Bonding With Love
by Celia Straus
"Motherhood is not a personal performance and a baby is not a personal project. We and our babies already possess the qualities of perfect Life, and we are together to enhance the unfoldment of each one's quality identity." Ann Tremaine Linthorst, Mothering As A Spiritual Journey
There are plenty of times when we find bonding to our daughters difficult. For whatever reason, there are communication barriers between us that we cannot seem to overcome. When these impasses happen, we can surmount them by responding with unconditional love, a concept that our daughters may understand better than we do
Almost every girl who visited my website and answered the question, "What is Unconditional Love?" gave a clear interpretation of what it means and said she believed unconditional love exists. Additionally, the girls understood that unconditional love is not the same as romantic love with its possessiveness, intensity, and often, transitory nature. Whatever their differences in religious practice, self-awareness, or perception of spirituality, from eight to eighteen, girls have faith in unconditional love and find their faith comforting. Adolescent girls want to be loved unconditionally and want to love back in the same way.
To love unconditionally, it helps to believe we are not personally in control of our lives or our daughters' lives, a Higher Loving Divinity is. If we remember this, even occasionally, a huge burden is lifted from our shoulders. We do not have to worry about whether or not we are good mothers or whether our daughters are good girls. We need not be anxious about how lovable we are or how lovable they are. We don't have to wonder how capable we are of loving them "enough" or if they love us "enough." When we love this way, our love is spontaneous and nonjudgmental, and we bond to each other.
However, there are plenty of times when we feel no love, conditional or unconditional. For instance, I am running late, find a parking place, put my turn signal on to indicate that that parking place is mine, but then someone slips their car in before I get to it. It's hard to feel love for that person. Or, when, after a long day, I come home to find that the dog got into the garbage which is now strewn all over the living room, it's hard, at that moment, to love the dog. Yet, much of the time we find great satisfaction and joy in loving and being loved conditionally in numerous ways we love people, places, things and ideas.
I feel romantic love for my husband; caring and compassionate love for my daughters, and my several closest women friends; devotional love for my parents, sister and her sons; loving kindness to my community; nostalgic love for places with special meaning for me like the beach and the mountains of Utah. When I am honest with myself, I know that I set conditions on these feelings and often use my controlling ways to try to experience them on demand. On the other hand, I feel grateful that I have so many parts to my life that I am able to love.
We also love activities, objects and ideas, and pass many of these loves on to our daughters, just as our mothers and grandmothers passed their loves on to us. When handed down from generation to generation, these loves may be transformed into passions, enthusiasms, simple pleasures, or rejected altogether, but they still originated as love. From my grandmother, Geneal, I inherited a love of opera, drama, gardening, all things having to do with the countries of Greece and India, occasional outrageous breeches of decorum and a deep and abiding belief in the magic of everyday life. From my grandmother, Lola, I inherited a love of baking, healing, children, practicality, and the western desert. And from my mother I inherited a love of hospitality, ritual, literature, travel, and I must confess, sweaters. Why not think about what you might share with your daughters in terms of activities, things or ideas that were passed down to you from the generations of women in your family and that you have incorporated into your own life as experiences you love.
However, our greatest challenge in parenting and also in life may be to go beyond loving conditionally to unconditional love. As little children, unconditional love is the only way we know how to relate to our world. We trust in the world and we live in the moment. We let love happen. We don't try to understand or identify our experiences, but instead simply trust in them. We love unconditionally because we were born loving unconditionally, and there hasn't been time yet to experience otherwise.
It is difficult to call up unconditional love on demand. As Celeste Snowber Schroeder writes in her book, In the Womb Of God, "Love requires not a one time of becoming, but an ongoing surrender into the womb of God." The idea of an "ongoing surrender" implies we must make time in our lives, time we can't preprogram, because when we surrender, we give up control. How frustrating. We are far too busy with all those roles we've assumed, some of which we treasure, like motherhood, to have much time for the sort of open-ended and spontaneous atmosphere required to experience an ongoing surrender into love. Who can sandwich in an hour for "the womb of God" if, directly after eight hours of work, not including travel time, we car pool from school to softball practice, pick up the cleaning, a prescription for head lice, and dinner, and then start the evening off trying to put together some sort of chicken, cheese and vegetable concoction and conduct a vocabulary drill in French at the same time. I'm guessing Deepak Chopra or Gary Zukav have never had a single day like that. But I know Celeste Snowber Schroeder has because she gave birth to twins; yet, she found time and so can we.
Yet the yearning of our inner self to love and be loved unconditionally is always present no matter what role we play, mother or daughter. When our daughters don't get unconditional love they blame themselves. Fear of rejection from conditional love of others makes them defensive, living life in a crouch. Whatever confusions, crisis or self-doubts our daughters experience, they can be transformed by unconditional and compassionate love. It is when we are simply lovingly present to our daughters without any assumptions about what we expect from ourselves or them that this transformation takes place. During these times we are not relating to our daughters to fill some need of our own or to demonstrate our ability as a good mother. We are surrendering to our love for her and her love for us.
Copyright 2002, Celia Straus