I don’t have it all and being among other moms kind of drives that point home for me. Today, especially, I felt the weight of judgment that’s probably just a figment of my imagination.
It all started Friday night, spending time with people I’m aware are far better off than I am. Actually, it started before that when someone very graciously picked up the tab for an event I’m interested in attending, after I mentioned needing to put off spending money on until closer to the date. While I appreciate the gesture, it injures my pride a little bit. Now I have to figure out how to repay that person without it seeming awkward. Of course, I realize a true friend won’t be weird about it, but I still hardly know most of the people around me.
As it is, I have a hard time getting comfortable with people. I’m always waiting for their judgment, because it’s loomed over me since I was a kid: I’m weird. I don’t fit in.
With motherhood, it’s even more acute. First, when I had my son, I had That Mom Friend who did everything with her kids that “normal” moms do: took them to the Picture People for monthly photos, had the perfect house with a finished basement playroom, and strong opinions about the things we “should” be doing. I couldn’t keep up and, frankly, I didn’t want to.
More than ten years later, that feeling is still there with my youngest. It doesn’t help that my fellow mothers are now millennials, instead of Gen Xers. Of course, we can still relate to each other as parents, but there’s an age gap that makes it obvious we are coming from very different places.
The big difference, though, is how much effort I put into entertaining my little one. I’m comfortable with her finding her own way, so I don’t provide much by way of activities. She has enough (I believe) toys, books, and more, not to mention nature all around her. Every Monday, we bake together. Tuesday through Friday, the kids are at school. To me, that’s plenty. Her weekends should be free for exploration.
Where I live, there are a ton of fun, kid-centric places to bring little ones up in the city, about 45 minutes north of here – museums and zoos, and do I ever do it? No, unless it’s a school field trip. It’s too expensive, too much gas, and I just don’t want to run my child up to the activities constantly. Our one weekly activity during the summer was a visit to the library, then we’d hit the local playground or beach/pool on days that seemed good for it. Running up to the city for everything there seems like such a waste of time, energy, and money. Do I begrudge the moms who do this? Of course not. That’s their choice. But when they’re surprised we’ve visited the zoo once (about, um, 2015 or 2016?), it hurts a little.
Sometimes, people act as though I’m a stay-at-home-mom, which also has me grinding my teeth a little bit. I’m a work-from-home-mom and my husband doesn’t bring in an income… so what does that mean? How do people perceive us, exactly? Then there’s the fact that we grow a lot of our own food, bake homemade goodies, don’t stock up at Costco and Sam’s Club (because, again, that means going out of my way to do those things, spending money on gas to save money on food). And so on and so on.
What drove the point home and sent me in kind of a blah spiral was babysitting today. Spending time in a mom friend’s enormous house, while she graciously brought my daughter up to one of those special kid places with her kids for some fun, was a bit of a happiness killer. I know what I have is enough for me. I know it’s not enough for most people. And, honestly, I would like more. Who wouldn’t?
But I’m at a point where what I have is enough for me, and it’s up to me to continue to stand by that. I guess what I need is to “find my tribe,” the people who are happily living with less, while still striving for what they do want and need. Just somewhere a little to the left of the rat race, maybe?