So I am dropping my daughter off at school one morning and I run into another mom dropping her child off too. (She’s an extremely hardworking woman who runs a busy dayhome and choses to be very active in her children’s activities. I honestly don’t know how she does it – she’s pretty amazing). This particular morning, she wants to chat but I can’t because I am rushing off to a barre class I have signed up for.
This mom means nothing purposefully critical in her comment, but she tells me “It must be so nice to have time for yourself to go and work out”. She’s basically referring to the fact that I am not working outside the home; that my only child is in school for 6 hours; and I am ‘getting’ to work out.
Yes, I AM ABSOLUTELY lucky. I consider myself blessed for so many reasons - this one included. However, here are a few of my other thoughts around it:
1. We have different priorities. I don’t consider working out to be an option – my health is too high a priority. Even when I was working full time, I managed to fit it in somehow. Sometimes that meant waking up early to walk on the treadmill; sometimes that meant forgoing activities I wanted to do at night so I could fit in a workout; sometimes that meant doing a workout video from home; etc. (Nevermind the fact that I don’t always WANT to work out)!
2. In a couple years, this mom will also be in a position where both her children are in full time school. She too will have the same 6 hours kid-free. But am I lucky because I have fertility issues and was unable to have another child???
3. I know that many families need the dual income. I get that, and I can appreciate that - we did too! But it was necessary because of the lifestyle we chose. We like eating out, traveling and buying certain things. I can own that. IF we didn’t do those things, I probably wouldn’t have needed to work, but that lifestyle was our choice. I realize that I am lucky that at this point in my life I don’t ‘have to’ work, but you also don’t know the sacrifices that led up to that.
4. Does she realize that part of the ‘agreement’ that my husband have is that he works long hours and I do basically everything else? I know in her situation that her husband is very involved and although she runs the dayhome, he is very hands on with everything else. I certainly don’t have that. Should you feel bad for me because of this? Of course not. It’s what we chose to do and what works for us.
5. This mom has chosen to run a dayhome so that she can be with her kids. I think that’s awesome – if that’s what you want. I personally needed time away from being a mom, which was also a factor in my decision to do the type of work I did after my daughter was born.
I could go on and on, but my simple point is this: We all live our lives differently and much of it is by choice. It’s true that we all have differing levels of “luck” in our lives and life isn’t always fair, but a very large part of it is made up of our choices. These choices are compromised of what we consider to be our priorities.
Some people may place more value on adventure, choosing to travel or to take risks, while others may place more value on financial security. Some people may place more value on family, choosing to spend all their free time together, while others may place an equally high value on friends and career. Some people may place more value on order and organization, knowing that their peace of mind is tied to a orderly home, where some people chose to be more spontaneous and creative, and are not bothered by household chaos.
Perhaps it’s my own internal struggle with guilt about not working outside the home that made me feel so strongly about this interaction (I will talk more about this later) but I do think that it’s important to realize that we all live our lives differently LARGELY by choices we make based upon our priorities and what we value.
That married couple with kids may look really lucky to the mom of three young children who are driving her crazy, but that couple may have suffered with infertility and longs to have that family. That other family who is living overseas and making a LOT of money may seem to have a luxurious lifestyle, but they may be suffering from intense loneliness, being away from friends and family.
For me, the takeaway here is a reminder to myself to always be checking in with my own priorities, especially when bigger decisions are to be made. You don’t owe ANYONE an explanation as to why you live the way you do (unless you’re a criminal!) and you shouldn’t feel guilty about your own abundance.
What are you choosing?