Empathy and sympathy

There was a time in my life I looked at mothers with annoyance and scorn. I can admit that because I’m making up for it right now. Back then, I didn’t realize how hard it is to raise a child. Oh my God, is it hard. I could never figure out why these Mamas and Dads looked so worn down and unhappy. Wasn’t parenthood supposed to be joyful?

It was easy for me to say in a conspiratorial whisper, “why can’t she control her child? Does he have to touch everything on the table? For the love……… ” I didn’t realize that sometimes you can’t control them. Sometimes you don’t have the energy. Sometimes you have to decide between finishing your dinner and pulling the salt shaker from your toddler’s hand. It’s lose lose proposition.

Then other times, you let your child play with jello for the entirety of dinner out and then take him to Walmart looking like this:

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Now I’ve learned what those looks on parents’ their faces really means. It’s not unhappiness or ungratefulness . It’s the look of exhaustion. Parents are tired. It’s the look of reconciling your life before these little people took over and your life since their birth. It’s the look of surrender — of the reality that your life isn’t yours anymore, and that it revolves around demanding, exhausting, confusing, energy-filled beautiful bundles of joy.

I can relate to parents of young children so much more now because I’m one I them. I get the joys an pains that go hand in tiny hand with toddlerhood. I can imagine, too, how hard it is to raise more than one, to balance the needs of a toddler and a baby and to keep your sanity too. You can pick two, and sanity always loses.

When another mother says to me, “I’m tired,” I get it. It’s not the tired of staying up a little too late catching up on reality TV, or finishing off a bottle of wine with her friends. It’s the tired of not having a choice in the matter — of being on call, available any time of day or night to help her child.

It’s so difficult and after one day is over, it starts all over again. We are all doing the best we can. It may not appear that way to others, but if you’ve ever been a parent of little people, it’s easy to understand. It’s time to look at other moms with empathy and sympathy, a kind word and a caring smile. You know what? There’s an epidemic of “not good enough-itis” going around these days and it’s not necessary. You? Me? We’re all doing the best we can, and the best is perfect ….even when it doesn’t feel that way. YOU are enough for your child. Please do not EVER forget that.

Next time you see a harried mother trying to corral her child, tell her she’s doing a great job. It will go a long way.

iPhone Photo Phun

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38 comments to Empathy and sympathy

  • So true! I always try to be nice and give the mom the look that I totally understand what they are going through…I do not judge them b/c we have all had our days!

  • With my first 2, they were really easy. With my 3rd (and only girl), totally different ballgame. I’ve been that Mom in the grocery store with a screaming 2 year old. Watching all the eyes on me… I simply look at my daughter and say, “You see? Alllll these people are watching you. So go ahead, scream your head off.” And she does…

    Wonderfully written post! Definitely cheer on another mom when you see her having a rough time!

  • These things we never understand until we have our own kids. It is hard. And tiring. But the best part is the love we get from the small ones.

  • Welcome to the club! Really.
    And oh boy every child is different, I thought I did pretty well with the first two, with my degree in education and everything.
    Number three is demolishing me!
    She does all the things I thought well brought up kids wouldn’t do.

  • I know EXACTLY what you mean. I hope I’m not judged too much when I’m walking through the store with my somewhat dirty kid, in my pajamas, trying to push the cart and balance him while he tries to climb out of the cart and onto me.

  • This is so true. I try so hard to give a reassuring glance or throw a friendly smile their way because I know how they feel. It’s hard.

  • Look at his little legs. OMIGAH.

    Believe it or not that tedious, tiring day to day stuff does lessen a bit. Granted it turns more into a tiresome worry, so you just transfer from one sort of exhaustion to another…

  • I love every bit of this post. We went to lunch with childless couple friends once, and I’m sure by the time we were done we provided tons of birth control for them. First, we had to choose a restaurant with a playscape (not fast food, but there are several cool places around here with play grounds). That was my only requirement since it was Sunday at lunch time. Second, I was sitting in between the twins, with Rachel pulling on my shirt and practically flashing the restaurant, and Claire opening all of the jelly packets and smearing them all over herself, her snack cup, and her milk cup. Did I care? No. She was being quiet.

    What I love is the moms who get it. Last night at the mall a women commented on how cute my youngest is, when I realized I was totally blocking her way in the aisle. When I apologized, she said, “Oh, it’s okay. I have 3 kids too. You just gotta roll with the punches.” THAT is how it should be.

  • Oh gosh don’t I know it. Nothing I’ve ever done is conventional. I leave well enough alone. The day I realized I was pregnant with Justin I was home with Natalie at age 15 months during Christmas break. She was the hardest baby on the planet. I had just fed her lunch when I had a tinge of nausea. I scooped her up in nothing but a diaper and a t-shirt and drove to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test with a half-naked kid with peas still dried on her face. I still remember the looks I got, but none of them knew what I was encountering. You do what you gotta do to get through the day.

