Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when you can’t help but be jealous of your friend’s kid-free lifestyle? Need some advice? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
“S.” has been my BFF since high school and we’re still super close as adults even though we’ve taken very different paths in life. I got married pretty early and am a SAHM to three kids under the age of seven. She is single and childfree by choice and has a career that she’s proud of. She makes good money and not having any kids allows her to do all kinds of things I can’t: have a nice wardrobe and a purse and shoes for every outfit, go out to fancy dinners and cocktail hours, sleep in on the weekends and then go to brunch. I am proud of her for her accomplishments and she understands that I can’t do these things, and never pressures me to.
But meanwhile I’m over here wiping butts and noses, cutting the crusts off of sandwiches, wearing two-day-old sweats and a topknot and living that unglamorous mom life. I feel like I’ve lost myself sometimes and it only gets worse when S. tells me about her latest date or the vacation she’s planning. I don’t want to be an asshole to her because she’s my friend and I want to know about her life, but it hurts me and I feel so petty and jealous. Then the mom guilt kicks in too, because I really do love my kids and feel bad for resenting motherhood sometimes. Help!
What mother among us hasn’t listened to the screaming chorus of children in the background of our lives and wished to be somewhere — anywhere — else?! If you’re reading this and you love your mom-life 100% of the time, please start drafting up that how-to manual, because the rest of us are struggling out here.
Seriously, though, you definitely aren’t alone in feeling like this. Raising kids, especially when they’re little and almost totally dependent upon you, can feel all-consuming. It’s so easy to feel like your entire identity has gone from “me” to “mom-me” when you are literally immersed in it 24/7. And when your friend is so freely enjoying the liberties that you’d give anything to have a fraction of, it’s totally normal to feel jealous. Of course you miss having the ability to do those things! It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad mother; it makes you a human being.
What you’ve got to realize is that, as corny and clichéd as it sounds, the grass is indeed greener on the other side. There are definitely things she dislikes about her life, even if she loves it overall — just like you. No matter what path we choose in life, we always wonder “what if” and whether we should have done things differently, and I’m sure she’s the same.
Instead of focusing on the things your life as a mother are lacking, try to focus more on the things that you love about it: the adorable things your kids do, the sweet snuggles, the amazement of watching them learn new things and develop into little people. I’m not saying you should love it 100% of the time, because that’s just unrealistic and setting yourself up for failure. I’m just saying that the more we focus on the parts we don’t like, the more we miss out on truly seeing the parts we do.
Kudos to S. for understanding your different lifestyle and not pressuring you to do the things she does. Since it seems like she gets it, maybe you can hang out with her in a way that fits into both your lives — like a movie night on your couch or a glass of wine on your porch (let her bring it since she isn’t paying for diapers). That way it will still feel like you’re not totally missing out on the fun things in life, or the friendship that you’ve valued since you were a teenager.
Let me assure you that even though it feels like it sometimes, this won’t go on forever. You will regain some of your pre-kid identity as your kids get older and more self-sufficient. (I birthed four kids in seven years and had two in diapers at the same time — I speak from experience!) When they get old enough to stay home alone while you go do something by yourself, it’s like a whole new chapter of your life opens up. So, though these days can feel like a never-ending stream of diapers and meltdowns and cutting up food while yours gets cold, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I promise.