We are more similar than different
If we really pay attention to the animal kingdom, we will realize the mothers of each species have their own journey through motherhood. As we are aware, animals display a range of human-like emotions and actions. After doing some research, one thing I have noticed about wild animals is how patient and kind they are to their offspring. They are also fiercely protective and completely selfless. These instinctual displays of excellent parenting were so impressive and relatable, I felt I should share them with you!
Upon researching, I have found the bond between the orangutang mothers and their babies to be the most similar to humans and their infants. The babies rely on their mothers for food and transportation for up to seven years of age. This is one of the longest bonds between mother and baby in the animal kingdom.¹ Most animals “kick” their young out of the herd much earlier. The best part about this bond? The offspring will visit their mothers for years after. That lasting bond is incredible and very similar to how humans behave in a mother-child scenario.
Some say it takes a village to raise a baby and elephants certainly believe this! Since elephants exist in a matriarchal setting, they help each other raise their young. The other mothers in the herd teach the young how to nurse from their mothers and protect them from harm. In addition, elephants have been known to raise the offspring of a dearly departed mother. Throughout this difficult time, they sooth the calf during its loss and assist it to become independent. This group effort is what makes their bonds to each other so strong. They are always there for each other.
Sleep deprivation is one of the hardest things about motherhood! Motherly giraffes know all about lack of sleep. They actually exist on only THIRTY MINUTES of sleep daily! After reading this fact, I don’t think I will complain about not getting enough sleep for a while. The reason that they get so little shut-eye? Giraffes are extremely protective of their young. They will stay awake for as long as possible to keep predators at bay. When mom goes to look for food, the other giraffes will guard the young calves. The babies are so attached to their mothers that they will wait for hours in the last spot their mother was seen until she arrives home safely. The love that a baby giraffe has for her mother is almost worth her only sleeping for thirty minutes a day-almost.
Breastfeeding is the only way to feed an infant in nature. The harp seal will nurse their young for 12 days straight without stopping. For those 12 days, they do not eat. This causes the mother seal to lose 7 lbs per day! Harp seal milk contains up to 50% fat so the seal pups gain weight rapidly, about 5lbs daily.² Once the pup is approximately 80 pounds, the mother seal leaves the baby to fend for itself. Unfortunately, weaning is abrupt but the baby is fully able to survive this transition. They are left to figure out how to dive in and fish for their own food. Their pups learn independence at a very young age whether they like it or not!
Appearances can deceive! A mother gazelle will walk away from her offspring casually. Sometimes she is leaving her very young fawn alone. This can look like neglect to onlookers. In actuality, the mother gazelle is putting her life on the line. She walks away to distract potential predators from her young by putting the attention on herself.³ Talk about selflessness!
Mothers of all species have unique abilities. They survive famine, attacks from predators, death of loved ones, and extreme weather to protect their young. Some even function after sleeping the length of time that it takes us to do our makeup! They nurse their young relentlessly and without eating for weeks.
We care for our young in the same way but in a more advanced civilization. We feed, teach, and promote independence. We teach our children personal safety and have been known to sacrifice ourselves in dangerous situations to save our children. Once we are finished raising our offspring, we help our daughters and sons to raise their children just as the elephants do. We do our duty as grandparents and great grandparents, helping our children learn to care for their own.
After reading about these amazing mothers in nature, I have realized we are not as different as I once thought. Our instinct to provide and protect as mothers is animalistic and innate. We will always be there for our children and they will return the favor with lots of love.
: World Wildlife Federation. (Unknown date). 5 remarkable animal moms https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/5-remarkable-animal-moms
: Elston Hill. (Unknown date). Harp Seal Mothers http://elstonhill.com/HarpSeal2.html
: Megan Gambino. (May 3, 2011). What Animal is the Best Mother?https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-animal-is-the-best-mother-158591597/