  • Love love love love love this post. Also? Love it.

  • Ahh, I so feel you on this post. Little ones ARE a lot of work. I’ve totally turned on the TV, let Kinley eat cookies, etc. – things that had I not be a parent myself, might frown upon for kids. You do what you feel you need to do to get through the day and to feel sane. Somedays I long for the days of being tired from wine, but then I recall all the parental tiredness is worth it when she learns something new. It’s always an adventure to say the least!

  • Nickie Doria

    My husband sometimes asks me if I am tired. Sometimes he will ask to find out if I am ready to call it a night and go to bed. Other times he will ask before starting a movie to find out if I will make it to the end. Then, he laughs and says, ‘oh yea,’ as I say, “don’t you remember? I am always tired. I have been tired since Dylan was born (three years ago.)” LOL Lately, I have really been trying to remember what it was like not to be tired-to have the freedom to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted after sleeping in until 11 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday (or both.) Wouldn’t trade my life today for the world though…and now I am about to have another little one. hahaha I guess I will sleep when I die. :)

    • Amanda

      Nickie, sometimes I wonder the same thing! What’s it like feeling not tired? It’s not even the kind of tired that you feel like you can ever catch up from….like I could sleep for 3 years and still feel tired!!

  • Ohmygoodness yes, this.

    Exactly this.

    (you’re doing great! #truth)

  • Adie

    I have been a mom for half of my life – and have 3 kids spanning from 16 – 3. I am exhausted and often times short tempered and get a lot of looks of judgement. Each look reminds me of everytime a friend or family member has had their first child and they felt compelled to tell me how sorry they were for judging me for this or that. Being a parent is no joke!

  • I find myself being “that mom” that I use to grumble at! You’re right, sometimes you got to pick your battles and sometimes it’s easier to let him tantrum for a minute and then it’ll be over.

  • No joke:

    My kids are now almost 13 and almost 15. And the other day I was thinking to myself that for almost FIFTEEN YEARS IN A ROW, I’ve been responsible for at least one other person. Every single day. On a “life or death” level.

    Every meal, every milestone, everything.
    Almost every single day. Because I have left them once or twice.

    But the rest of the time? Holy cow. I still pack their lunches. And do all their laundry. And help with homework. And listen to their joys and fear.

    Every. Single. Day. For fifteen years and counting.

    If people *really* understood this when they gave birth, they’d probably not voluntarily take it on.

    But now, you know. And yeah. It’s the hardest and best thing ever.
    And counting.

  • Yes, let’s all agree that the little people are lunatics and we need to support each other as much as possible. :) Ellen

  • Amen to that sistah! I was so exhausted the other day that I actually said to my husband when he got home, “I`m so over Mothering right now“. And then I had a beer.

  • Oh my God – Amanda, I loved this: “It’s the tired of not having a choice in the matter.” You SO described what it means to be a parent but through the eyes of a person who used to not understand, and now she does…I think we all go through that transition. I could so relate to all of this, esp. the jello-covered baby in Walmart. (-: I say a dirty child is a happy one.

  • Hahha…I TRY not to judge, cuz I know it’ll totally come back around to me if I ever have kids..

  • Wow! Such a wonderful insights into motherhood. We haven’t yet have children, but I do hope that I’m ready for all of these when they day comes…

  • Well said. We are all just doing the best we can at any given moment. And learning as we go along.

  • So true. You ARE enough for your child. I think jello on a shirt is something every baby should try at least once.

  • Well said! I love your final message most of all, but the phrase “it’s the look of surrender” is a close second! :)

  • I needed to hear this today.

    Badly.

    Thanks, girl, for being real! Love that about you!

  • So much not good enough happening. And it sucks!
    There are so many things that aren’t important in parenting that other people judge.

    I don’t like saying I am tired unless I really am tired. I want to pinpoint whatever it is I’m feeling both for self-awareness and as an example to my girls in identifying feelings. But I am a few years away from parenting infants and have more time to myself. Those early days are stinking hard, you barely know which way is up.

    I bet he loved that jello mess he made.

  • You’re so right! We all do our best. Our best is great.

  • Kristin
    Twitter:

    Yes! And don’t be offended if all she can do it stare blankly back at you. She’s really trying to say, “Good morning to you, too!” It’s just not coming out.

  • So true! Loved the Jello pic…well written!

  • Our kids are teens and I’m still tired. :(

  • Oh yes, I see this every day. I work with toddlers and their parents. I don’t know how people function on a daily basis with that level of exhaustion. As the saying goes, “Bless your heart” :)

  • You just have no idea what parenting is like until you do it. How it really is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And sometimes you don’t love it.

  • so sweet and true.

    and just think of the happy memories of uninterrupted jello time your kid now has!

  • [...] to an adorable little man. I love to read about her as a mother because she’s real and she never sugar coats it. A fantastic example of this is her post here today. Welcome, Amanda! I remember the day I found [...]

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