I’m not sure what possesses people to criticize others, especially if they don’t know the full story. Speaking of stories, let me share a little story with you about a couple I know that just had a baby a few weeks ago.
The new mom is on maternity leave for 3 months. The dad took two weeks off to help the new mom. This is to be expected, in my opinion, and should hands down be something management in a company should allow. But then, he announces that, going forward, he would be working from home once a week, even after she goes back to work. Nice! Wish I could’ve arranged for either me or my husband to be able to work from home once a week like that after my maternity leave ended! I’m thinking this is great for them….and at the same time hoping that all three of them are okay–mom, dad and baby. Cuz you just never know. Having been in a position where I nearly wasn’t able to return to work, having a tremendously difficult time with my postpartum depression (which no one but a handful of people at work knew about), I have learned that you can’t assume everything is fine and dandy or peachy keen for the brand new parents and the baby. You don’t know if the mom is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder. You don’t know if they have adequate help. You don’t know if they are having a difficult time transitioning to parenthood. You don’t know if there were childbirth complications. You don’t know if there are health issues with the new mom and/or the new baby. You just don’t know, do you? Unless, if course, you find out what is truly going on, directly from the new mom and dad.
Well, as soon as he announced that he would be working from home once a week going forward, the negative comments started. Granted, I left out a minor detail earlier in that these two individuals happen to work at the same company. Well, regardless of whether these people work for the same manager, different manager, same company or different company, if they were able to secure an arrangement–whether it be short-term leave, long-term leave, flextime, working from home once a week– with their management and HR, then what’s the deal with all the complaining? First of all, who would complain and why would they complain? Let’s see…..the ones who were complaining don’t 1) know the extenuating circumstances of the new parents, and 2) have never been parents themselves. Two VERY GOOD reasons not to pass any judgement, if you ask me. In response to the criticisms I overheard, I pointed out that there may be issues that we don’t know about…after all, I had issues no one knew about and I nearly couldn’t return to work due to my postpartum depression. In the face of such a narrow-minded perspective of these individuals, I felt compelled to say something, and so I did. It didn’t end there. The response I got was “It doesn’t matter. They could’ve worked something out that didn’t involve his having to work from home once a week.” Well, again, we don’t know what their situation is, do we? So I responded “Well, they may not have any relatives that can help, and hiring help isn’t cheap. What else would you propose?” That was the end of that conversation.
People with no experience at being parents should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about parents, especially brand new parents. Just like people who’ve never been depressed before should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about those who’ve experienced it firsthand.
How hard would it be, I wonder, if people were to open up their minds and try to imagine themselves in the other person’s shoes. It’s called empathy, and I do it regularly. What about you? Is it too much to ask for a greater capacity to understand, and to rein back the impulse to shoot someone else down verbally? Seems to me that all too many people–from my own experiences throughout life–are more willing to do the latter. Why is that? Forget about overhauling the healthcare system. We need to overhaul people’s attitudes. As I’ve mentioned before, it all starts with parenting and leading and teaching our kids by example. Teachers also play a role. Speaking of teachers, all schools should be required to teach empathy in one way or another, through the activities kids are involved in. I’m proud to say that our school system does, and very happy that our daughter will derive that benefit!