Oh jealousy, you fickle fiend, always rearing your grumpy green head at the absolute worst moment. As if I wasn’t stressed enough – planning my son’s first birthday and traveling back and forth between the Florida coasts to visit family – that familiar feeling decided to come creeping up recently. Logically, I know it’s just my own insecurities making me feel like I’m losing some imaginary mom competition (Mompetition?), but that doesn’t seem to help me shake the feeling.
I’ll be honest. I get jealous. A lot. I get envious of moms who appear to have it all, moms who seem to be able to do it all, moms who don’t worry, healthy moms, moms who have all the answers. You name it, I’ve either been jealous of or insecure about it. But I don’t really linger on the jealousy. It’s more of a fleeting thought that flickers across my mind when I see a woman at the grocery store, hair perfectly in place, bright eyes, carrying multiple things with ease, that I wonder to myself how I must look in comparison. Messy ponytail with strands pulled undone by little hands, bleary eyes, struggling to find where I last put my debit card. How could I not feel a little twinge of envy?
It’s not all pity party, though. Sometimes I get these “epiphany moments” where I’m inspired by some random BuzzFeed article, convinced that I’ve found the ultimate life hack to turn me into Super Mom or a Pinterest board with the perfect sensory play project to guarantee my baby will be the next Einstein. I’m full of optimism that I can finally be the best mother my child deserves and the best me that I deserve.
Of course things never turn out that way. Something will inevitably go wrong and then those insecure feelings come back. It can be a vicious cycle. And normally, if I find out that I’m not alone in my self-doubt, I’ll start to feel better. Yet somehow this isn’t one of those times. I’ve heard every woman I know, chronically ill or not, vent about their issues of Mompetition (I’m trying to make this word happen, if you can’t tell). And sure, we get together for a GNO and all chime in with our own horror stories and commiserate with each other, but most of the time we still go back home full of angsty sighs that would make a 90s grunge teen look like sunshine.
But you know what snapped me out of my ‘Envy–>Self-Doubt–>Repeat’ cycle? It may seem totally insignificant, yet it was a game-changer for me. Not too long ago I was out to lunch with my best friend and my son. On paper he should have been fine; he had just eaten, napped, and been changed. Except, right around the time when I was getting ready to eat, he decided to have a meltdown. So there I was, in a restaurant full of judge-y eyes, feeling the “shame sweat” begin to bead up on my forehead, trying to gently bounce him on my knee and maintain a smile as if he wasn’t letting out a demon-summoning shriek.
And you know what happened? My best friend, God bless her, looked me dead in the eye and said, “Hey, you are doing great right now. We all need to feel validated and I’m here to tell you that you are doing great.” At the time, I just shrugged, nervously laughed, and mumbled out an awkward thank you. But as I drove home, with my untouched lunch in a to-go box and my mini-monster blissfully asleep in the car seat, I let her words really sink in. She saw, as only another woman can, the exact kind of panic I was in. And she didn’t try to flatter me with superficial cliches nor did she avert her gaze and pretend not to know me (which I wouldn’t have blamed her for). Instead, she told me exactly what I needed to hear. It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else; it’s about being told you’re doing great, warts and all.
So to all the women (mothers or not) who have validated me, I sincerely thank you. And in case no one has told you yet, you are doing great.