barcelona · ex-pat · fatherhood · mums · parenting · pregnancy

The empathy battle

Empathy
Empathy training starts early – helping whale lady with daily  chores

When you enter the parenting world, no-one warns you that you and your partner also automatically sign-up for the daily game of ‘who is more tired?’ Admittedly no-one really wants to be the winner of this particular game, but never-the-less each one of you constantly believes you are. You can almost hear the game show ding ding ding with each loading of the dishwasher, taking out of the bin, cooking of dinner etc, etc and as the scoreboard lights up each of the two players is certain they are the high scorer with the many hours of manual labour clocking up their individual scores.

A new twist on the game is when one of the players (in this case let’s say player number one) is handed the bonus card of ‘guess what, you’re pregnant!’ In my mind, and I am almost certain in most other people’s minds, this automatically makes the scoreboard utterly redundant as player number one is in a state of constant exhaustion by the sheer fact they are harbouring a tiny person within their belly who for nine months uses their body for shelter and food.

So, in the Pauperio household the current high scorer (AKA ME) has little sympathy when at the end of a long day slumped on the sofa player number two turns to me and says ‘you won’t believe how tired I am.’ My natural reaction (which I attempt to refrain from unleashing aloud to preserve the harmony) is ‘have you noticed that whale shaped individual increasingly waddling around the house with endless beads of sweat pouring from her face – well she actually would believe how tired you are and would swap with you any day.’ However, in recent weeks I have decided to take pity on clueless player number two, as I have come to the realisation that he cannot possibly understand what it feels like to carry an additional 10kg (yes, I really am that big) and continue with your daily tasks, particularly in the sweltering heat we are currently experiencing. So, with this new attitude I take it upon myself to suggest the seemingly wonderful idea of wearing a pregnancy belly to help empathise with the situation at hand. I do my research and even come across some amusing videos in a series called ‘Try Guys’ where a group of guys in a bid to get closer to their partners try to ‘walk a mile with pregnant women’s bellies, exploring motherhood’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tvegr-O9vI – funny stuff.

This spurs me on and I think to myself  what is there not to love about the idea of the pregnancy belly to help bring us closer together and let player number two relate to player number one in a way we never thought possible?

Boy was I wrong. Not only does player number two vehemently disagree with player number one’s idea, but he comes up with arguments against it which I believe to be backing up the very point I am making. Upon one of the many conversations around the pregnancy belly his response was ‘if you walked around with your eyes covered for a day would you get to feel what it is to be blind’ – uh, yes that’s exactly what I am talking about – case closed. Of course I am not so naive to believe this example or the pregnancy belly one allows you to feel exactly what it is like to be visually impaired or pregnant – but, as with any attempt to walk in someone else’s shoes without actually experiencing what they are going through like for like you don’t suddenly get to be that person but it gives you a small insight into the life they lead and  help understand what they experience, even if for a brief moment. It’s called empathy player number two, empathy.

After many heated debates on the matter, including back-up from my visiting sister-in-law, there was no convincing the soon-to-be father of two (tiredness scoreboard’s gonna go through the roof once baby number two is on the scene) and I had no choice but to surrender in the empathy battle.

However, this small defeat has not left me disheartened, as I have since re-thought the whole empathy pregnancy belly idea for two very good reasons. The first being – whilst the belly gives guys an idea of the additional weight we pregnant ladies carry around for nine months, it doesn’t even begin to cover the plethora of additional aches and pains that go alongside the magic of pregnancy. From back pain, pelvic pain, swollen ankles, swollen calves, swollen feet, swollen hands, need to pee all the time and I mean literally all the time  – it may not sound pretty (and let’s face it it’s not) but you feel the need to go whilst you are still going – how it that even possible??!! And don’t forget, this isn’t over a period of a few hours like the pregnancy belly would most likely be. We are talking all of the above taking place over a nine month period and steadily increasing in intensity until the big day.

Reason number two – MAN FLU. These two words alone say it all. Any woman who has experienced tending to their man when he has been struck down by this debilitating illness will know there is a reason why Mother Nature handed us our roles and who are we to mess with the laws of nature.  At the end of the day there is a darn good reason why women are the ones built to have babies, so in my new found wisdom I shut down the empathy pregnancy belly conversation and instead hope for the odd cup of empathy tea to keep me going – after all it’s thirsty work being the top scorer of the ‘who is more tired’ game…

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