Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lessons in Empathy (My Nanny Diary)

Because I've had lots of experience taking care of children of all ages, I sometimes think that I shouldn't become impatient, tired, exasperated…because I know what to expect, to some extent, and I don’t have the responsibility of raising the kids from conception to age 18.  I do feel a very strong sense of responsibility being the adult in charge of such precious, dependent, lovable, vulnerable, and impressionable people.  I can’t think of many more important vocations than being a nurturing, loving parent and/or caregiver.       
I know that moms and dads often feel worn out, even knowing what to expect, but I think I tend to get in trouble by falling into thinking that because I'm taking care of the kids for a designated amount of time in a day, instead of being responsible for them 24/7 like their parents, that I somehow shouldn't experience any of the same negative emotions, challenges, and such when faced with the natural struggles that ensue with teething infants and tantrum-prone toddlers.  Upon closer examination, the notion is quite ridiculous that anyone would be able to endure such situations and circumstances at length without feeling the least bit worn out, tired, confused, exasperated, and/or stressed.   
It doesn't really make sense to think that any job will be without conflicts or crises.  There will always be trials and days that are more problematic than others.  Ultimately, I know that beating myself up for not being Mary Poppins isn't going to help the situation or make me more relaxed.  I do know that it’s utterly impossible to put everything I’ve read and learned about children over the years into practice every minute of every day, so at least I’ve gotten that particular lesson through my head and have removed it from my unwritten childcare goals. 
A really big problem is that I tend to discount the fact that, although we don't have children of our own, we do have an awful lot going on in our lives outside of work that requires a great deal of time, energy, work, and such that isn't necessarily part of other people's lives. 
We each have our own crosses, challenges, and difficulties in life, and saying ours are worse than someone else's instead of just being different (while likely trying in other ways) doesn't seem to be wise or very compassionate. We rarely, if ever, know all of the factors contributing to someone's suffering, so who are we to say ours is more significant or deeper? There is something to be said about being grateful for what we're given as well as for the things we don't have to deal with, but that can be done without making light of another person's pain, be it in mind, body, or spirit. 
Lord, help us be compassionate to all we meet.  We often have no idea of the crosses they are carrying, the attention, love, affection, understanding or the healing they are in need of.  Open our eyes and our hearts this Lent so we are aware of the suffering around us and are willing to let You work in and through us to alleviate it.  Amen.
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