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It was like every other networking function I’ve ever been to. With a glass of champagne in one hand and a spring roll in the other I was desperately trying to figure out a way to inhale them both simultaneously when the introduction was made to another guest. The small talk started. Then the questions came. They started innocently at first, “That’s a beautiful wedding ring. How long have you been married?” Then the expected follow up question, “Any kids on the horizon?” — to which I gave my standard answer “No, but we have a dog, she keeps us busy.” That’s when the bombshell hit. “Well you should really hurry up and think about that. You just don’t know what love is until you have kids.”
Excuse me? I don’t know what love is? I think I just choked on my champagne, spring roll smoothie.
Luckily I could make a quick escape before having to respond. But for the life of me that one comment stayed with me on replay for the taxi ride home and then for weeks longer than it should have. In fact, if my life was on YouTube there would have been hundred of autotune mashups of “U Don’t Knowz Wat Luv Iz” doing the rounds. (Yes, I’m sure they would have been catchy.)
As time progressed the comment stuck with me. At first I was insulted, then angry, then worried that she was right. Was the life I was leading just a warm up before the ‘real game’ of parenthood? Were all the meaningful relationships I had established across 30 years to become insignificant at the sight of a sonogram? But the most important question of all – was this lady for real?
Now before anyone starts typing furiously into the comments box or sending me emails, I must stress had the comment been “You don’t know what parenting is all about until you have kids,” I would have been completely fine with that. Hell, I would have high fived that. You see my whole experience in parenting is limited to providing fresh water, regular exercise, hugs and daily brushing to a Border Collie. I realise if I did this with kids they would probably be taken away by the authorities on me (although they would have the silkiest hair in the whole neighbourhood). You see, I agree that until you actually experience a major life event like having children, you can’t possibility comprehend the nuances of it. Same goes for getting married, travelling solo overseas, moving out of home or getting your first job. You can’t possibly understand these things until you’ve lived them.
But not knowing what love is until a bouncing baby comes along? Please.
Tell that to a devoted daughter who looks after her mother day in, day out, in palliative care. Tell that to the brother that cares for his intellectually disabled sister, helping her make her way in life. Or to the couple struggling to hold their marriage together while they wrestle with infertility. Tell that to the many happy couples who share tender moments as they plan their lives together. Or to those who have loved fiercely only to have their heart broken. These people know what love is.
We only have to look at the world around us to see love everywhere. Look at Mother Theresa. Or Oprah. Or the Dalai Lama. Each of them have changed the world in their own way through love without having families of their own. They knew love – sans kids.
Like it or loathe it, you want to know why ‘Love Actually’ grossed $250 Million worldwide? It’s because it embraced the idea that love comes in many forms – gay, straight, unrequited, platonic… even schoolyard puppy love got a look in. There was no rulebook or checklists about who you had to be to experience love. It was – in the words of Wet, Wet, Wet – all around.*
Now this article wasn’t to shoot down the messenger. I’m sure that this woman thought she was doing me a favour, trying to get me join the club of motherhood – something which she enjoys and obviously wants others to experience. And maybe I will one day. But to anyone in her position I’d ask you to think about your words carefully.
You see in the world we live in at the moment it seems there are far too many people willing to put limits on what others can feel. And love – if anything – should be the one thing that has no limits. It should be something celebrated and embraced no matter what form it comes in. Whether that love is between a mother and child, a spouse and their partner, a friend and a neighbour, or even a girl and her dog, the emotions they all feel are true and should be worn with pride. And no one should be allowed to take that away from you. Or in the words of Johnny Castle, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
Maybe there will come along a day when we feel another type of love, upon the birth of a child, or the blossoming of a relationship, but that will never mean that first love didn’t exist.
So when Valentine’s Day rolls around this year take time to count the many blessings of love you have in your life – in any which way they come to you. Loved, and be loved. And enjoy every minute.
And if I do end up having children one day – dogs make great babysitters, right?
* I realise I’ve referenced two Hugh Grant movies within one paragraph and I apologise.