So I landed into an interesting discussion on Twitter a couple of days ago on how parental unconditional love doesn’t really exist. To be honest, this wasn’t a huge revelation to me despite being a mother and being stupidly in love with my daughter. For me, it always seemed like an obvious and inevitable conclusion to reach: unconditional love doesn’t exist, and why would it? Why would we expect anyone to love us ‘no matter what?’ It seems like a pretty flawed concept. Like I mean, what if your kid is a psycho killer? What is your parent is abusive? There are so many disturbing situations I can think of where it just wouldn’t be right to love someone unconditionally no matter who that person is.
Yet, despite this, there is definitely a socially accepted expectation that parents should and do love their children unconditionally. And when parents turn their backs on their kids, we’re all scandalized by how unnatural this is. We all want to feel that those who love us will do so no matter what decisions we make in life. It makes us feel safe to know we can never lose the love and respect of our family members. So we live under a false notion that familial bonds can never be broken. But they can and do, all the time. Our relationships to our kids and parents may be much stronger than the bonds we have with others, but they are not immune. And maybe if we understood this, we would be more careful about how we nurture these relationships.
Instead, a lot of times, people simply use ‘unconditional love’ as a way of justifying toxic behaviours.
‘Yes, it’s true I can be cruel when I’m mad, but my mum will love me anyway and my husband should accept that this is who I am.’
There’s no rule that says your family will or can put up with you no matter how horrible you are.
On the other hand, there are parents who withdraw love as a power move in order to control the decisions of their children. This too, is very destructive and is actually quite common among Middle Eastern families.
‘If you do x, y or z, I’ll never forgive you and you’re not my daughter anymore.’
In fact, when these kinds of situations pop up, the notion of ‘unconditional love’ can make things worse. Some children may feel broken and disappointed because in their heads their parents should love them no matter what and so when a parent turns on them for marrying outside the circle, abandoning the faith etc. this can cause a lot of bitterness and pain.
I truly believe that most people have a red line and if their kid crosses this line, they would consider withdrawing love and support. For some people, that line might be something petty like their kid marrying someone they don’t like or something huge like murdering someone in cold blood, but everyone has one. We can debate where it’s ethical or unethical to draw these lines but I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where anyone, parents included, gives unconditional love. Nor do I feel it’s a good idea to teach children to expect or demand that kind of blind love. It's sort of like making a promise that you probably can't keep.
Food for thought in this week’s post! What do you all think, guys? Does anyone here feel they could give their kids unconditional love even in the worst circumstances?
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See you all next Tuesday!