Sitting outside on a patio slowly drinking a steaming cup of coffee (that is actually hot) and a mimosa with my favorite man, soaking up a hint of sun in the grey skies that marked our belated honeymoon, I got the irresistible urge to phone my two-year-old daughter just to hear her voice. Babble babble on the other end, then “I love you Mamma.”
And. I. Am. Done. Tears stream hysterically down my face. All I wanted was this alone time with my husband (time we never really got before) to remember what it was like to “just” be “us” and “just” be “me.”
But it isn’t “just us” and it isn’t “just me.” Here we are thousands of miles away while my littles are safely being cared for, and we can sleep in, and drink, and cuddle, and do whatever it is we want to do without a schedule or care in the world. Yet here I am sitting at our resort’s breakfast table and my heart is publicly breaking into a million pieces while tears race down my rested tanned face.
Then just as quickly as it breaks, it grows ten sizes as I remember how much I have waiting for me when I fly home.
I didn’t always want children. When I was in my twenties and even early thirties I used to ask people why they wanted children. Not because I judged their choice, but because I was genuinely curious. What exactly do you get out of it? So then I thought, maybe people do this to be selfless? But a friend that was a father laughed at me, and said “No, you do it for yourself.” So why then are all these people making these “selfish” choices to have children if in the end they are only sacrificing? It just didn’t add up.
While I was never really a “kid” or “baby” person, I have always been a “dog person.” My dogs were everything to me, and I loved all dogs everywhere. I wanted a dog for as long as I could remember. Why had I never longed for children in the same way? I could only imagine the emotional and financial sacrifice to be a million times anything I had ever given my animals, but perhaps, logic suggested… perhaps the reward or love you get in return is also multiplied by the same amount…?
Then, I met my husband. And it was very much love at first sight (trust me I didn’t believe in that either at the time), and I instantly wanted everything with him. A life. A family. Children. I wanted it all. I could “see” it all. Our future. So we jumped straight into having children (hence the delayed honeymoon post three years). But even while I was pregnant I worried what I was getting myself into. While I wanted children, I still could not logically explain why I was having children. They will take away financial resources, time, date nights, and from every meme and blog I had read, it appeared that they make most moms drink even more wine. Hmmm… well that last part didn’t sound so bad.
But despite the very logical reasons why someone would choose not to have kids, I knew there still had to be a reason why so many people were (kind of illogically) making this choice… and yet seemingly VERY happy about this decision.
So given what I knew about dogs, I assumed that was “IT.” The unconditional love given to you by your children must be even more magnanimous than the unconditional love given by dogs, and the greater sacrifices reaped even deeper rewards.
Then I had my daughter, Addy. She made me a parent, and being a toddler, was a significant reason for my need to get away for “just a little bit.” And then I had her brother Henry, and that squeezable baby looks at me with these giant loving eyes… and he just melts my heart. They love me. I mean they really love me. This love your children feel for you was what I naïvely once thought to be the “reason” people had children. For the moments when my daughter says “I love you Mama” and those wide eye all consuming, hypnotizing baby stares.
Because yes, our children will love us (hopefully), but their love will not be unconditional. We wouldn’t want for it to be. Our love is given to our children without strings attached. Their love for us is earned. My husband’s love for me is earned. As is my love for him. We fell in love, and then we made a choice to respect and love each other from that moment on. I know we don’t like to think about it this way, but there are actually strings attached. (More on this later…)
But with children we learn for the first time how to just love without expectation of a promised reciprocation. We fall in love first, wholly, naiively, fully vulnerable.
Because that day sitting outside on my belated honeymoon without a care in the world, when the sound of my daughter’s voice grasped me back to reality and made my heart simultaneously break and swell ten sizes larger, I realized “IT.” This is motherhood. This is why. Giving unconditional love is astoundingly rich and irreplaceable.
And this unconditional love has peppered every ounce of life with a depth of color I never even knew existed.