I'm racing to drop my children off at school and there are other mums arriving with their hair and make-up just so. They drive the SUV that I would love to be in. They are arranging their coffee dates for later and will go home to folded, put away laundry and an immaculate kitchen. They will apply lip gloss then head off for that coffee date. Later in the day they will prepare dinner from a fully stocked fridge and it will be served with a smile and a flourish to their hungry family. The other mum has plenty of time to complete homework with her children at a relaxed pace, and will still have the energy to smooth away her husbands tensions from his working day.
I, on the other hand, am not that mum. I go home not only to breakfast detritus, but also last nights dinner dishes waiting to go in to the dishwasher, that is still waiting to be unloaded. We were late for school because I couldn't find a hairbrush or my daughter's shoes. My son's coat was in my husband's car, and don't even try and match a pair of socks. The laundry basket is NEVER empty. There are crumbs under the breakfast bar and a sticky patch on the dining room table from a juice spill last night that failed to get wiped. There is dog hair floating round the floor and I swear there's enough to make a sweater. I wonder what will be for dinner, or more when it will get made. My day will not be filled with coffee dates, a tidy house or organised laundry. It won't be filled with home finance spreadsheets that balance, lovingly made cupcakes for my children that Martha Stewart would envy, or a gourmet dinner for my husband when he comes home.
The other mum I saw this morning has got it all together and part of me looks on wistfully wondering where I went wrong. Part of me admires her, and another part dislikes her intensely for running her life and home flawlessly and perfectly. Her circumstances must be so much better than mine, right?
Wrong. The comparison game is a dangerous game to play. I may as well just press the self-destruct button. Quite simply - that mum who makes it all look so easy is not so very different from me.
I only learned this recently when someone complimented me at school. She said she admired that I was always so calm with my children, always spoke to them patiently and positively and didn't know how I managed to always get to school on time. She said I was amazing.
Me - amazing! Ha! Had I become supermum? You know the one who has got it all together? For that other mum looking on that day, yes, I was that woman that made it look easy. And that's when I realised the lie exists. We're all just muddling along doing the best we can in whatever season of life we're in. I'm learning not to play the dangerous comparison game. I won't believe the lie anymore.
Instead when I see a mum who looks good in the morning, I'll compliment her. Good for her for spending an extra 10 minutes styling her hair instead of throwing in a load of laundry. If someone is on time, I smile knowing that they'll wash up their breakfast dishes after the school run. I may not be able to go out to meet for coffee but I can invite my friend over for coffee later that day, and not worry about what the house looks like. She's visiting me, not doing a dust inspection.
I now make a point of not having a "quick tidy-up" before my friend comes to visit. Take me as you find me. Let's lift the burden of pressure to be perfect and have everything together all the time. I would rather be a mum and a friend who says yes, has time to meet with friends and play with my children. I would rather take part in my children's life than just providing a sterile stage for them to grow up in. I want to be real, with all the mess that comes with it. And maybe, just maybe that's what having it together is really all about.