Our Assumptions About the Maternal Instinct

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  • The ‘No Labels’ Plan for a Centrist Alternative
  • Support Us at Work
  • Baseball, Faster
  • A Billionaire’s Giveaway

Credit…Csilla Klenyánszki

To the Editor:

Re “The Pernicious Myth of Maternal Instinct,” by Chelsea Conaboy (Opinion guest essay, Aug. 28):

My husband and I are two dads who raised a boy and a girl from birth to adulthood in small-town America.

As gay dads, we got to pull back the curtain of the assumptions about maternal instinct. I showed up at the Mommy and Me music classes, the P.T.A. meetings and the informal klatches waiting at school for the kids at 3 p.m.

When our kids came to us as newborns, I worried that we, as two men, might not be as naturally nurturing or “motherly” as a woman would be. But observing the many moms in action, I was disabused of that fear.

The range of parenting was huge. Quite a few moms were not particularly “maternal” at all. Even though most were good parents, many were impatient, cold, sharp-edged. Several clearly had never wanted children.

Would I say that, on average, the moms were more “nurturing” than the dads? Yes, and I won’t wade into the debate over how much of this is hormonal rather than cultural. But the bell curve was huge, as with all gender assumptions, and quite a few dads were more nurturing than the average mom.

I also recall feeling, when I held my newborn daughter against my naked chest, capsules of fierce, inexplicable parental love bursting in my bloodstream in a way I’d never experienced. I later read a study of gay men whose oxytocin levels soared to levels similar to that of nursing moms when they held infant babies to their bosom. Perhaps we should start calling it “parental instinct.”

Ken Dorph
Sag Harbor, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Oh, hurray, another gloomy take on mothering in 2022. “To become a parent is to be deluged” … “brutal” … “a rock at the ocean’s edge, battered by waves and tides and sun and wind.” Come on, really?

Maybe the reason that today’s writing on motherhood so often describes it in terms of various degrees of torture is that many young mums, to their great credit, and having read chapter and verse on the subject, try to do the job perfectly. Then they torment themselves when they can’t.

The good news is that there is no such thing as perfect mothering, just good enough mothering, and that is manageable by most. Welcome to the ranks, moms. Rest assured you are doing a good job. Bless you all, and, dare I say it, have fun.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

To the Editor:

Chelsea Conaboy seems to dismiss the “myth” of maternal instinct because it has been misused by some to limit the role of women in society. Nonsense! Because it has been misused is no reason to reject the importance of this most wondrous of emotions.

Who cannot be awed and deeply respectful of the mother elephant, tenderly using her trunk to help her newborn stand, or of the mother dog or cat as she tends to her newborn pups after birth, licking off the birth membranes and carefully positioning them for nursing. Has anyone seen a father do that? And yet, I doubt that there has been a cabal of animal fathers scheming to assign this task to the mothers. Why should humans be any different?

Thank God for maternal instinct.

Robert H. Palmer
New York

The ‘No Labels’ Plan for a Centrist Alternative

Credit…Samuel Corum for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “If an Alternative Candidate Is Needed in 2024, These Folks Will Be Ready,” by David Brooks (column, Sept. 5):

To the Editor:

David Brooks tells us that a new political group called No Labels may offer a way out of our political crisis. He writes, “If ever the country was ripe for something completely different, it’s now.”

He did not ask the simplest and most important question: Where does its money come from? If we are truly ready for something new, then the first principle is transparency about sources of funding. Much of No Labels’ money comes through super PACs, which means that donors can give very large amounts, shape the group’s goals and preserve their anonymity.

To accept the worst of American political abuses — ones brought to us by Citizens United — is, by definition, not to make a clean new start.

Steven Feierman

To the Editor:

The idea of a No Labels presidential candidate is destined to fail. A better challenge would be for all candidates to commit themselves to choosing a vice president from the other party. Now that, in David Brooks’s own words, would be “something completely different.”

Lawrence Rosen
Bar Harbor, Maine

Support Us at Work

Credit…Lily Padula

To the Editor:

Re “So You Wanted to Get Work Done at the Office?” (Business, Sept. 12):

While there is more discussion about what makes a productive work environment, this isn’t a new issue for many of us who are neurodivergent, disabled, burned out or healing from trauma.

We have been acutely aware of how difficult it can be to operate in a workplace that doesn’t support personal sensory needs — lights, sounds, temperature, positioning, etc.

Unsupportive work environments can affect employees’ focus, job satisfaction and productivity. We must normalize communication about sensory experiences in the workplace, and that can also promote inclusion and equity for all.

Let’s go beyond thinking that this is just a pandemic-related issue. This problem has been present and it will continue because we all have sensory, emotional and cognitive needs. The workplace is just one important setting where we notice them.

Nicole Villegas
Portland, Ore.
The writer is an occupational therapist and a teaching professional at Boston University.

Baseball, Faster

Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

To the Editor:

Re “M.L.B. Bans Shift, Adds Pitch Clock and Enlarges the Bases” (Sports, Sept. 10):

So, just like that, Major League Baseball has decided to join the fast-paced and restless world in instituting, among other changes, a 15- or 20-second timer between pitches. The thinking goes that this will yield a more action-packed and less stagnant game.

That’s a shame. Don’t get me wrong: I work in the technology start-up sector and am well accustomed to the incessant movement, constant productivity and “go go go” mind-set of our modern world.

But I’m also a psychiatrist who understands the restorative power of mindfulness and meditative experience. And baseball, with all its beautiful pauses and inherent stillness, has provided me with just that from a very young age.

David Y. Harari
Burlington, Vt.

A Billionaire’s Giveaway

Yvon Chouinard founded Patagonia in 1973.Credit…Natalie Behring for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Billionaire Gives Away His Company to Fight Climate Change” (Business, Sept. 15), about the founder of Patagonia transferring ownership of his company to a trust and a nonprofit organization:

Billionaires should be a very rare thing! But even as we rightly congratulate Yvon Chouinard for reducing their number by one with his visionary benevolence, let’s not forget that his money will be doing the job our own government should be doing, if only it were allowed to operate as intended by taxing the wealthy and redistributing the funds for the benefit of all.

Elisa Adams
New Hyde Park, N.Y.

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