Recently, I’ve been seeing Mommy blogs and parenting mags alike say something akin to “you’ll always be their mom” or “they don’t have to like you, but they’ll always love you”, and I feel like it’s time that all of us take a few steps back and allow ourselves to have a bit of a reality check:
Our children don’t have to love us.
Love is a beautiful thing. Our world runs and depends on it more than any other core principle. It’s the foundation of our relationships with our friends, our family, and our kids, but deep, honest love isn’t implied or obliged. It isn’t freely given. It is earned.
I’ve heard many a mommy say that they earned that love through 9 months of pregnancy and hours of agonizing birth, but that simply isn’t true. Birth is an amazing thing. The gift of creating, carrying, and birthing life into this world is something as sacred as the earth itself, and it’s something that we as women always hold a deep attachment to. But, of course, it isn’t what gives us the deep, affectionate connection that so many of us feel for our mothers.
Nobody remembers the day they were born, but we do remember having our closets checked for monsters and being carted around day after day from school to ballet to football and home with an exhausted Mom in sweatpants who still managed to make us dinner once she kicked the heavy tennis shoes off of her blistered feet and rubbed her temples for fear her head might explode. We remember sacrifice and unending support, love, adoration, friendship, and pride.
We remember the moments where our mothers shaped us into the people that we are today, because that’s what children are (little people, yes, but people nonetheless). And people develop love through consistency, support, and communication. If your child doesn’t receive those things from you, there isn’t some genetic component within them that makes them love you. Five, ten, and twenty years down the road, we remember our mothers holding us after nightmares, giving advice when we’re lost in the woods, and constantly supporting us as we chase our dreams.
These are the things that make a mother a mom, and these are the things that allow us to develop a long lasting, loving relationship with our children. Our children are autonomous beings with individual emotions derived from their personal perception of the world, and we have to honor that. These are the things that we, as mothers, must remind ourselves of every day.