Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Empathetic Heart

Have you ever had someone criticize your parenting or your children’s behavior? Has it ever been you who was critical? I know that, before I had children, it was easy to look at other mothers and feel certain I could do a better job. I mean, how hard could it possibly be to comb a toddler’s hair or dress her nicely before showing up to church or the grocery store? What’s so difficult about teaching children manners and obedience? Now, four children later, I can only laugh at my naivetĂ©. I had no idea!

I truly believe that unless you’ve been a full-time mother, it’s just not possible to really know how physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting and difficult the job can be. I can only say, motherhood teaches empathy. I used to feel disdain for a mother whose two-year-old was screaming down the isles of Wal-Mart; now I am simply grateful that toddler isn’t mine! I flash an understanding smile as I recall our last grocery store visit with two children whining by my side and a baby screaming in the cart.

I recently had the luxury of visiting Wal-Mart without any children--an amazing experience! I felt as free as a bird. Gliding through the front doors I ran into my son’s former soccer coach trying to push a loaded cart out to her van while balancing a small child on top, holding an extra gallon of milk with her “free” hand, and keeping an eye on the two older children by her side. It was wonderful to be able to help. I moved the milk jug to the bottom shelf of the cart and pushed the entire load across the parking lot, explaining the whole way there that I totally understood how she felt. (The milk still wobbled off when I hit a bump, but at least I was there to retrieve it). My friend seemed very grateful, explaining that she was watching extra children that day and trying to get ready for a party as well as do the regular grocery shopping. As I hurried after the runaway gallon I realized that if I hadn't had children, I probably wouldn't have been so eager to jump in and help someone I didn't know well, but since I had been in a similar situation multiple times before, I immediately knew her needs and was able to help without reservation.

I'm so thankful for the empathy I am developing from finding myself all too often in less-than-desirable situations with my children. I have often had the thought run through my mind, "I hope those people know I usually look better than this, or my children usually look better than this, or we usually have things together better than this," but motherhood is forcing me to realize that 1) it doesn't matter what others think; 2) no one has it all together all the time, leastwise mothers; and 3) gaining an empathetic heart is a wonderful blessing because I can see other women struggle at times with all they are managing, and I can feel love and understanding for them--something I may not have done before.

I guess that's just one more thing to thank my children for.


Becky said...

Yes, being in the throws of motherhood makes you want to help other through it. I love reading your cute blog!

Taffy and Tony said...

Right on! It's amazing how much more understanding I have now for other mothers and their children. I remember when Connor was little, and we were driving through SLC. I saw a homeless guy and instead of thinking, "What a bum. Go get a job", like I used to, I thought, "He used to be some mom's little boy. How sad."

Randall McNeely said...


Great post. It's early in the morning here so my sweetheart is still sleeping. I can't wait to tell her about your site when she wakes up.

I really appreciated this article. There have been many times when, as I've tried to give my wife some relief, I've gotten up and held, rocked, and sang to my two or five year old, and sometimes even the older children. Often, as I'm holding them, a wonderful feeling of love enters my heart and I can't help but think to myself, "No one, who hasn't been here, can understand the feelings I have in my heart right now."

I love your blog!