As Valentine's Day approaches, our hearts naturally turn towards the theme of love.
For many, this day is synonymous with romantic gestures, candlelit dinners, and exchanging tokens of affection.
And if you’re a parent reading this and are still managing to stare for hours into each other's eyes and do the grand gestures of love, then I salute you! But for many of us, the flurry of roses, chocolates and romantic weekends away have passed.
It’s not that I don't love my husband. On the contrary, our love has grown into something even stronger than the romance and passion of previous years.
But something strange happened to me around eight years ago, as I lay in bed looking at him while he slept.
I gazed at him and felt a sense of sadness that he would no longer be the number one thing in my life. I shed a tear that he could not be the person I devoted my attention to entirely. For into my life had entered something else, which had usurped his position...
My daughter, Amelie, had been born. I had become a mother.
And there in this tiny bundle of flesh lay a love so profound, so all-encompassing, that it transcended the boundaries of romance.
It's a love so elemental in its nature that it can only be described as a force. Where does it come from? How was it there right from the beginning?
The love experienced in the journey of parenthood is a love that forever alters the landscape of our hearts and souls.
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Becoming a parent is a transformational experience: it's a journey marked by sleepless nights, endless worries, and boundless joy. But perhaps what truly sets this journey apart is its ability to redefine our capacity for love and compassion.
Holding our baby in our arms, we experience a love so powerful, it can take our breath away. It's a love that knows no bounds, no conditions. It's the kind of love that makes us willing to sacrifice anything and everything for their well-being.
It's a love that teaches us the true meaning of selflessness.
A recent quote about motherhood, which resonated with me went something like: ‘Upon the realisation there are only four slices of pie between five people, a mother is someone who promptly announces she never did much care for pie.’
Simply put, a mother puts others' needs ahead of her own.
But parenthood doesn't just expand our capacity to love — it also deepens our well of compassion.
After having my first daughter, I felt like my powers of empathy had found a whole new gear. Not long after Amelie was born, I watched a Hugh Jackman film, called Prisoners, about the disappearance of a number of children and the lengths the parents went to in order to find them.
I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking about that film - such was the terror it had instilled. And the question lingered in my mind over just what wouldn't I do to get my own daughter back.
That film remains with me eight years on. And I have never brought myself to watch it again…
Along with a huge dose of fierce protectionism, we are also given the gift of witnessing the world through our child's eyes, helping us understand the beauty and transient nature of life. Watching how quickly they grow, and pass through phases marks time like nothing else.
We feel their pain as if it were our own, and we celebrate their triumphs with unbridled joy. Parenthood opens our hearts to a new found empathy, allowing us to connect with not only our children, but to others on a deeper level.
I am sure these emotions apply equally to fathers - that they have some kind of emotional epiphany upon the birth of a child. It's hard to imagine one could be left unchanged by a life event so monumental: it touches and supersedes every part of our lives.
Yet, amidst the chaos of parenting — the tantrums, the messes, the neverending demands, the playdates, the lost PE kit, constant requests for snacks, the ferrying to weekend clubs — it's easy to lose sight of the profound love that underpins it all.
That's why Valentine's Day serves as a poignant reminder — a reminder to pause, to reflect, and to celebrate the extraordinary love that fills our lives as parents.
It may feel easy to mourn the passing of the romantic love that was the very origin of the children we now love so dearly.
But instead let’s honour the love of parenthood—the love that shapes us, challenges us, and ultimately, transforms us. Let's cherish the moments of laughter and tears, the late-night cuddles, and the whispered words of encouragement.
Let’s hold our children close, breathing in the smell of their hair, and remind them - and ourselves - of the limitless love that we feel for them each and every day.
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As we celebrate love in all its forms this Valentine's Day, remember that the love of parenthood is perhaps the greatest gift of all — a gift that fills our lives with meaning, purpose, and an abundance of joy.
Happy Valentine's Day to all the parents out there. May your hearts be filled with love today and always.