Mama Love

This week I said goodbye to my son who is going to teach English in Austria for a year. It’s a dream job in a place he loves and in his world, things are pretty great right now.

I am thrilled he gets this opportunity.. I really am. It’s just that… um.. (insert spontaneous crying jag here).

Whenever a child leaves my company.. it aches–bad. This usually occurs when they’ve been home visiting for awhile and then they leave.

I believe a mother’s physical bearing of a child contributes to why it feels like such a palpable loss when they leave. It’s almost as if they are once again being expelled from the womb and there’s a part of you.. maybe like the placenta.. that wants to hang on. Once again, it’s like they are being torn from you. Only this time, they are doing the tearing. It’s usually for right and natural reasons. It’s also incredibly painful.

Loving a child is an experience of unrequited, unreciprocated devotion mixed with the sensation of constantly being in labor. Nothing incestuous implied here, but mother love has that corporeal history that other kinds of love do not. Maybe that’s the reason for the sickening ache at separation. There are definite physical undertones.

You madly want them to understand the depth of what you feel, but they can’t. Once when I was seeing my oldest son off at the airport, I told him that I adored him. His response? “I know you do, Mom.” I viewed this as a sweet acknowledgment of something he will probably never fully understand.. even though he now has a little boy at the center of his own adoration. I’m pretty sure fathers don’t feel this the way mothers do..although, I know they deeply love their children.

Sometimes I wonder if this is so acute for me because I had five children–my life was full of little ones and their lives for so many years.

I have a friend, a mother of four grown children, who refers to the events of children coming and going as “little deaths.” She’s right, you know. It’s that tearing away.. and saying goodbye every time that feels like grief incarnate.

And it’s not because I don’t have a life, other interests or important people in my life. It’s not because I sit around all day dreaming about my children or wishing they were at my side. And no, it’s not because I am jealous of their lives or wish to exert control over them.

It’s just that mother love is so different from any other kind of love. It’s unique in that it stays strong and deep and doesn’t really evolve. It just is. In every person’s life.. mates, friends and others come and go.. but a mother is tied physically and emotionally to her child in a way that creates an impenetrable bond for her. It doesn’t matter who else is around or who else they love, a mother will almost always experience this ongoing depth of feeling for her son or daughter.

I know of mothers who don’t feel this way. They have children, they raise them.. and they even love them. They just aren’t attached to them. Sometimes mothering just doesn’t ‘take’ with certain women.

But I’m not talking about them. I think they represent a relatively small sector of the maternal population. Most of us are crazy in love with our kids.

A mother can be, and often is.. a child’s best friend, even a confidant. But her offspring will evolve, grow.. and develop other lasting and meaningful relationships–usually with a spouse and children. Once again, it’s right and good.. and you rejoice and then you cry because your child never feels the attachment like you feel it-at least they don’t feel it for you.

It’s sort of like having a crush on a rock star you never outgrow and that is never fulfilled. You have to learn to live with it.

I believe grown children love their parents in new and different ways. They begin to finally understand the cycle. Daughters in turn will get to experience that fierce mother love.. that longing and intensity for another person who can never return it in just that way.

Oye, the emotion.


One thought on “Mama Love

  1. Oh, you got me again! So I guess it doesn’t go away when they get older?! This really hit home.

    I like to tell myself that my daughter, just a toddler, is so attached to me she doesn’t have to think about it, she knows nothing different, and that means I’m doing OK. But to even THINK of her leaving or getting hurt feels like a kick in the gut! Can I call you when she actually does? đŸ˜‰

    BTW, I’ve tagged you for a meme:

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