I watched her from across the small room . . . she was playing Tic-Tac-Toe with her son on the chalkboard wall while simultaneously grabbing his little sister a snack from her bulging bag. A bag that contained the usual mama’s arsenal: enough snacks to feed a small army, various types and sizes of sippy cups, a package of wipes, and just the right number of toys to keep her littles entertained for the half-hour they would be confined to this small space.
The oldest sibling, a little girl of about five, was down below on the tennis courts with my daughter. I watched them through the glass.
“This is so nice,” the other mom said to me, “that we can watch them. At dance, they just close the door, and we sit outside the room and wait.”
She also has her daughter in dance, I thought to myself.
This was my daughter’s first-ever extracurricular activity, and it showed. We had never signed her up for ballet or soccer or summer t-ball. I have yet to sit on the sidelines at a game or in the audience at a recital. Our jobs, along with the fact we live out in the country, make the logistics of these types of activities difficult.
I wasn’t carrying a bag full of things my kids might need or want, and I rarely do. Rather, I had made sure I was equipped with everything necessary to handle an unexpected call from work if someone needed me: my laptop, my phone, and a hotspot. The reality is, I’m always on for work . . . even if it’s on vibrate.
As I opened my phone to respond to a few e-mails, I felt it creeping up. Envy.
Envy at her engagement. At her ability to be fully present. The fact she had the time and freedom to get her daughter involved in more than one activity. And probably long before she was 4½ years old.
I was jealous of this other woman.
But she’s not the only one.
There are lots of other women aren’t there? Other women to compare ourselves to.
I see my mama friends whose kids are a little bit older than mine and envy their easier motherhood that doesn’t involve wiping booties, wiping noses, making bottles, buckling car seats, and all of the other tiresome tasks of being a mama to littles.
I see my friends who are married but don’t yet have babies, enjoying frequent date nights with their hubbies, spontaneous weekend getaways, and even romantic, week-long vacations. Really, just daily life that doesn’t revolve around naps, snacks, and potty breaks.
I see my single girlfriends—at least I think I do. I see their feeds on social media filled with adventure and freedom and budding careers. And I’m envious. Envious the only traveling I do anymore is out-of-state to visit family, and that a great adventure is sneaking off to a yoga class by myself. And my career . . . well, that’s hanging on by a thread.
Around every corner, I can find it if I want to—this thing called envy.
As we left tennis and walked out to our car, I noticed this mama loading her three littles into a new Lexus SUV. Of course, I thought as my daughter climbed into the back of our 2014 Ford Fusion running on well over 100k miles.
Two days later, back in our little parent’s observatory room, this mama caught my eye and said, “Are you signing up for the next round in January?”
“I’m not sure,” I told her, “it depends on the day and time, and if it falls when my other daughter is in daycare.”
“Yeah,” she responded with a hint of hesitation. “I am so jealous of you . . . sipping your Starbucks and getting stuff done on your computer.”
What? She’s jealous of me?! This barely hanging on, over-stressed, pulled in a million different directions, hot mess express of a mama?
But of course she is. Because I have something she doesn’t. My toddler is in daycare while I get to go to tennis with my older daughter and enjoy a coffee and a little quiet (even if work is calling). This life I live is foreign to her. Of course it looks intriguing.
The thing is, it’s easy to want what someone else has when we only see the good in it and not the hard. It’s easy to glamorize a life you’re not living.
That mama friend who has older kiddos or even kids who are grown and gone . . . she’d probably give anything in the world to rock her babies to sleep one last time.
Those friends who I see dating their husbands regularly and enjoying girl’s weekends on a whim . . . they might be silently suffering through infertility and praying for the next test to be positive.
And my single girlfriends who are chasing down dreams and climbing that career ladder . . . maybe they feel a huge hole in their lives where they thought a family would be and struggle daily with not knowing what the future holds.
You see, there are lots of other women in my life. Other women I could be envious of. Or I could stop and realize that I’m someone else’s other woman, and this life I’m living . . . it’s pretty darn great.
Previously published on the author’s blog