Most days I’m happy to get Mira to preschool as fast as possible, allowing someone else to handle that atomic bundle of four-year-old energy so that I can get some sleep after a long night of work.
But occasionally, when walking the halls of her preschool, I feel a little jealous.
Jealous of the bright-eyed moms talking to each other in the hallway while they sip their coffee, making lunch plans for themselves and their children after class.
Jealous of the moms with the ponytails and workout clothing, taking advantage of their free time to get in a workout and maybe run some errands afterward, but not before relaxing in the sauna first.
Jealous of the moms who stick around to volunteer in the classroom, helping all of the kids with their smocks for finger painting and bringing in a homemade snack for the class.
Mira’s preschool has a large percentage of parents who are, shall we say…affluent. For many, the moms are stay at home moms, or if they do work, it’s only part-time. (I can only assume the dads do some type of Very Important Work that pays well.) These moms have free time that I can only dream of at the moment.
Seeing the other moms breezing through the hallway, not a wrinkle of stress showing, is a stark contrast to me, plodding down the hall half-asleep as Mira pulls me along, stress and exhaustion written all over my face, realizing I forgot (again) to bring in the family photo her teacher has been requesting for weeks.
I stare longingly down the corridor that connects the school to the gym, wishing I had the time and energy to fit in a workout, or that I was awake enough to chat with the other moms and maybe make new friends. Instead, all I can think about is going home to sleep for a few hours before I repeat the cycle of dinner, work, preschool dropoff and sleep again.
But I know jealousy is a tricky little beast. There’s more to the story than what it chooses for me to see. The moms who make life look like a summer vacation could be hiding any number of problems under their Lululemon workout gear and perfectly highlighted hair. There are other working moms leaving their kids behind, too, looking less haggard than me only because they’re just beginning their day instead of ending it. It’s possible they’re looking at the room moms as wistfully as I am, wishing they could be the hero of the pre-K class with homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and storytime instead of giving their child a quick kiss and rushing out the door.
I also realize that my work is what helps provide the needs and many wants for my children. It enables us to have a comfortable house and plenty of food, along with Netflix and toys and more trips out for ice cream than we should probably allow. In this age of recession and the vanishing middle class, we have a lot to be thankful for that many only wish they could have. Some may be jealous of me for being lucky enough to have a job, angry that I would ever complain about my long hours when they would gladly take my position if they could. They’re right – I am amazingly lucky to have the job that I do.
(I should add in that Aaron works just as hard and is just as pinched in his time as well. He’s forced to do more parenting and housework tasks than the average father would ever be asked to take on, but he does so with little complaint while still working full time as well.)
So I try to keep it all in perspective. I may not have lots of free time to spend with my children, but they still have what they need, even if it isn’t always what they want. The majority of my limited free time is spent with my family, focusing on the quality of our time together when the quantity is lacking. My daughters know how much I love them, even if I can’t always remember to turn in permission slips on time and have to put together mismatched outfits because I didn’t do the laundry last night. It may not be the most ideal arrangement for our family, but for the moment it works.
Although every so often, I stare across the fence at that pasture on the other side, and for a moment I lament that my side isn’t as green.