Andy Cohen is teaching us something in honestly sharing the pain he’s endured coming out…as a parent. The online community has judged and shamed him for everything from putting a couple of small pillows in the crib, to posing for the cover of People (as a gay dad feeling blessed to have a family he didn’t dream of when he was young), to letting his dog near the infant (with him inches away, taking the picture). Not being face to face can limit our empathy, for sure – especially the affective, emotional part we feel when we absorb someone else’s grimace, wide-eyed shock, or furrowed brow as our comments land hard.
But it’s not just online, is it?
If you’re a parent, you’ve had these moments. It could be the look at the grocery store when your kid is begging for the &*%^ they put at the check-out (and how empathic is that product placement anyway…for the kid, much less the parent?). It’s also the standing 8am meeting all the “leaders” in your company are expected to attend, while the bus comes at 8:30. It’s even in the way we love to “send our love and kisses” to newborns but don’t stop to keep mom and dad company when that’s what they need most. There is just no TIME for that.
I know I felt it. It eventually brought me to my knees, a story I told on a TEDx stage that drew a standing ovation from some of the crowd. I wanted to come down and hug them. It was their story too.
Parents are big victims of our Empathy Deficit Disorder in so many ways. They’re judged and shamed. They’re sidelined in companies. Experts preach at parents to do this and that and NOT this and that or their kid won’t “be successful.” Sometimes the experts are esteemed “leaders” who don’t have or work with children but opine anyway! Parents are too often isolated without enough help or even companionship, in the midst of the most fearful thing they’ve ever done – putting their heart outside of their body and keeping it alive and well. And what do those babies have to receive from parents in order to survive..to be engaged as healthy, thriving humans as they grow? Empathy. Of course. Empathy is the juice that will help them thrive in relationships, to be human…to live. So, yes, it’s a vicious cycle, and parents are sucked dry in our society. Parents are in the eye of the storm of our EDD. It’s not any one person’s fault. It’s systemic.
All of us together can change this dynamic. We can calm the winds, build a fortress around parents, and give them all the supplies and TIME they need to love unconditionally. That’s the way we help children rather than judging, shaming, and isolating parents who are too depleted to give the kids what they need…kids who then grow up to pass on the empathy deficit later.
It’s not even a private matter. It’s hurting all of us, a lot. My reason for co-writing the book Empathy Deficit Disorder: Healing from Our Mix-Ups about Work, Home, and Sex was to stop this insanity. To turn the vicious cycle of fear and deficit into a virtuous cycle of empathy and abundance, with parents taking their rightful place in the heroes journey of humanity and children getting what they really need. And you know what? Everything else falls into place too. Companies will even be better off. Don’t believe it? Read the book. Challenge it. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
There is a better way within reach right now, if we choose.
Thanks to Kristina Cullis for sharing the article about Andy Cohen.
Photo credit: @bravoandy instagram