parent opinion

'I love my kids too much. Who am I?'

This article was originally published on Laurel Pantin’s Substack Your Mom. You can sign up to the newsletter here.

This is coming more or less out of nowhere – but still, here it comes:

Years ago, in the midst of the #MeToo movement, I remember (and this still comes up) backlash around asking successful women who have kids “how do you do it?”. How do you balance it all, how do you juggle your family and your career and your pilates and your partner and your whathaveyou and how is it possible for a WOMAN to HAVE IT ALL? That was before I had kids myself, so I was like, Yeah! F**k the patriarchy, you’d never ask a MAN that question!

And yes, really everyone with a career and a family should be asked how they manage, but once I had kids of my own I really truly wanted to know how do you do it. I think I actually googled it, “How do you balance work and kids?”

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How do you pack in all the moving parts that make life worth living? How do you have satisfying work, a relationship with your children, a relationship with your partner, and not just wind up resenting everyone? It felt, and at times still feels, logistically impossible. And at that time, it really was the logistics I was mainly concerned with. I really needed someone to show me how I could make all of our lives work without feeling like I was getting a shitty deal.


But now, the how has changed. It’s becoming, “how do I do it and not lose myself in love?”

Because… I just f**king love them so much. And in all honesty, until kind of recently, I didn’t understand what that would feel like. I loved them when they were babies, but not like this. I loved them biologically, and now… it’s like my heart is a wave, crashing itself against the shore of them and one day it will break.

My love wants to cover them, smother them, like a blanket. It wants me to put my mouth all over theirs, to do blowfish kisses on their cheeks, nibble their padded upper arms. It makes me squeeze all four of their butt cheeks combined after a bath. Giving each cheek a little pinch. It wants me to cradle their tiny faces in my palms and speak in my most serious voice to make them understand how wonderful they are, how beautiful. How if something happened to them I would cease to exist, how mommy would die. How thoroughly they’ve changed me, and how even I don’t understand how big this feeling is.

When I talk to other moms, especially new moms, one of the things we talk about is how terrifying it is to value something so much. How untethered you feel and out of control, loving this thing that has a mind and will of its own and will one day leave you.


This isn’t something I write about often – mostly I write about and think about the urge to keep myself separate from them, and usually there’s a lot of b**ching and moaning – but lately, what I’m mostly thinking about is how much I want to hold them. 

And yes, I still have moments where I feel like I have to get away from them or I’ll explode, and I definitely still hold my identity as sacred. I still have resentments and pity parties when I feel overwhelmed. But mostly what I’m wondering now is how I can balance loving them with loving myself? Where I used to be afraid of losing myself in hurricane of how much they need me, now I’m scared I’m losing myself in my need for them.

People tell you your priorities change when you have kids, and I mostly imagined that would be a chore. Like, your desire to go out and be with your friends will be overwhelmed by a need to put this small human to bed and make sure they’re safe. But what it’s feeling like lately is that my desire to be a distinct person separate from my family is overwhelmed by my need to have my kids with me all the time. Or my need to go out and do things is overwhelmed by my desire to live in a cave with just my kids, my husband, and myself.

Image: Instagram


And I don’t recognise this person!

But still, how do you do it? How do you soak it in and not lose yourself? How do you have enough balance so you don’t wind up needy and repulsive to them the moment they hit puberty? 

I guess by maintaining distance, but distance is the last thing I want when my delicious three-year-old wants to sleep with her entire body pressed flat against my back, and when she tells me, “Mommy I’m falling in love with you,” the first thing when I wake up. 


Distance is nowhere on my mind when my son starts telling me what he learned about prehistoric whales and sharks that day, getting more and more animated and enthusiastic, his little star-shaped hands paddling in the air and his eyeballs bugging out of his perfect, sunkissed face. And I know these are the days that I’ll miss. These are the best years and it feels like a siren song – mommy, come off your boat (in this little fantasy my boat is my laptop) and come swimming with us. Come along mommy… and thus, sucked away from all the things that gave my life meaning before kids – or at least before they became so thrilling and wonderful. And then, only a handful of short years later – dropped by them.

So how. How do you not fall so deeply in love that you can’t recover when they inevitably leave? How do you hold on to yourself when the feeling of their skin is sunshine? How how how do you do it?

Laurel Pantin is an editor and writer based in Los Angeles who covers fashion, lifestyle, and culture. She has two newsletters Earl Earl, which covers shopping and fashion, and Your Mom, for her musings on parenting. You can also follow her on IG.

Feature Image: Instagram.

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