Thursday, October 26, 2006

Motherhood Trumps Love

I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before – here or elsewhere – that I’m not a huge fan of romance stories that feature kids. At least not very young kids. I can buy into the divorced/widowed hero/heroine with older children, ones who are pretty much self-sufficient. But any romance that involves offspring who don’t carry a valid driver’s license are instant no-goes for me.

Because in my experience, motherhood always trumps love.

I watched a movie the other night – Beyond Borders, if you must know, and this post contains MAJOR SPOILERS – and as much as I really wanted the heroine (Angelina Jolie) to find happiness with her star crossed soul mate (Clive Owen, who, BTW, Oh. My. God!), I couldn’t let myself enjoy the story.

Because Angie baby had kids. She’d gotten married before she met Clive and she and her husband had a son. Later, after finally consummating her relationship with Clive, she has a daughter who we all can figure out is probably Clive’s child. Two kids. Neither one older than ten or eleven.

So when Angie learns that Clive has gone missing while do-gooding in Chechnya and determines to find him, I’m cringing. Because I know what might happen. And I know she knows what might happen but, blinded by love, is selfishly ignoring.

I’m cringing when she kisses her sleeping kiddies on the cheek and leaves them a “I’ll be home very soon” letter.

And I’m cringing when she’s getting shot at by Chechnyan guerillas.

And I’m nearly screaming in disgust when she steps on a landmine. I had predicted what could happen, and it did. She deluded herself into thinking it wouldn’t happen, but it did. Not to her. To her kids.

Because she has now left two small children without a mother. Half-orphans. And in my book, there’s no greater crime than abandoning kids that way. To intentionally put yourself in harm’s way, exposing yourself to possible death and knowing that you’d leave behind kids who still need you, is unforgivable. It’s selfishness, pure and simple.

I’m not a big fan of martyrs. And my heart just breaks when a mother has to choose between the well-being of her children and her own personal happiness (see Cast Away for the perfect example in Helen Hunt’s character). I find nothing more tragic than when a woman meets the man of her dreams after she’s already committed herself to a family. It’s so completely unfair that she would have to give up romantic fulfillment in order to take care of the kids she probably loves above anything else in the world. What an impossible choice. I felt for poor Anna Karenina. Until she threw herself under that train.

Too many kids don’t have loving mothers. I personally cannot imagine what my own growing up would have been like without my mother. In fact, at nearly middle-aged, I still think I’m too young to live without my mommy. The idea of my own kids growing up without me makes me kind of nauseous. Not that my husband isn’t fully qualified to raise kids on his own. I just hate the idea of my children having to cope with growing up without my love and support. Life is hard enough.

So I would never put myself in danger unless I felt it absolutely necessary to save their very lives or the life of another person. I certainly would never risk my life for my own happiness at the risk of their happiness.

As much as Angie loved Clive – and she did love him, deeply, passionately, completely – her running off and getting herself killed left me not with the feeling of how tragic her story was, but feeling horribly sorry for the son and daughter who now have no mother. Their pain even overshadowed the pain I felt for Clive, who watched the woman he loved die right in front of him. He’d made choices that put him in danger. Those kids were victims of their mother’s choices.

Yes, if she wouldn’t have gone to Chechnya, Clive would have died. And I would have cried for her loss. Instead I just feel resentment toward her on behalf of her kids.

Having kids means making sacrifices. Sometimes it’s tragic and sometimes it just sucks, but, hey, that’s the way it goes. Characters who ignore such a fact for selfish reasons - no matter how romantic or desperate - are unsympathetic to me. I simply cannot root for them to win, no matter how badly I wish they could make it all work.

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