Mom Confessional: Love Isn’t What I Thought

Mom Confessional: Love Isn’t What I Thought

One mom explains how love was different than she expected, much to her delight.


By: Helen Jane Hearn

Love changes.

From childhood to parenthood, the way love has changed with every additional year brings richness to my relationships. This evolution is filled with surprises different from what I thought love would mean during all the different parts of my life. It differs from what I’ve read in stories. It’s vastly different from what we see in movies.

But love is more present than I ever thought it would be. More so than sadness, anger or happiness, I’ve let my perception of love evolve — even if it’s different from what I expected.

Phase 1: Dependence
As a child, I loved my special bear and my sister in nearly the same way. It was a grabby love, a love based on dependence.

Love was a sort of selfishness intertwined with a fear of loss.

Phase 2: Self-conscious and Testing
As a young adult, my experience with love moved past the self-interest to a point. Relationships were often in the service of my ego — instead of love as an active kindness. Sometimes I would find myself incredibly jealous. Sometimes I would be preoccupied with counting up deeds. Sometimes I would only focus on appearances.

Relationships were about checking the right boxes: Does he look good on my arm? Will he make a decent living? Do my friends like him? Will I be alone forever?

And as obnoxious as that was, I needed to experience it to grow.

Phase 3: Learning the Language
Mistakes taught me that love is appreciated differently from person to person. There were people who loved a showy display of affection, but there were also those horrified by it. Some would rather I told them how much they meant to me, and others not so much.

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The way I saw, interpreted and showed love began to become less rigid. Not everyone was the same, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel the same.

Phase 4: Love with Intention
After marriage, love evolved from a feeling to an action. Daily acts of love replaced the idea of love as success. These acts of love became a part of the day.

Preparing a favorite meal, crafting a special letter and particularly zoning in on the things that made him happy — I did it all because it gives me joy to see him smile.

Phase 5: Sacrifice and Patience
My experience with love turned on its head when I had children. Love became something primal and protective. Love became paying attention. Love became sacrifice — financially and emotionally. Tap classes, birthday cakes and quality childcare are more important to me than seeing the latest movie or upgrading my technology.

It requires every ounce of self-discipline I have to set down my laptop when my children require my attention (and that’s OK!). Love is now setting aside the endless task list to be patient. Love requires a conscious disengagement from the noise of everyday living and a laser-focus on tending to my children’s needs.

Phase 6: Self Love
As I grow, I’m also starting to realize loving myself is an integral part of loving other people. When my daughters look at me, I need to love myself — so they can move past societal messages that we never do enough. By eating well, taking time for me through exercise and relaxing, they can see I value myself and my contributions to the world. My girls respect me more when they see me respect myself — and that all rolls up under the big love umbrella.

Through my life, I’ve seen love change form from dependence, to ego, to service, to attention, protection and sacrifice. I use kind words with my husband. I pay attention when my children need patience and protection. Modeling this new understanding of love helps our relationships be healthier.

This joyful sacrifice is what love becomes. I can’t wait to see what love’s next evolution will bring.



Helen has written about Internet culture and home entertaining at her eponymous site Helen Jane since 1998. Napa Valley-based, she is a certified specialist of wine and founder of Cheesewhizzes, a nationwide cheese-tasting club. She also captains her bocce team, Joanie Loves Bocce.

Read all the pieces of our ongoing series of Mom Confessionals.

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