This article originally appeared on Role Reboot.
It’s exhausting to feel so much for and through another person.
After rejecting a series of “loveys” meant to help her sleep better, my 16-month-old daughter, Benna, has finally chosen a stuffed animal worthy of her affection: a small Elmo toy that betrays our family’s somewhat lax attitude toward screen time.
It’s adorable to see Benna give Elmo chaste, closed-mouth kisses on his furry, red nose, or carry him around by his googly eyes, or hoist him high in the air from her stroller, letting him catch the breeze on our daily walks. But Benna’s love for Elmo is complicated. Sometimes, love is flinging Elmo through the air, watching him land in awkward poses on our stone floor. Sometimes, love is feeding Elmo the lunch she barely touched. And sometimes, love is smiling profusely at Elmo while emphatically batting him away, even kicking him under the couch, out of reach. It’s almost as if Benna can’t quite handle how much she loves Elmo. The love is too big, too unwieldy, a beach ball in her arms that obscures her vision and makes movement in any direction impossible. Sometimes, she has to put him down. She has to look away.
I get it. Sometimes my love for her feels that way, too.
Jamila Rizvi on returning to work as a new mum:
Parenthood comes with plenty of boredom, dirty jobs, eclipsed identities, and sleep deprivation, and as if being told that good mothers are silent on these matters isn’t enough, our love for our children—the very thing that’s supposed to temper the difficulty of raising them in a society that provides too little support—can be downright crushing, too.
Whenever I share a photo of my daughter in a moment of gleeful discovery—petting a friendly cat, fingering a dandelion in a spring that took light years to come—well-meaning people comment about the joy of seeing the world through my child’s eyes. So innocent, they say, so sweet. And while these moments are indeed lovely reprieves in an otherwise everything-half-done life, they are not the only characterizations of seeing things through Benna’s eyes. There are also moments when I tap into the confusion, frustration, and fear that the world—and consequently, her dad and I—evoke from her, and in those moments of expanded empathy driven by my love, sometimes I can barely breathe.