Biologically, evolutionarily, psychologically, economically speaking, the very premise of something like unconditional love is impractical. It makes no sense for a person to give their entire lives to someone, to love them and be with them despite everything. In a relationship founded on pure unconditional love, you stay with that person and continue to love them no matter what happens. Even if this person hurts you, even if you’re giving way more to the relationship than they are, you love them and you stay with them. That’s insane.
There’s no better example of this bond than the one between a mother and her child. If you think about it, children are essentially parasites. First, they feed off of your body and wreck your internal system for nine months. Then, they leech off of you for the next 18 years, draining you of your money and time. Your life as a parent becomes inherently centered around “the children.”
“Oh, sorry, I won’t be able to go out tonight, the kids have a dance recital/soccer game/band concert.”
“Oh, I’ll definitely try to make it next weekend, but the kids want to make Halloween costumes this year.”
“Shoot, I can’t have coffee with you; I have to pick up the kids from school and take them to piano and karate and a class board meeting and…”
And there’s no guarantee that you’ll have a payout. It’s like the world’s worst government bond. Having children is a high-risk investment. There’s no guarantee that your children will turn around and pay you back when you’re old and in need of them. At the very least, there isn’t an immediate payout for all that you invest in a child.
Yes, we can argue that parents do get emotional payouts for watching their children grow, and they get happiness and that weird bubbly feeling of pride as they watch their kid succeed in life. That’s very valid, but that again speaks to this idea of unconditional love. It’s not their accomplishment, but they’re still so happy for their children. That’s love. Even when the child doesn’t succeed, even when they mess something up, a mother still loves her children. That’s unconditional love.
A parent isn’t getting some evolutionary, survivalist, or economic gain from sacrificing so much for their children. They aren’t helping themselves survive by giving up so much for their kids. But they do it anyway. They undertake the selfless act of raising a child, and it’s all driven by this unconditional love that says, “No matter what you do, I’ll always love you.” Love is an enigma by itself, but unconditional love is truly something else. It is beautiful. Think about how much a mother sacrifices for her child, without any logical or rational reason except for love. That is incredible. I had the privilege to witness this love just a few days ago, and when I stopped to appreciate what I was seeing, it truly moved me.
Last weekend was my senior prom. Now, my mother and I are not incredibly fashionable people. We don’t spend too much time fussing over hair and makeup and dresses. We get what we need to look decent enough, and then we move on. Besides, we have more important stuff to worry about, like careers and education and physical health and the next episode of Law and Order or The Office. But just one time, at my senior prom, we both decided that I would go through the whole nine yards to look as much like a princess as possible. As I sat getting the hair ripped off of my arms and legs and the tears stabbed out of my eyes by a makeup brush, as I tried on dress after dress, and twisted my ankle on heels too tall for me, my mom stood by me faithfully, fussing over me and making sure everything was perfect. She would come home after a full day of work, barely even able to keep walking, but she would still go out to brave the stores with me and help me get ready for prom night. Even when she wanted nothing more than to go home and finish up her work so she could relax for the night, she sacrificed all of her time for me, making sure that my dress fit properly, that my shoes wouldn’t crush my feet, that my hair wouldn’t fall out, or my makeup wasn’t a shade too dark. It wasn’t her prom. It wasn’t something that she had to do. But she did it all anyways. All because of that unconditional love. No matter what happened, she never lost patience. She stood by me through it all.
That’s a mother. That’s what they do, whether they have to or not. That’s amazing. That’s unconditional love.
That love is what keeps us alive. We know that psychologically, a child’s early years are critical to development, and a parent’s support and role in that development greatly influences the child. The nature vs. nurture debate has been going on forever, but there’s no question that both have a huge effect on children. A mother’s ability to nurture is what keeps a child alive and what assimilates them into life. Biologically, humans always nurture their young, but this isn’t always the case in nature. Skunk mothers, for example, devour their eggs if they think there are predators nearby, while harp seal mothers care for their babies for the first twelve days and then bolt outta there. For species like them, you could say the whole unconditional love thing doesn’t ring very true, because these animals are rational beings and do what it takes to keep themselves alive, even if it means giving up their young.
In humans, there is no rationale for our emotions. This bond of unconditional love, when formed well, lasts for a lifetime, even when the mom is done raising her child. It’s amazing how human mothers do what they do.
Unconditional love is truly a beautiful phenomenon. So, I say to my mom, I love you and I always will, and thank you for always loving me, too.