THE BOND THAT a mother, especially a new mother, shares with her child is unparalleled. Most moms live and breathe according to their child’s needs, demands and wants.
New moms get little to no sleep and they nibble on bites of anything they can get their hands on, having no time for true meals at a dinner table with silverware. And yet, most of these women will tell anyone who will listen that they wouldn’t change a thing. That unconditional love that a mom feels for her children is a mercy and blessing from Allah. Even animal mothers care for their offspring in sometimes unbelievable ways. Some animals carry their young ones on their backs or in their pouches; others sit on the young ones to keep them safe and warm. One type of amphibian mom permits her young to feed on her skin for nutrients, much like a lactating mammal supplies food and nutrition to her own young.
Of course, Allah mercifully does not require us to feed our children with our own flesh, but the sentiments remain the same. We do what we must to help our children grow and thrive, and in return we share affection and love with our children. Sometimes though, this love takes a strange turn and our children find themselves drowning in it or yearning for it.
Do You Have Too Much Love or Not Enough?
Based on our individual personalities and experiences, we show love and affection in different ways. Some of us have been raised in a culture that doesn’t express much physical affection. This does not mean that we don’t love our children; it just means that we don’t show it in a way that others might. Others are accustomed to showing affection liberally. Neither is right or wrong, but an excess of either might do significant harm to our families and ourselves.
Too Much Love is Common
In a time when parents are busied with work and social obligations, we might feel that we need to compensate our children with what we think they are missing. If we can’t spend enough time with them, we buy them presents that make them temporarily happy. But all this lavish treatment can quickly turn from good intentions to ill results. It is easy to spoil a child with simple presents and gifts and rewards.
However, most of us already know this; this is not breaking news. In fact, many of us probably fall victim to this occasionally or even frequently. The true problem lies in the opposite. Imagine a mom who gives birth to her child and actually resents caring for that child, who regrets ever having children.
Not Enough Love is Dangerous
The love that we feel for our children is a gift from Allah. It is something that we don’t have to learn or acquire with age; it is something that comes with parenthood. We become pregnant and automatically begin thinking of this new being. We give birth to our child and we instinctively feel a closeness. It is different from the love that we may feel for our husband which is something that we teach ourselves and it is intellectualized, and only over time does it become natural. The love we feel for our children is just the opposite. We feel that bond and closeness before we even know our children.
Now, if I were to tell you that there are some women who think about their children every day and count the ways that their own lives have been ruined since the child’s birth, what would you say? If I were to tell you that there are some women who say that they would give their children away if someone would take them so that they could live their own lives, what would you say?
You would probably say, “Yeah, right”. But really, this is true. There are many women all over the world that regret that they ever had children. Occasionally, some women undergo temporary post-partum depression. This is a serious illness that should not be taken lightly, but it is not what I am referring to here. I am talking about the women who didn’t intend to get pregnant in the first place, and now having to carry out the pregnancy, resent the child for messing up their plans.
It seems hard to believe, but it is true. In fact, you might even know someone. I recently met a Muslim American mom who admitted, in no uncertain terms, that she resents her child and never planned that pregnancy. Even more surprising was that she said that, since her son is babysat by other family members often, she wouldn’t even mind if someone else took the baby and raised him. She claimed that she never bonded with the child and therefore has no motherly feelings toward him.
The horror that you might be feeling as you read this is much like what I felt when I heard it. The shock that I felt left me numb and frightened. Firstly, I felt worried for the child that will grow up in this environment and resentment. What kind of a person will he become when he is older and more mature and can feel and sense this resentment? What legacy will this mother create and what will her son learn from her? This is frightening, but when it dawned on me that this could happen to any of us, I almost keeled over in fear.
Do we think that this mother chose to be this way? Most women in her situation, after giving birth to a child that they hadn’t planned, forget the past and anticipate the future with their new bundle of innocent love. But obviously, this warm and fuzzy feeling doesn’t hit everyone the same way. What I asked myself is: how do I make sure that I never feel the way this mom does about her children.
Recognize Our Blessings
Many of us, as a first reaction, will say, “That’ll never happen to me. I love my kids.” But realistically, why do we love our children? How is it that we do and this other mom doesn’t? It is because Allah has placed this love in our hearts. For this, we should be eternally grateful. This intangible and unseen love is among the millions of other things in this life that we take for granted and underestimate. It is such a simple thing and yet it holds such great power. If only this mom had even an iota of this love, she would see the beauty in her son and overlook the attraction of her career and social life.
But this God-granted gift is just the beginning. We must make a conscious effort to love our children. We start with the love that Allah put in our hearts. But there must also be love in our actions. Resist cultural norms that reject outward affection; hug and kiss your children and see them bloom right before your eyes. The Prophet encouraged us to embrace our children and show them affection. Why else would he have allowed his nephews to ride his back during sujood while in salah? Why else would he have kept sweets in his pockets so that the city children could attack and claim their treats? Such playful affection is essential for a child to thrive and mature into a well-rounded and grounded individual.
We sometimes have to work at being nice and affectionate and loving. Right after your son has spilled an entire box of cereal on the floor in search of the hidden surprise may not be the best time to go and hug him. And right after your daughter has flooded the bath-room to give her doll a bath in the bathroom sink is also not an opportune time to kiss her and hold her tight. But there are moments every day when we need to show our kids what we want them to know—that we love them. For a child, the best way for them to see this love is for them to feel it.