Got Empathy?

When I was pregnant, I had zero empathy for anyone except other pregnant women. My husband would complain that his back hurt or he was tired and I would look at him and shrug. So what? I’m pregnant, my back hurts, I can’t sleep, etcetera etcetera ad nauseam. My back pain and my lack of sleep is more important and bigger than anything you are experiencing. It was totally sanctimonious.

Now that I’m a parent of two, I’ve found that I now I have zero empathy for people who are aren’t parents of young children. I’ll overhear someone complain that they didn’t get much sleep…because of their dog…or a cold, and I’ll mentally shrug and say, so what? Or that they can’t get anything done because they are so busy…going to movies and shopping and rearranging their furniture, and I’ll mentally say, so what? It happens all the time when I’m around childless people at work.

And I feel like a terrible person.

My lack of sleep and the reason for it doesn’t make my tiredness any more special than theirs. Yes, I might not get a full night’s sleep for another six or nine months, but just because I’m tired doesn’t mean I can’t feel empathy for them. And yet somehow I feel like because I am the parent of an infant, my sleeplessness, my aching back, my wrinkles, my need for personal space, is more important. Like if there was a ranking system for tired people, pregnant women and new parents would rank in the top 1 and 2 positions, whereas others would trickle down to number 10.

And I know this gets better and someday I’ll be more empathetic, but for now I’m sitting on my high horse, with a cold having not slept through the night in more than three months, feeling very sorry for myself.

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