“Mommy do you love me?” These words spill out of my oldest daughter’s mouth multiple times a day, yet each time she asks it catches me off guard. I typically respond with a“What do you think?” followed by a reminder of actions that may reflect my love and care for her. There are times that this is enough to prompt a “yes”with a smirk , yet other times she responds with a “no, I think you love my sister’s more.” Most of the time I go on to reassure her that I love her more than she could ever imagine, followed by a kiss on her forehead or a smile from across the room. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me. But there are some times that this same question breaks my heart, the times when it makes me feel like I am not doing enough to make my kids feel loved. It is in those times that I don’t feel like I have enough to offer and yet I feel like I have no more to give. The days that I feel spent, exhausted and overwhelmed are usually those days that “Mommy do you love me?”feels like a dagger in my heart.
Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that my children are and will always be my number one priority. From the moment I wake up, I am in mommy mode, to be honest it is hard not to be when you co-sleep with your 11 month old and she wakes the moment that you try to sneak out of bed. As soon as I am up I begin to tend to each of their needs, “who needs to go potty?” “what would you like for breakfast? Something to drink?” “Time to get dressed and do your hair?” Even on those days that I have to go to work, their needs always come first, they are dressed before I am, their lunches packed, breakfast handed out, their hair brushed. Mama is last on the list. As is customary in the Bordieri household, we are often running late, not from lack of trying but just because there is so much to do in order to get ready. There are times when it would be easier to have my husband drop off at daycare, but the tears and pleas from my girls is usually enough to get me to say “fine, I’ll drop you off.”
My husband often reminds me that they will be fine and that I shouldn’t give into them, but I can’t go on with my day knowing how upset they may be at drop off to daycare. I’ve had several drop offs when they are less than happy to have me go to work and boy is that dreadful. Perhaps its memories of my own childhood experiences that influence how I respond to them in the moment, but I remember how awful it felt to start my day on a bad note and how that made me feel throughout the day. I work hard to keep them happy and to demonstrate my love for them, though this doesn’t go on without a conversation about the need for mom to be on time and the need for them to be flexible from time to time. But I remind myself that they are still children (3 kids, 4yrs old and under) and sometimes their needs are irrational, but only for a time. Throughout the day both my husband and I make sure to point out ways they make us proud, highlight their areas of strengths and always tell them how much we love them. I make sure to keep true to my word and follow through when necessary. I do my best to be honest about when I am going to pick them up, even on days that I may be late (which often time makes them upset). But I want to be transparent with them and know that they can count on me. We make sure to feed them homemade healthy meals but offer them little treats for dessert when they do a good job eating. We love to explore as a family, museums, parks, playgrounds, zoos balanced with good old family dinners.
Anyone who knows these gals know they are loved, not just by me but by their family. So why the “Mommy do you love me?” Maybe because we all need the reassurance, maybe it’s because some people need to hear the words more often than others, maybe it’s because at the moment she is feeling a little jealous of others you may be spending time with or maybe it’s because she’s asking for more of your time in that moment. Whatever it may be, those words offer an opportunity to reassure our children that they are in fact love and open the discussion for how we can continue to show them that they are. For my daughter, love is as simple as taking a moment to pause in the morning and give her her morning hug without her having to prompt me, it’s a 5 minute snuggle on the couch without running around tending to everyone’s needs, it’s my time. I have spent so much of my time thinking about what I needed as a child to feel loved that I had automatically assumed that she wants the same. So next time she asks “Mommy do you love me?” maybe I’ll respond by saying, “Absolutely, but what can I do to show you how much?”