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Empathy vs. rudeness: Moms, don’t confuse them.

Toward the end of last week I met a nice lady while running errands. A mom of grown children herself, she congratulated me on baby two’s pending arrival and showed me pictures of her kids, describing their good qualities and reminiscing on “the good ol’ days” when they were little. She asked me what I was having, and when I told her “boy”, and that I have a 21 month old son as well, she said “wow, you have your hands full!” I agreed, with a slight smile, and after chatting a little more we parted ways.

I was slightly irritated, but I know why. It’s because lately, on Facebook and other social media outlets, some of the trending articles give whole lists of “things you should never say to a pregnant woman” and “things a mom of little kids won’t appreciate hearing”. Granted, there are a lot of insensitive things that people come up with; I’m not saying people are never rude. Weight comments, particularly, aren’t really in good taste at any time, not just pregnancy.

Sometimes, I think, we moms (and especially when pregnant) have a tendency to take offense at the slightest little remark (I blame it on the hormones, but you know…) and I think we need to take a break from immersing our minds in all the potential offensive things people might say in the grocery store and take honest stock of each situation as it comes.

  1. This woman obviously loves being a mom, and remembers the days when her children were little with fondness.
  2. When she made that comment, she was smiling. Her face was kind. Her eyes were genuinely sympathetic, because she remembers.
  3. She was not speaking flippantly, rudely, or sarcastically. She was being empathetic.

Now, I don’t appreciate weight comments any more than the next person, but really, how many of those do we actually hear on a regular basis? And guessing the gender? asking about twins? guessing the due date?…what is really offensive about all of that? Okay, maybe insensitive…and I’ll warrant that after a hard day some of those things do rub me the wrong way…but.

I think we need to acknowledge that even though the hormones are a whole level of crazy that just can’t be explained, we can still control them enough to know when a person is trying to be rude and when they’re trying to empathize, relate to us, or simply say something that speaks to our situation, and take the comments in the spirit they’re intended. Maybe they’ve forgotten what it feels like or don’t know what it feels like, but how many people honestly approach a conversation with a pregnant woman thinking “I should just make sure to tell her how miserable she is, because she obviously doesn’t know?”

Because the truth is, I do have my hands full. And I appreciate that a stranger took a moment to recognize where I’m at, show a little sympathy and support, and then send me on my merry, acknowledged, respected, and very busy way.

Oh, and p.s.: I did appreciate this article. Being a mom of a sensitive kid myself, I would encourage people to think a little extra when kids are around. I may be in control of how I receive comments, but it’s not reasonable to expect that same level of control from children.

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