The older I get the more intrigued I become with where we derive knowledge and what shapes our view of the world. Apparently we are born with an innate predisposition to favor those who are similar to us (more on that later in this post).
Fortunately we also have the capacity to expand our thinking, as evidenced by the friendship of these two smiling women.
That’s me on the left. On the right, J, one of my best friends. We met nearly 25 years ago before we had any inkling that one of us (moi) wouldn’t be able to bear children.
Our friendship took a beating when our lives moved down different paths. Mine led me into a mind-numbingly confusing maze of infertility diagnoses, surgeries and treatment. Meanwhile, J skipped down a celebratory lane that involved decorating a nursery, meeting moms-to-be in Lamaze classes and well, you get the drift.
She tried mightily, as her family and her social circle grew, to include me in her life — offering to introduce me to new friends some of whom (she swore up and down) weren’t completely or only engrossed in all things mommy. I begged off preferring my non-mom tribe on the rare occasion, post treatment failure, that I felt like socializing at all.
There have been more than a few times when we’ve exasperated or inadvertently hurt each other, but each time we made an effort to explain our thinking, grow our acceptance, forgive and move on. Her children, young still, understand that Auntie Pam wanted children but couldn’t have them and, by the way, not all adults have children and that’s perfectly okay.
Sharing this knowledge not only prepares J’s children should they one day be diagnosed with a condition leading to infertility, they also possess, as I’ve seen from an early age, an openness and acceptance. They are less judgmental.
J has told me more than a few times about the lesson she’s learned observing my experience: the best thing she can do for her children is to socialize them to accept that not all families look alike, that not all adults are destined to become mothers or fathers. They are growing up with the understanding that women like me are happy — that satisfying, meaningful lives come in many packages.
It seems we can’t be taught too young. Research unfolding in a place called the “Baby Lab” at Yale makes this clear. Researchers studied babies as young as three to five months old and discovered they possess an inherent ability to understand nice and mean behavior. Further, psychology professor Paul Bloom recently told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that babies’ “innate morality” is focused on their families and those who are similar to them, but enlightened humans learn to “expand their moral circle.”
Watch the full segment here and share your thoughts.