Mom Envy

cookieI have a snarky and super freaky-smart cousin who lives in Alabama. She has a sweet but chaotic brood of three children plus one husband. Every time I chat or text or Facebook with her I laugh and relate along to whatever hilarious accounts of life she has to share with me. I savor those conversations, however abbreviated they might be. Inevitably, I spend a remarkable amount of the remainder of my day thinking something like this:

Wow! She has got her act together! How on earth does she do it with a full time career and three kids and a husband and house and church and obligations?! And man, she even sports a cute haircut. Ugh…I think I’ve been wearing these same yoga pants for three days in a row now.

I have a snarky and super freaky-smart and funny Internet friend who lives in Tennessee. I hardly know her at all. In fact, I’ve seen so few pictures of this woman that I highly doubt I could identify her in a line up. But I know her writing style and her wit enough to understand on some level that she too is a harried Mom sometimes. I love her humor and so I stay in touch. Inevitably, after any hilarious 30-second Internet exchange or after reading one of her fabulous blog posts I think something like this:

Whoa, this lady has a matchless take on life and motherhood. And holy hell is she funny! Damn, I wish she were a real person in my reality and not an Internet figment. Ugh…she got a cute haircut too. I really have got to quit this ponytail business. I wonder if she has a yoga pants problem too?

Geographically much closer to me are a few of my real-life Mom friends (who also sport cute haircuts…eeegads!) that live similar enough lives to me but in slightly better ways.  I perceive their Mom*ness to be superior enough to make me feel that dreaded MOM ENVY.

I know I am not the only lady who feels this way about other Mom’s. There is this stupid thing called the Mommy Wars, after all. Women from different socioeconomic backgrounds and genres of lifestyle and religion all degrading each other in the great race to claim the grand prize of Super Mom. I’m not in that race. I just want to remember to change my pants everyday. I want to find time to read in peace and quiet. I want to stop using pirate language in front of my family when I get grouchy that I burned dinner (again!) And, if I could, I’d really like a cute haircut.

But this feeling that I am referring to is not Mommy War mumbo jumbo. This feeling is simple Mom Envy. In some ways this envious lurch in my psyche is propelling me to try to get better at simple stuff like having the child dressed before 10:00 am or sticking to my guns about the house rules. I stumble through my day thinking things like this:

Well, I bet Alabama wouldn’t let her kid get away with this I’m-not-gunna-eat-my-dinner nonsense!

Or…

Huh, I bet Tennessee would have had a better sense of humor about having the three loads of clean and folded laundry thrown down the stairs.

Or…

Monroe Mom would never let her kid eat a giant cookie for breakfast…even if it was a treat because he had such a rotten day yesterday. I AM THE WORST MOM EVER!

It seems to me that the general vague topic of discussion with my Mom friends is always about – in some direct or abstract way – the pressure we put on ourselves as women and mothers to do our jobs better than Good Enough. When it comes down to it, I know that my husband does not care if I have a lazy day and do almost nothing because the child and I really needed a break. He sees me not sleeping every night because I am up with the baby or because I am trying like heck to get a project or fun adventure put together for our pre-school aged wild child. He knows I work hard around here.

But I end up feeling like a total failure as a wife and a Mom if I don’t live up to my own unrealistic ideas about what a SAHM’s daily agenda ought to be. This horrible feeling is continuously followed up with the questions do other mothers – the ones I envy – feel like this too? Do they have lazy days and then feel a world of Mom guilt too?

Motherhood is the single most difficult job that I have ever had. I cannot imagine having responsibilities more pressing or urgent or important or vital than being charged with the obligation of the shaping and molding of another human being. It really is no wonder I take my perceived failures so darn personally.

I suppose, given the gravity of motherhood, it really is no wonder that I look to my contemporary, albeit geographically distant Mom’s and think to myself Wow, she really does a great job…I want to try harder.

Tonight, as I type this up…I am telling myself to try harder at giving myself a break.

sarah cottrell

About sarah cottrell

Sarah Cottrell is a member of the Stay-At-Home-Mom Club and proud herder of two loud boys. She earned her MFA in 2012 and then accidentally washed it in a load of laundry. Sarah's work can be found on popular websites like Mamalode, BlogHer, and Scary Mommy. Her work will appear in two new parenting anthologies in 2015.