When you see another mom at the park who looks like she has it all together, it’s hard not to feel twinges of envy. You know the type — she’s the one sitting on a bench with an iced tea in one hand, her newborn baby fast asleep in the stroller, and wearing her pre-baby skinny jeans, with her hair not only washed, but also styled.
Here’s the problem with Mom Envy: It is keeping us from making valuable friends. We think other moms have it so much easier than us because some do a better job of looking like they have it all together, when we so obviously don’t.
And it’s way too easy to compare such a vision of “perfect” motherhood to your own reality — yoga pants because your jeans still don’t fit, your baby wailing in the carrier because she not only hates and refuses to go in the stroller, but also fusses whenever she’s awake, and your hair? Forget about it. Not only is it not styled, it’s most likely oily because you haven’t had a shower in three days. Or is it more like five?
My own encounter with the “perfect mom” happened in the mother’s group that I joined shortly after having my baby. At first, she seemed to “have it all” — the baby who never fussed and actually fell asleep on the floor while her mother chatted, perfect hair and manicured nails, plus the magical evaporation of her baby weight within weeks. But, after a few months of grudgingly giving her a chance and getting to know her, what I discovered made me feel ashamed for being so judgmental.
There was so much more to the “perfect” mom outside of her appearance. For one, she was funny. Really funny, in a dry, self-deprecating way. She was also thoughtful, frequently offering to help out the other moms in our group, always turning up with great snacks to share, and checking in on people if she knew someone was struggling.
The only problem with her was me, and how I felt about myself. Once I realized that I needed to stop measuring myself against other people and tried, instead, to be satisfied with myself, it made it a lot easier to open up to getting to know other, more “perfect” moms.
My “perfect” mom turned out to share my love of “The Bachelor,” and my obsession with gourmet cupcakes. She also kept me company when I was bone tired, and made me laugh when I was feeling down. As an added bonus, she was also kind enough to welcome a new friend who rarely showered and who always wore dirty yoga pants.
Christine Knight is an Australian expat and mother of one enthusiastic toddler. Now living in Brooklyn, NY, she is co-founder of brunchwithmybaby.com, a site dedicated to helping parents navigate the NYC and Sydney food scenes with their offspring.