This morning as I listened to a couple of women who called into a local radio station, I felt compelled to write about what I heard. I’ve changed the names to protect their identities.
Jessica, called the station to complain that her best friend, Kim, kept sending pictures and text messages of her child’s growth milestones to Jessica. This is upsetting Jessica, because she is has been trying to get pregnant, but has not been successful. Jessica thinks these messages from Kim are insensitive and uncaring.
A second caller, Amber, called the radio station to explain that she too has a similar experience to Jessica’s and she is also upset about it. Amber’s sister-in-law, Heather, is pregnant. Amber explained to the radio hosts that she is upset because Heather sends the fetal ultrasound images to her. Amber is also unable to have children. Amber handled the situation by writing what she called “a very nice letter” to Heather explaining that although she was happy for her, it was too painful for her to see the ultrasound images or go to the baby shower. She would however, send a gift. Not surprisingly, Heather responded by telling Amber she was being insensitive. Amber’s own mother also thinks Amber is being insensitive.
I was puzzled, but not surprised that the radio show hosts seemed to buy into the way Jessica and Amber saw the situations. They all seemed to agree that the family members and the friend were the ones who were being tactless or uncaring. I am not surprised, because it is not unusual for us to look outside ourselves for the cause of our discomfort when the real cause lies within us.
This is how I see it. Sometimes, life hands us circumstances that are disappointing and painful. I am sympathetic to Jessica and Amber’s heavy hearts, but there are obviously some boundary issues that need to be addressed. It is unreasonable and personally irresponsible for them to expect their friends or family members to repress their happiness and excitement over their life events just to make Jessica and Amber feel more comfortable.
Jessica’s friend, Kim, and Amber’s sister-in-law, Heather, were obviously excited and wanted to share their happiness with the people they felt close to. Instead of being gracious and supportive of their friend and sister-in-law, both Jessica and Amber made the choice to stand firm as victims and hold other people responsible for their personal happiness. Until Jessica and Amber decide to take responsibility for their own feelings, they are stuck in the victim role, waiting for other people to make them feel better. They are both missing some great opportunities to strengthen their emotional bonds with significant people in their lives and grow as women. Not to mention the rich relationships they could build with the children involved. Mothers are not only the women who give birth to babies, they are also the women in our lives who love, inspire and nurture us.
We strengthen our emotional muscles, not by insulating ourselves from the painful aspects of life, but by continuing to participate in life and taking responsibility for our own feelings. We do need to take time to grieve our losses and deal with disappointments. However, if our grief is causing us to drop out of life, expect others to tiptoe around us by suppressing their happiness so we will feel okay, then it might be time to seek the support of a kind and understanding therapist or counselor.