Fresh off of P-90X Yoga (my second of the year), I called a fellow mommy, who we shall call “J”, to interview her for an article I am writing/hoping to be published.
We chatted and talked about the differences in our weddings. I had gotten married at 5 months pregnant, while she had waited until her son was about six months old to take the walk down the aisle. We laughed about the unromantic parts of weddings as a pregnant and/or post-partum bride–me with my pregnant belly emerging out of the bathroom before I did in my wedding night lingerie, her pumping when they got back to the hotel room after the reception.
The conversation was going well. I knew J. had recently returned to work part-time and enrolled her son in daycare, so I asked how that was going.
“Great,” she replied. “He loves daycare, and I’m doing eight hour days again, but since he’s happy, I’m happy.”
The green-eyed monster started to rear its ugly head within me. So she was working full-time, huh? Happily? Why can’t I do that? Maybe my kids hate being home with me…wouldn’t it be nice to actually have money left over on payday? Or money to put in savings? Why do I stay home again?
I ignored my voices and started the interview questions, asking how she had felt post-baby with the pressure of fitting into her wedding gown.
“I definitely lost a lot of weight right away,” she said. “You know how that goes, especially with breastfeeding. But then I hit a plateau around three months. I really had to work at it then.”
Say. What? Hit a plateau around three months? At three months, I had finally stopped telling people that I had “just” had a baby to explain my sagging stomach.
Suddenly my second P-90X Yoga workout of the year didn’t seem so great. I tried to ignore the fact that my gut still hangs over my elastic shorts and pressed on to the next subject: the honeymoon. While my husband and I ventured onto the Bahamas right after our wedding, earning me the nickname “Shamu” when my sisters saw pictures of my pregnant self stretched out on the beach, J. and her husband took a “familymoon” with their son. And then…
“And actually, we are going to Italy in the fall for our ‘real’ honeymoon,” she went on to say. “We’ve been saving our frequent flyer miles for this trip. 11 nights. We fly into Rome, then onto Venice for a night...”
At this point, I found it really hard to listen over the envy churning within me. Italy?!?! Who doesn’t dream of going to Italy? I had even been planning to study abroad in Italy my senior year of college…and then I found out I was pregnant.
In a heavy blur, comparisons of myself to J. flew in my head. She is shockingly beautiful, quite possibly the slimmest person I have ever met, a working mother with a devoted husband, she has started her own business, she’s one of those effortlessly beautiful people with nice hair that I will never be…Oh, and did I mention she runs half marathons? While pushing her baby in a stroller? And the full marathon is coming up soon…
J. sounded distant on the phone, with clanging and talking in the background. I pictured her sitting at a lovely outdoor cafe, enjoying a glamorous brunch. Meanwhile, I sat my counter in my sweaty work-out clothes, on a scratched-up bar stool, while Ada watched “Lady and the Tramp”, slack-jawed, for the second day in a row. I pretended that I didn’t hear that Mya was up, screaming in her crib (she had awakened halfway through, of course, and was angry at the wait). Even though my shirt was too small and my gut still looks like I’m pregnant, I wanted some chocolate. We don’t have enough money. I want to go to Italy.
I read once that we should interpret envy as a guide–a way to discern what we really want out of life. Well, duh. Of course I want to be skinny and in-shape. Of course I want extra money. Of course I want to take a romantic trip to Italy with my husband.
But what I don’t want is to compare myself as a mother. I know, deep down, what I want to as a mom. I want to be here with my kids during the day–to have an impromptu picnic in the park, to be a part of the mundane, every day activities when my daughters make me laugh. I don’t want to work full-time.
I think every mom knows what works for them, but it’s hard not to compare ourselves to other moms, especially the ones that seem to have it all together. One mom put it as a way to “grade” ourselves as moms–in this job of motherhood, we don’t get annual evaluations or report cards…it’s just figuring it all out, one day at a time. In some ways, it can be good, showing us what we want, like more time to exercise or more time to pursue a hobby. In other ways, it can be self-limiting and destructive, making us feel inadequate and worthless.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Moms need to trust their guts. We know what works for us and our family. So we can’t all run half-marathons or work full-time. That’s ok. Go with it, and try not to compare.
Now…who wants to take me to Italy?