms of the future are already under a lot of societal pressure. Sure, some things are getting easier in society, but a lot of things aren’t. From paving your way through the minefield of labels for kids like autistic or under-developed or behavioural issues, parents have their work cut out for them. Not to mention the idea of what a ‘perfect’ mom is.
This ‘mommy gene’, if it exists, isn’t the be all and end all of motherhood. Parenting looks different for everyone, and this is something very important to remember. Unconditional love for a child overrides pretty much everything else in the body at the end of the day.
It is easy enough to have a chuckle at dads who fail a little bit at parenting. They don’t intentionally fail and they don’t harm anyone in their attempts. But sometimes, dads just don’t get it. From trying to do plaits in a little girl’s hair to letting their son wear the same shirt ten days in a row, dads just miss a few minor details along the way from time to time.
So is this because they don’t have a ‘mommy gene’? Potentially. If, as this scientific research suggests, some women are genetically programmed to be ‘good’ moms, then no wonder they make things look so effortless with their kids, especially in the eyes of men. Some moms can just multi task like bosses, function like robots with no sleep, and manage to prioritise everything for their kids seamlessly. Is this a battle of the sexes type thing, or not? Genes, or skill?
So there is already plenty of hot air about on the internet with the whole Mommy Wars blogging debates, and so many moms are already shamed for different actions. Like seriously, how could she go out wearing just sweat pants and a stained top (um, because she’s a mom, not a runway model). The world is a judgemental place, unfortunately, and moms cop a lot of it.
So could the ‘mommy gene’, or lack thereof, be an excuse for women out there. You know, when something goes wrong with parenting, just blame your genetics. When a toddler has a tantrum in a shop, or the house is a total mess because you couldn’t get it together that morning, just be like ‘oh, sorry, I’m lacking the mommy gene and my estrogen receptors are a bit low today’. That should hush the critics! Or start another raging war on social media, whichever comes first.
This one goes back to the mice study, and more importantly back to the way that babies are created in the first place. Whether or not the ‘mommy gene’ is present, this drive can certainly still lead to one in the end! Of course, there are a lot of other influences (too many to even go into) that impact on one’s sexual drive, but if genetics are coming into play, well, that’s interesting.
Basically, while scientists were messing around with the estrogen receptors in the mice and tapping into their genetics, they found that when the gene was suppressed, mice had a lessened sex drive. Female mice in the labs exhibited decreased sexual behaviours and those poor mice gents were left hanging on many occasions. So if you’re looking for a reason to get out of baby making practice or something, just blame it on the lack of a ‘mommy gene’ if you want.
Just like there is already a division amongst women between those who want to pop out babies as soon as they can and those who’d rather travel or establish a career first, there is a similar division within moms themselves. Some moms choose to stay at home and care for their kids, while other moms are racing out the door as soon as maternity leave is up. Neither mom is right or wrong, they are doing what is best for their life.
However, perhaps those moms staying at home and cleaning the house before the kids get home from school have a heightened ‘mommy gene’. Maybe those moms piling on their hours at the office are experiencing a lack of ‘mommy gene’ where they still love their kids, but love their work more. Obviously there are more factors outside of genetics, but this ‘mommy gene’ could weigh into these differences in parenting styles.
There’s a school of thought and plenty of research floating around the universe suggesting that genes from both sets of parents’ chromosomes aren’t all that equal. This is particularly true for the brain development and how genetics influences a brain.
Children inherit a whole lot from their parents, and genetics is something they don’t have much say in. The science behind this theory is elaborate, and well, scientific, but it goes something along the lines of moms with an active and dominant ‘mommy gene’ can pass on more intelligence to their children.
Once again, you’ve got to consider nature vs nurture on this one. The science is still developing so there is no need to worry. A lack of ‘mommy gene’ doesn’t mean your kid is going to stick pencils up his nose all day at school. The genetic blueprint and how the brain develops with a mixture of both parents chromosomes is an interesting one, but the results of the kid you’re going to love is way more important to focus on.
The nature vs nuture debate... It is out there and it is a big one. It has fed into many blogs and articles tapping into the Mommy Wars on social media. This comes back to society deciding what a good mom is, what makes a good mom, and who actually gets to decide if a mom is being good or not. Of course, this is going to ruffle some feathers simply because, surprise surprise, every mom has their own take on parenting.
With the ‘mommy gene’ becoming a thing, or maybe not, it kind of takes away both elements of nature and nurture and stamps them out with genetics. This gene is basically saying, ‘hey, I don’t care about what environment you’re living in or what experiences you’ve been through or what kind of personality you have, you’re gonna suck at motherhood without me’. Ok, not literally, but you get the idea.
Apparently even love is a genetic thing. Not to be taken too seriously, but genetics do have an influence on how and when we experience and feel love. In terms of the ‘mommy gene’, it is something that can affect loving instincts.
Basically, in those poor mommy mice, it was found that the gene triggered oxytocin, which is better known as the ‘love hormone’. Oxytocin is something that creates nurturing and maternal reactions and it is one of the strongest hormones influencing motherhood. So when this gene is suppressed or non-existent, the result is less nurture from moms and more neglect.
Oxytocin is a big factor behind loving, caring, and nurturing feelings, but it isn’t the only thing. Of course, this is a line of thought depending where you sit on the side of the nature or nurture fence. Hormones; they sure know how to complicate everything, including love.
Perhaps less of a fact and more stating the obvious, it doesn’t come down to one single gene to set someone up to be a mother. There is nothing particularly easy about motherhood and it is ultimately a point where women prioritise another life over their own. Motherhood is beautiful and amazing and has many things to be learnt along the way.
Sure, some women make it look easier than others and some women are actually struggling on the inside while they put on a big old smile. Motherhood brings with it a tailspin of emotions, confusion, and the unknown around every corner. In case navigating through this crazy world alone wasn’t enough, now you’ve got a young one totally dependent on you to lead the way. A single gene isn’t going to make or break this pathway. Motherhood means trusting your instincts, ignoring science for a little, and just going with that feels right at that moment for you and your kid.
Sources: Thebump.com, Huffingtonpost.com, Jezebel.com, Scarymommy.com, Cloudmom.com, Eurekalert.com, Psychologytoday.com