Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On feeling someone else's pain

I read a friend's blog about one of her reactions to the attack in Itamar being less empathetic, less emotional than she would have liked / expected, how she was unhappy with herself for not 'feeling' more (until she looked at the horrific graphic photos out there of the aftermath of the attack, which I have no intention to ever view ever).

Here's my reaction to that. I don't claim to be an expert on this whole mommy thing, but as most of you know I had a long time to prepare for this mommy thing in my own life, and a lot of years to watch others do it, and here's what I believe.

I think the reason it took literally thousands of years of human history for women to get the vote, etc, etc, is because a mother of children is BUSY. I don't just mean busy, like carpool and dinner and laundry. I mean mentally busy.

For example...
At any given minute, besides everything else in your brain, you know where each of your children is, how well they slept last night, what # dose of antibiotics they are up to, what they ate in the last 24 hours, what they are wearing today, etc, etc. The mother's brain is unique in its ability to keep all these details in RAM at once. The Mommy-brain-computer is running more background programs than a non-mother's, and there's a lot more in your Quick Launch / task bar / startup menu too.

And our brains only have so much RAM. (This too is why as we age, we lose chunks of our hard drive memory!)

So when something like this enters... yes a mother is capable of greater empathy due to her parenthood. But often a mother is not able to process the incoming data in the same way because she is currently parsing other queries.

(Now please, no rants about mothers who are lawyers, mothers who are clueless, non-mothers who are busy too, blah blah blah. I'm generalizing here, shush.)

Years ago, a computer tech at work was being dismissive of my ability to understand why he was making the changes he was making. He just kept saying that X, Y and Z on my computer were 'using resources.'

Like my friend, I too have been dissatisfied with my own lack of empathy with others who are suffering. But I think a lot of the issue is this motherhood thing uses resources, resources we didn't even know we had.

Another example, our Child Proximity and Velocity Meter and Response System. Israel spends billions developing incoming missile detect systems - but mothers automatically process where their child is, the physics involved in their motion and likelihood to fall, and when our child does start to fall, how many times do we end up catching them just in time? Sure, not every time - but realize how many times we DO catch them... Wow. And that's just one program running all the time.

Don't even get me started on the Progeny Bladder Fullness program.

So mothers of the world who feel like you aren't feeling the pain of the Fogels of Itamar 'enough,' or Japan 'enough' or anything else: don't be so hard on yourself. Compassion and empathy are important traits for people, women, Jews, mothers, yes. You should work to develop them. But heaven forbid you feel guilty for a perceived lack of them.



Zayde said...

Just so. Beautifully put, and spot on.

As always, I totally admire your eloquence and the depth of your insights.


(...and your Progeny Bladder Fullness program was just officially endorsed by the Panamerican Enuretic Ensemble. Congrats!)

brenda said...

Gotta love the Zayde comments!
And of course the mommy mind/computer comparisons are HILARIOUS...maybe you should consider a third or fourth career in stand-up.
Oh wait....
Thanks for this perspective.

Brie said...

yes I think you have some new material for your next gig!

Dvarya said...

Miriam --
I had to break my tradition of not posting to say "hear 'ya sista"
It's about time someone said it.

Keep the gems coming.