A Mother’s Love

"The very essence of motherly love is to care for the child's growth, and that means to want the child's separation from herself...Two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child's separation." 
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, 48

My daughter moved out this week.  Even though her apartment is just a few blocks, my heart still hurts.  It was especially difficult the first night when I went to bed.  That first night on your own can feel pretty lonely, right?  And then the next morning when I went to wake up all of the other kids - - her bedroom door at the end of the hallway remained closed.  My husband noticed the loss when she wasn’t there to greet him at the doorway with one of her “Brooky hugs.”  (She was always the most excited whenever he came home!)


"It is only at this stage that motherly love becomes such a difficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give everything and to want nothing but the happiness of the loved one....Only the really loving woman, the woman who is happier in giving than in taking, who is firmly rooted in her own existence, can be a loving mother when the child is in the process of separation." 
Erich Fromm, 48

I honestly can’t say that this stage is my favorite, or even easy for me.  No.  I’m not so great at transitions in general, but letting your kids go to forge their own lives is super hard for me!  I mean, once they are gone and I see they are doing well, it’s a bit “out of sight, out of mind;” but there are (and probably always will be) those moments when tears fill my eyes as I realize they aren’t ever coming back.  Sure, they will physically come back, but their childhood selves are gone forever the moment they leave.  And when they do come back, they aren’t the same.  It’s not the same. I'm not even the same.

"...the relationship of mother and child is by its very nature one of inequality, where one needs all the help, and the other gives it.  It is for this altruistic, unselfish character that motherly love has been considered the highest kind of love, and the most sacred of all emotional bonds."
Erich Fromm, 46-47

Ironically, on the morning Brooklynn was eager and anxious about moving out I was talking to my son several states away - - the only day of the week I get to talk to him.  I wanted the day to be all about her, but I also wanted him to know that I loved him that morning, too.  Meanwhile, my two-year old, right in front of me and with me all day every day, had decided he needed to be my priority that morning.  Motherhood was calling loud and clear!

Often a mother’s love is tied up in demands, right?  We clean, cook, counsel, correct, cuddle, comfort, create, cover.  This is our calling.  We show our love by doing these things, right? In my most recent yoga experience the instructor used a quote from Major League baseball coach Joe Madden as the basis for our practice.  In his introductory press conference of 2014 he said, “Don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”  I have had a lot of pressure placed upon me in the last little while, to the point of wanting to cave in.  Motherhood demands have been placed paramount inside my personal pressure cooker, so much that I have forgotten the pleasure of it all.  I’m noticing that pressure seems to be magnified each time a child prepares to leave the home!  The fight becomes way too real!


"Motherly love...is unconditional affirmation of the child's life and needs...Affirmation of the child's life has two aspects; one is the absolute care and responsibility absolutely necessary for the preservation of the child's life and his growth.  The other aspect goes further...it is the attitude which instill in the child a love for living, which gives him the feeling it is good to be alive, it is good to be a little boy or girl, it is good to be on this earth!"  
Erich Fromm, 45-46

This week, as my daughter left the nest, I also felt joy.  I felt joy because I could see that Brooklynn felt "it [was] good to be alive."  The first night she was gone, Addie (my second daughter) was at work and my husband was out of town.  It was just me and the boys.  I had a moment of realization, “Now I can give these boys the time they need from me.”  There’s a lot of hype about big families - - that kids don’t get enough attention or that the younger kids get lost in the shuffle.  But this is a new moment for our family and I’m realizing as the older kids leave I am able (and available) to give more time to the younger ones.  It’s different.  Things will always be different.  But different isn’t bad.


"Mother's love for life is as infectious as her anxiety is." 
Erich Fromm, 46

Interestingly, as I release another child into the world, I feel a bit more free as well.  Oh, there is plenty of anxiety, wondering and worrying if she's doing well and waiting for the moment when she's not!  But, it is a beautiful gift to watch your child make that first step into true adulthood.  (Only, now I wait anxiously for my missionary son to come home and enter the real world again!) Yes, this transition has been bittersweet...and I'll take all of it if that what it means to love only as a mother can.

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"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ 
than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." 
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CR Oct. 2015


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