I was listening to a stand-up comedian recently and he made a joke about how when people are speaking to him, instead of listening he is really just waiting until it is his turn to talk. Everyone laughed because they recognized the truth of his statement. But, is it really funny?
It seems like listening has become a lost art. In this sped-up society we live in we expect instant gratification and we have forgotten how to slow down long enough to actually have a conversation. Instead, we text quickly, often typing abbreviations instead of complete sentences because we’re just “too busy”.
I think it also takes grace to truly listen to another person and to allow them to talk without thinking about what we want to say in response. And, sadly grace seems as rare as listening these days.
It can be argued that moms find this to be particularly true. Not only are we constantly trying to get our kids’ attention, but even when talking to other moms the results can be less than satisfying.
This was brought home to me recently when a young mom in my life had a traumatic birth experience. Afterwards, she desperately needed her friends. She needed them to listen and she needed to share her pain and disappointment.
Her friends did all dutifully come to visit. But, instead of allowing her to share, they tried to one-up her. They spoke on and on about their own birth experiences. The young mom never got the chance to talk. She never got to vent or receive the support she so desperately needed and so she gave up trying.
I had much the same experience even before the birth of my first child and I remember tearfully asking my doctor why all of the moms I knew insisted on telling me their horror stories instead of allowing me to enjoy my pregnancy. “Female macho,” he responded. “It’s women’s versions of war stories.” I didn’t really care what the reasoning was, I hated it.
I’ve never forgotten that period of my life and it has affected me to this day. Unless a young mommy explicitly asks for my advice, I keep quiet. Every birth is different and my stories have nothing to do with what another mom will experience. Sure, I have dramatic stories of my own. But, the time to share them is not when another person is going through the experience themselves.
And, let me just say this: besting someone’s pain is never helpful. Never.
My husband thinks people tell their own stories as a way to connect with what the other person is saying. But, I say, let’s try to find another way to connect. Like, maybe listening!
Of course, I’m not perfect and sometimes my brain is singing “Happy Birthday” while someone is speaking (especially if they’re trying to explain something technical). And, sometimes I want to shout, “Please stop talking so I can have a turn!” But, I am working on being a better listener.
I’d love to see moms start a revolution. A revolution where we stop trying to “one-up” each other and instead provide a listening ear. A place where we feel safe to share the truths about ourselves and know that we will be heard and validated.
That’s pretty much our mission here at All Mom Does and we hope you can feel that.