I have been someone’s mother for seven years, three months and thirteen days. I am overwhelmed by how much love – love I’ve received, love I’ve given, love I’ve witnessed – I have experienced in that time. When I was first pregnant, I wondered if I would have enough love for my new baby; when my second and third babies arrived, I wondered if my love could expand to include them. Love, I’ve discovered, is exponential. It feeds on itself and there’s always enough.
One of my three darlings is ever so slightly more challenging than the others. My mother said to me one day when I was having a big moan, “Please don’t love her less than the others.” I responded, “I don’t love her less. I love her differently.” I think that is the key when raising a gang of kids as I am – to love each one differently, according to their needs.
I am enjoying Mother’s Day – having breakfasted on chocolate, received lovely paintings and home-made cards, I am still in bed, with my family in other parts of the house being happy in their own, different ways. I am happy to celebrate, and be celebrated, on this day.
However, I don’t subscribe to being a Mother with a capital letter. I’m far more comfortable being a parent. My children’s father is as good at all the jobs I do: kissing a bump on the forehead, reading a bedtime story, making a hot lunch, admiring a work of art. He is more skilled at teaching people how to ride a bike, crafting weird objects, and explaining the difference between stars and suns and moons. I am better at teaching people how to knit, remembering what day who does which extra-curricular activity, and reading aloud in German. We are both equally good at making and maintaining friendships, earning money and keeping contact with our families. We are raising our children as a unit, with our different but compatible skills.
I remember when we were expecting our first baby. We were walking to our London home past the local pub whose refried grease smell was enough to render me pallid and heaving into the gutter, when my husband said, “When we have our baby, it will be more important than our relationship. The baby will come first.” I was horrified. Conventional wisdom, my girlfriends and every women’s magazine I had ever read told me that the primal relationship had to come first. I disagreed vehemently and felt a frisson of worry. Would we survive this huge change that was already upon us?
Seven years, three months and thirteen days later, I can confidently say that my husband was right. We have put our children first and they are better for it. Neither of us has ever been “jealous of the baby”, we have shared the sleepness nights, the horrendous trips to hospital with puking feverish children, the adrenaline-fuelled charge of a baby’s wondrous safe home-birth. We have shared their triumphs and joys, safe in the knowledge that as they grow up into confident, well-adjusted, friendly and talented people, that they will be big enough to walk away from us and still love us. Together we have learned to be a little more selfless and now we are seeing the rewards of that.
To me, today is Parent’s Day. I celebrate the wise and wonderful man with whom I have had the privilege of raising three children and who has shown me that love grows. I’ll share my chocolate with you, darling.