The moment I hit Submit, I felt relief and satisfaction for sharing such a personal story with other moms. I was confident they would get it and support me. Boy, was I wrong. I was naive to think that moms show compassion for all moms because of our unspoken bond. I was not prepared for how I felt next. My body filled with heat, my jaw tightened, and my whole body tensed. I stared at the words, “Well, maybe you should have been watching your child better,” in shock.
We All Have Feelings
Earlier that day I posted on my neighborhood’s community Facebook page about how a lifeguard didn’t flinch when my 4-year-old daughter slipped off the steps and under the water because she could no longer stand and doesn’t know how to swim well. I had my back turned to her, as I was scanning the pool for my other daughter. It was only a few seconds, and I quickly pulled her up, but the lifeguard — who was sitting five feet away on her stand — never even looked our way. She didn’t so much as budge or acknowledge my daughter (who was coughing and sputtering water) with a, “Is everything OK over there?” As a former lifeguard, I was appalled and angry that she didn’t follow procedure. But those feelings were nothing compared to the mom who chewed me out on the Facebook thread.
I posted my experience as a way to inform other parents — learn from my mistake, be more aware of your surroundings, and don’t depend solely on the lifeguards. The feelings that were stirred within me, because of this situation, got me thinking about compassion for moms.
Whether the mom behind her computer screen agreed with how I handled the situation or not — it didn’t matter. What matters is how she treated me. What matters is how we treat all mothers. We’re worked up enough as it is, worrying over our children all day long; we don’t need someone making us feel worse. What we need is for people to empathize with us. There were others who commented with things like, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” and “That must have been scary — I’m glad your daughter is all right.” Those are the kinds of people we need in our circles — no, those are the kinds of people we need in the world.
The Golden Rule
My personal situation is just one blip in the atmosphere of moms bringing one another down. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it! At a young age, I learned from watching Disney’s Bambi, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Apparently, it’s not as common as I believed it to be. But I do believe, people can change and learn how to have compassion for all moms.
We need more empathy in our lives. Empathy is the ability to share feelings with another being. It’s not to say, yes, I agree with you, but rather to say, I understand you’re going through something, and I know how it feels to have a struggle. It doesn’t mean you necessarily understand their exact situation, but you understand the feelings they’re experiencing.
Actor, writer, video maker, and activist, Dylan Marron (best known for his podcast, Conversations With People Who Hate Me), says that “empathy is not endorsing.” We don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs or actions in order to be kind to them. He goes on to say that empathy is “acknowledging the humanity of someone who is raised to think very differently from me.”
Vanessa Nichols, a fellow mom and the voice behind the Being TransParent podcast, and an advocate for transgender youth wants people to breed empathy. She believes society doesn’t understand how empathy works. She says, “Empathy is a fine-tuned skill that every one of us must hone. It isn’t inherent. We have to work on it by opening our minds and our souls to the possibility that someone else’s experiences in life are real and they’re hard and they’re valid, even though we haven’t experienced them. Empathy is bred when we want to learn about issues that we don’t understand.” We must soften our hearts.
We’re All In This Together
When I posted my experience on Facebook, I wasn’t asking for other moms to agree with how I handled the situation, but rather for them to say, “Thank you for sharing.” I hope as we move forward in our motherhood journey, we learn to be better about slipping into another mother’s shoes — just for a moment — to imagine how she may be feeling. We’re all just trying to be seen, heard, and supported. If we want there to be a change, we must be the ones to show compassion for all moms.