Many mothers wonder just exactly what unconditional love is for a child, well, let’s start with what it is NOT and go from there.
Somewhere over the rainbow someone started an unhelpful rumor that led to mothers everywhere believing…
That warm, fuzzy, super affectionate feelings everyday (all day towards their children) is unconditional love.
Mothers everywhere began and continue to feel guilty when they have any negative feelings towards their children.
To combat this they began spoiling them…or trying to make them happy at all costs. They let feelings of guilt (or the idea that they were somehow inadequate) govern their parenting decisions.
What is Unconditional Love?
Love is so much more than making your kids happy…
Unconditional love is so much more than giving gifts or hugs…It is an attitude, a way of life, and something that is long-term and far reaching.
I love my kids because they are my kids. Nothing they do will change that. I’d love them no matter what. This does NOT mean that I always let them do what they want. That would be to their detriment.
In fact, it I totally made them happy at all costs… it would undermine the love I was trying to show them!
Let’s dispel some common myths of unconditional love together.
1) Unconditional Love is Not Dictated by Feelings
Feelings can be unhelpful, untrue and unproductive… They, therefore, cannot be the deciding factor of our unconditional love.
An anorexic woman’s feelings may say she is fat though she weighs 85 lbs. A gambler’s feelings may say the next hand will be the big win.
Someone going through a bad breakup’s feelings may say they’ll never love again. Feelings, though very true to us, should not dictate our actions and do not always accurately tell us what is going on.
If you are exhausted you may feel resentful to your children. Quite frankly, you are not working at full capacity when you’re exhausted. It’s normal to feel resentful or unloving when you are in this state…
Do these feelings tell you that you aren’t capable of unconditional love and that you are a bad mother because of it?
No. Absolutely not...
If we let feelings govern our actions and decisions we’ll end up in a world of hurt because our feelings change like shifting shadows. Feelings do not change the truth. Love is not [only] a feeling.
2) Unconditional Love Does Not Mean Warm & Fuzzy All the Time
There will be times when your decisions, and the decisions of your children, make everyone downright ticked off.
They are ticked off they have to eat vegetables. Children put little pouty faces on and act like the world is coming to an end when they have to go to bed “before they want to.”
Mommy, that’s ok! It’s ok for kids to not be happy with you. Pouty faces are not then end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love them.
Children, because they are learning stage by stage to exercise their independence, will constantly defy and try and mystify us.
It’s ok to be angry…
Just because we get angry doesn’t mean we don’t love them…
Being angry simply means we are humans and our emotions flare up in reaction to our environment. This happens because they can make us angry.
This is especially true if you have fairly disobedient children, you may feel these negative emotions often.
Remember, just because you don’t look at your children and feel overcome with happiness at every moment of the day does not mean you don’t love them unconditionally.
Oh wait, yes it does mean something though. It means that you are human!
3) Unconditional Love is Long Term…Not Short Sighted
There are some decisions we make as parents that will make our children unhappy for a while.
Grounding for a month, say, for a severe house rule infraction will likely tick them off for a while. But, just like long-term financial planning, investments, and pursuing an education, sometimes you have to put in the hard work first, make tough decisions, and know that it is for the benefit of your child.
Making these hard decisions are acts of unconditional love when you are thinking about your family and children’s best interests!
When you make a hard decision and feel like a bad parent, the bad cop, the one who ruined your child’s life (temporarily) just remember…
Selling everyone short in the long run to instantly gratify your children is not actually an act of love. It’s an act of laziness, and sometimes, even cowardice.
Unconditional love works for the ultimate, not temporal, good!
4) Unconditional Love Protects
Parenting is much like marriage in this respect…
This day in age, people think that if you fall “out of love” with someone that is a good enough reason to move on. What if as a parent we did that? What if God did that to us?
Let’s take addiction, for example. If a husband is an addict (gambling, alcohol, pornography) then sticking by him and letting him continue self-destructing is not an act of love. That is called enabling.
Unconditional love says, you make me angry and you are ruining our family and I am going to do something about it. It puts rules in place, it helps find remedies, help, intervention, etc.
Children are the same…
Discipline and boundaries have wonderful effects on children long term. That does not mean, in their childlike minds, that they appreciate them.
Love is much more profound than simply making someone happy.
It looks out for a person’s best interests and seeks to help them flourish in the long run.
Remember these Truths about Unconditional Love
Letting a child continue in a self-destructive pattern is not love at all, it is hate…
If we let our children sow seeds of destruction, rebellion, and chaos then they will later reap it. Think of the principle “you reap what you sow.” Playing the “bad cop” for a while to protect your child’s future is an act of unconditional love.
Make those hard decisions NOT with emotions, but with foresight and knowledge. Then…stick to it! That is a mother’s unconditional love.
A mother’s love is a strong thing. There will be many many many moments of affectionate, warm and happy feelings. But… there will also be feelings of anger, frustration, and loss of patience. These feelings are not indicators that you are a bad mom.
Persevere, loving mother, and you’ll see that your children reap the benefits for the rest of their lives!