This Virginia Sole-Smith interview with Chelsea Conaboy, author of Mother Brain: How Neuroscience Is Rewriting the Story of Parenthood, was just fascinating. Conaboy recently wrote a NY Times op-ed–“The Maternal Instinct is a Myth” and I was ready to hear more.

You can listen or read the transcript here, and it’s really cool, even for this childless person. Brain wiring (yay)! The patriarchy (boo)! Reinforcing the need for community in all things, especially raising another generation of humans!

Some highlights:

In 1877, Charles Darwin published a journal about his own son’s development, and that kind of launched the field of child development. Following his example, lots of women started forming child study societies documenting their own children’s growth and sharing what they learned. Very soon after that, they were told that they couldn’t be trusted for this work, that their own “maternal instincts” made it impossible for them to be objective observers.

…the vast majority of research in this area is still in gestational, cisgender mothers. But what there is in fathers in particular, and some other non-gestational parents, foster mothers and adoptive mothers, shows that there are similar neuro-like hormonal shifts that occur when you become a parent, even if you’re not a birthing parent. That is thought to also prime the brain for this hyper responsiveness. And there is a global circuitry that develops over time.


It was hard to narrow down what to pull because it’s a wide-ranging discussion–human evolution, reproductive justice–so give it a read.