I remember bristling at this pity, because this person didn't know if we’d wanted children or not (unless my face or voice showed the sadness that was still so close to the surface), and I resented the assumption that not having children should make me the object of pity. I’ve always felt confused by my reaction to what essentially was a kind reaction, and by my distaste for any suggestion of pity from anyone, whilst at the same time fervently wishing people could be more sensitive, and try to understand what it is like for us in this child-focused world.
Recently, on a comment on another post, IrisD articulated why I felt this way, saying
“ … it is as though they are telling me I can’t be happy.”
She hit the nail on the head – thanks Iris! I want to be happy, and unhappy, to feel the way I feel, to be heard, and acknowledged. That’s empathy. Empathy listens; pity does not. It assumes, and in doing so, isolates, condescends, and shames.