My daughter loves me — of this I have no doubt. Rescuing her from her forced sleep, she wakes up utterly thrilled to see me each morning. I then sit with my little love on my favorite rocker as I slowly treasure each sip of my hot morning hazelnut coffee, and like a frat boy to his beer, she chugs down her thirst quenching morning milk with reckless abandon. In fact, if I was ranking my daughter’s great loves, both milk and the dog might beat out mom and dad.
Mornings are my favorite time of the day with her, as we both slowly transition our sleepy minds from night to the day ahead of us. As she tosses her empty sippy cup from her hand, she looks into my own love-filled eyes and then quickly averts her focus from me and scans the room. It is then I first notice it, that “Where’s Dada” look in her gleaming eyes.
I work part-time from home, so I have the joy of a very flexible work schedule and being my daughter’s main caregiver during traditional work hours. I am by no means her “primary caregiver.” No that role is still shared equally between my husband and myself. If I thought she missed her Dada in the morning during her most beautiful moments of the day, that doesn’t even pale in comparison to the remainder of our day together. Did I mention my daughter is a toddler? And therefore, as a toddler, my daughter has the mood swings of prepubescent tween without the verbal skills.
So when 5:00pm rolls around as we both wait staring out the window like panting puppies for our beloved, and my daughter squeals (literally) with excitement as her father pulls into the driveway, maybe my heart should be broken just a little bit… maybe.
After all, I was the one that remained calm as she grew hysterical for a myriad of unknown injustices bestowed upon her. I was the one that shuffled her around town to this play group and then that music class to try to ensure that she is socialized and has a meaningful day. I was the one that fed her three different lunches and had three different lunches thrown at me. Seriously child, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT SOME FOOD! And I was the one that had to intervene on behalf of her when her toys didn’t work properly and were apparently attacking her. So maybe just maybe it should hurt just a little that I didn’t get that same squeal of joy today.
Maybe. But you know what?! It really really doesn’t! And here’s why. If you think I have earned that love from her, it is nothing compared to what my husband has earned from her. This man… this man wakes up at 5 AM so he can be at work by 6 AM, so he can be home as close to 5 PM as possible to see his family. He may have missed out on all the tantrums of the day, but today he also missed the first time she said the word “doggie” and her adorable tiny toddler twerking during music class. This man swoops in and saves us each day, giving me a moment of reprieve, and bringing a whole new level of excitement to our daughter. Trust me, this man deserves every ounce of adoration, and then some.
But this story isn’t even about that. The thing is, it has nothing to do with how much my daughter loves me, her father, or for that matter, her milk and her “doggie.” Because our love for our children was never meant to be reciprocated equally. I feel joy from how much I love her, not necessarily how much she loves me back. This is saying a lot coming from me, for I am a very selfish person by nature. However, motherhood changes you a little bit in these ways.
Truth be told, I am so thankful that she leaves my arms and jumps straight into her father’s when he walks through that door. I love him, and I want him to feel that joy and bask in her attention. My feelings are not hurt. I am a mom. Moms are strong like that. I am just so thankful she has so much love in her heart… because she fills up mine completely.