Unrequited Mother’s Love: Loving Your Children More Than They Love You


A New Mother’s Love

A Mother's Love
Moments after giving birth, I was changed forever.

I’m not sure there is anything better than watching a newborn gaze upon his mother. That look of complete dependence and “you’re the center of my whole world” can take any new mom’s breath away. This child in my arms relied on me for everything: nourishment, comfort, heat, safety, and shelter. While I still held my intrinsic value as a human, I took on a new layer: a life-giver. I gave life and would continue to do so from the moment my first daughter was born. Everything I had (have) is hers and giving myself to her is now a part of my chemical makeup. It’s what I do. My “Mother’s Love” took up its roots and changed my DNA, making me a different version of myself oriented towards my new creation. 

Self-gift: The Highest Form of Love

A Mother’s Love isn’t the thing of sonnets. It doesn’t make blockbuster movies or even feature in radio ballads. Yet, I’d argue it’s one of the most powerful forces in our world. Brace yourself, I’m going to talk about God for a second. I promise there will be no altar calls or baptisms by smartphone (or by whatever device you’re using to read this). This will all end up comparing mothers to God so you should definitely stay with me because what mom doesn’t want an ego boost? 

One of the strongest metaphors applied to God (or, if you prefer: Life-Force or Higher Power) is that God is love. The New Testament uses the Greek word for love, agape. We often translate it as charity. One of my favorite theology professors at Boston College, Michael Himes, defined agape as “self-gift,” and it’s always stuck with me. A love that gives of the self with no expectation of return is the highest form of love one can engage in or experience. It is, if you’ll allow me another religious term, divine. 

Ah, moms. We know about self-gift, don’t we? 

  • With bellies so big with life, and our ankles so swollen we can’t even sleep any more.
  • After sleeping only two hours and we hear a tiny cry from the other room.
  • When our bodies serve as tissues, pillows, jungle gyms, and comfort objects.
  • When it’s hard to remember the last time we sat down or finished a hot cup of coffee.
  • After a brutal work day, we make sure to finish homework and draw baths.
  • When we hear, “I hate you!” and our hearts break for their hurt.
  • Agonizing about what kind of people our creations are becoming.

We know what it means to give of our selves–this is a Mother’s Love. We are divine for possessing the ability to love like this, are we not? It feels supernatural at times. 

Agape: Unrequited

The thing about agape is that it can’t be fully reciprocated. Before you go into a corner and cry because you think I’m telling you that your kids don’t love you, get a grip. Hear me say this: it’s not really supposed to be reciprocated. We love our children and they love us, but it’s not the same kind of love. No matter how our children came into this world (birth, adoption, etc.), we love them with that fierce agape love. Yet, it is not returned. Not really.

While our children love us so much (with potential lapses in the teenage years), they are not supposed to love us in that self-gift kind of way. If we are asking them to give of themselves the way we have given to them, we are not doing it right. In our heart of hearts, we don’t really want our children to have the same level of love for us we have for them. The love we have for them is forward moving when it is directed at them but backward moving when directed back at us. 

Paying it Forward

Instead of raising children to love us the way we love them, we raise them to pay it forward. When we provide our children with the certainty that they are loved fiercely and unselfishly, they have the freedom to express this same love outward in the future. Whether it’s to their future children, nieces and nephews or even to their partners. The final gift of agape love is that it teaches the receiver to pass it along. What more could we hope for our children?

So, love on mothers. Go love your children like you’re a Higher Power because, you know what? You are. 

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Allison’s mission in life is to notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. Her commitment to see beyond what’s in front of her was fostered by her degree in Philosophy and Theology from Boston College. Allison’s a book nerd and credits her parents and inspiring English teachers for her love of reading and writing. She went on to earn her Master in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College and then taught high school for several years, both in New England and San Francisco. After moving from San Francisco to Boston with her engineer husband, she began teaching yoga and working as a social media marketing consultant. Now a Portsmouth resident, she spends most of her days with her three daughters (she does not have enough arms) and does her best to find the bliss amidst the endless snacking, dance parties and tiaras. With all the beautiful chaos in her life, she’s grateful to have her partner-in-crime (husband Charlie) and fellow movie quote enthusiast alongside her. Her passion for writing first drew her to Seacoast Moms as a contributing writer, and her desire to connect moms of the Seacoast with businesses who serve and interest them led her to become SM’s owner. Being able to write about the ordinary grace present in motherhood, while interacting with incredible Seacoast business owners is a dream come true.