Home » Blogs » Single at Heart » Are You A Natural at Mothering? Do You Want to Be?

Are You A Natural at Mothering? Do You Want to Be?

Many years ago, one of my colleagues became a father for the first time. One time, as I held his tiny baby in my arms, my colleague looked at me, grinning broadly, and said, “Bella, you’re a natural!”

He meant it as a compliment. He thought I seemed totally comfortable with his daughter. I was. Yet, something about the supposed compliment rubbed me the wrong way. At the time, I didn’t know what to make of my reaction, and never said anything to him or anyone else.

In the years since then, I’ve read a lot of research and theory on adults who do not have children. Much of the work is focused on women. For a long time – and even today, to a large extent – having children was considered one of the defining characteristics of a woman’s identity. To have children is to do what a woman should do. To interact with children “naturally” is to be a natural woman.

I think my resistance to my colleague’s remark came from a feeling that he was trying to fit me into a conventional, traditional box. (I saw lots of men pick up his baby, and hold her comfortably, but he never remarked that any of them were “naturals.”) He was implying, I think, that I should want to be a natural – that I should be proud of it, even.

Maybe the experience is analogous to when other people tell you that you would be a good catch. Such people are assuming that you want to be hooked and reeled in. They are seeing you through their template of what they think an adult should want, rather than discerning who you, as a real person, a unique individual, actually are.

Are You A Natural at Mothering? Do You Want to Be?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2020). Are You A Natural at Mothering? Do You Want to Be?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Jun 2020
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.