I am writing to you to share some vital information that has only become available to me in the last couple of years, since I became a parent.
Before that, I was subjected to the same saccharine clichés from parents that you are undoubtedly hearing over and over again. You’re probably being told, like I was, that you never really love until you become a parent. You’re probably hearing a lot about how no love can compare to the love a mother has for her child. Parents might be telling you that you’ll never ever EVER understand what real love feels like unless you become a parent yourself.
Well, now that I’ve crossed over from “nonparent” to “parent,” and with apologies to my fellow parents, I want to deliver this important message: You pretty much get it.
I always felt like the idea that mothers and fathers are the only people that get love was bullshit, but I never had standing to argue with any of them until my son was born. Now that I’ve been on both sides of the fence, I’m very happy to report that things are just as I’d assumed they would be. That love is love, wherever you’re standing.
The love a mother has for her child is unique, that much is true. It would be stupid to say it isn’t. But isn’t every kind of love unique? The love I have for my sisters is different than my love for my husband. The way I love my parents is not the same way I love my best friend. I don’t have any brothers or cats or parakeets, but I would guess that those relationships come with their own special flavors of love as well.
But you don’t hear parakeet owners running around telling non-parakeet owners that they will have no idea what real love feels like until they get a parakeet.
I loved plenty of people before my son was born and I don’t feel that that love has faded or diminished at all since I became a mom. My love for my family and friends is fierce and loyal and wild and real and I will seriously side-eye anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.
I’m hoping you feel the same way. And I hope you don’t really need me to tell you that the love you’re experiencing as a childfree person is real and significant and big. I hope you won’t let any of those rogue, self-righteous parents drag you into competing in the love Olympics.
The truth is, my being a mother doesn’t make me any better at or more capable of love than any other feeling person. My son is not some mythical creature that broke my stony heart wide open. He’s not this ray of light that magically gave my pathetic life meaning or transformed me into some amazing new person with extra overhead room in the cardiac area.
My kid is just another person in my life that I love. Like a sister, like a grandfather, like a best friend.
You know what that’s like. I know you do. Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t.
Aubrey Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Rumpus, Brain, Child Magazine and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter: @aubreyhirsch.