What parenting taught me about empathy

Before I became a parent, I would roll my eyes at the parents with the screaming toddler on the subway.

Before I became a parent, I didn’t understand how stress and anger could drive someone to hurt a child.

Before I became a parent, I was appalled by stories of children forgotten in sweltering cars.

Before I became a parent, I thought I would be better.

Then I became a parent.

I’ve been on the subway while my child had a complete meltdown and felt the shame of hundreds of judging eyes.

I have been exhausted and frustrated with my child and have needed to remove myself from him lest I do something I would regret.

In my harried state I can easily forget an essential item, I am no better than any other parent who has made the devastating mistake of leaving a child behind.

To be clear, this isn’t about making excuses for bad parenting, and if a child is truly in danger, I support whatever is necessary to ensure his or her safety. However I also think our society does little to help the most vulnerable parents and instead of outright condemning them, a little empathy could go a long way.

Imagine you are a young, single mother with your closest relative 100 miles away. You are all alone with a screaming infant and you need to be up in two hours to go to work. Keep in mind that you haven’t had a good night’s rest in months and you are worried about the piling monthly expenses. I know I have snapped under much less pressure, and I have more support than most mothers.

Whether you or a parent or not, but especially if you are not, think before you make a snide comment when you see kids on an airplane, don’t troll the comment sections of stories of tragic accidents and lend a hand to parents who could use some help. If you are a parent, remember it only takes one moment of weakness, so seek help if you need it and don’t beat yourself up over it, there are enough people to do that for you.

Raising a child shouldn’t have to be a lonely endeavor and I often wonder when this so – called village will materialize. Until then, let’s do our best to support fellow parents bring up responsible, caring, well – adjusted children.

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