Very early on in motherhood, I learned not to compare how I parent, cook, exercise, gain weight, lose weight, clean or craft with other mothers. This harsh lesson was learned in a prenatal yoga class when I was pregnant with Isaac. Every other pregnant mother in the yoga studio had designer yoga pants, an artfully arranged messy bun, tiny baby bumps and glossy lipstick. On the other hand, I wore ill-fitting pajama pants, my curly hair was its usual rat’s nest and I was already well on track to gaining more than 60 pounds. I left the class in tears and didn’t return.
So when the Pinterest craze began, I was too busy catching frogs and climbing trees with my kids to care about how to make candles in a teacup or how to cook oatmeal overnight in a slow cooker. (I mean, doesn’t that stuff take just 10 minutes on the stove?) I proudly put my mommy versus mommy moments behind me because, to me, being a good parent doesn’t mean always having a tidy house, unique crafts or freshly baked cookies to post on Instagram.
All this was until I started a part-time job that puts me in an office once a week. With my husband now unemployed, our three-year-old daughter, Gillian, stays home with him while I work.
The first day I left home to commute to my new office job our house was a mess — including the people. Mud and grass was tracked all over the floor, the kids were fighting over Lego and Gillian was crying because she didn’t want to stay home. I was teetering on the edge between guilt and smugness — guilt that I was leaving the house such a mess and smugness because now my husband would see how hard it sometimes is to manage a household. Then I felt guilty for being smug.
Throughout the day I texted my husband to see how things were going at home, with him replying simply that they were fine and Gillian was being good. At one point he texted me asking where the glue guns and craft supplies were. Glue guns? Did someone hack my husband’s text messages?
When I arrived home at the end of the day the house was spotless, a plate of my favourite ginger cookies sitting on the counter. I could hear the washing machine running and the children were playing quietly on the floor. A dish of leftover curry was waiting on the table for me and my husband was sitting on the couch reading a book.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen,” I thought to myself. “Where’s the stress and the dog hair and the dirty dishes?” Immediately, I felt jealous that he’d had a productive day at home — and completely ashamed that in the three years that I had been a stay-at-home mom, the most I’d managed to do was remember to close the windows when it rained.
I swallowed my pride and complimented him on how nice everything looked. I ate the delicious curry and cookies and spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out how he pulled it all together. After the kids were tucked in at the end of the night, I broke down in tears and apologized for being a lousy stay-at-home mom.
Then it hit me: I was doing the one thing I had vowed never to do again — compare my parenting abilities to others.
My husband explained that our daughter really just wanted to play on her own that day and when he was cooking and cleaning, she wanted to help. At three, these are the things she loves to do. She no longer needs constant supervision or a parent to be her playmate — a drastic change from her clingy toddlerhood. Our kids are no longer picky eaters, so multiple dishes don’t need to be prepared at mealtime, cutting down on work in the kitchen.
“Basically,” he told me, “You laid the groundwork for this. You made today easy.”
Have you ever caught yourself comparing yourself to your spouse? Tweet me your experiences @jenpinarski.
Last but not least: One piece of advice that the blogging experts swear by is that bloggers should never apologize for absence from their blogs. By no means am I a blog expert, so thank you for reading and patiently waiting for new posts! I promise more regular updates next week! Hats off to working parents — I’m getting an idea of what your days are like!