Those round chubby cheeks, those sparkling eyes and that infectious smile accompanied by cooing sounds – the baby sitting opposite me in a crowded café seemed positively angelic. I looked over to the baby’s mom, who was gazing admiringly at her son playing with an adorable bunny, while chatting with her friend over a cup of coffee, no doubt detailing his latest milestones.
It was the picture of pure bliss. Or so I thought.
Fast forward two years later, and this time it was myself waiting in line at a busy café, trying to order my coffee, but my 10 month old baby was reaching for the straws, trying to eat my wallet as I attempted to pay, while I struggled to hold her down with one arm, grab coffee with the other and choose a quiet spot to sit where an ensuing meltdown would hopefully go unnoticed.
Welcome to the reality that is quite often motherhood.
At that precise moment, my eyes wandered to a girl who had just sauntered up to the counter, ordered her coffee calmly, placed her headphones in her ears, and sat down with a book, starting what was no doubt going to be, a leisurely read. For a split second, I caught myself looking at her longingly, thinking how lucky she was to enjoy her coffee and book in peace.
Then it hit me. I used to be that girl a few years ago.
The same girl who looked wistfully at the baby in the café, thinking how wonderful life would be with a cute baby to call your own. So why was I wishing to trade places? Was I not exactly where I wanted to be?
Now before you think that I was just describing a bad day above, or that the other baby was just easier to manage than mine, or that the other mum was just a better one than me – I have news for you: the grass (and the fence and the house and just about everything else) always seem greener on the other side. We always picture our friends and family and even random strangers to have that perfect, easy, happy life. The reality is of course that life for so many of us is replete with our own set of challenges that may or may not be apparent to the innocent on-looker or bystander. In fact, our perceptions of those around us can often be very selective indeed. And when we spot something others have that we are longing for, then it seems all the more, that they “have it all.”
Most of us have at some point envied our friends, family, colleagues or neighbors for having something we have wanted in that instance – whether it’s that perfect job, that wonderful husband, that rich, shiny new car, those adorable kids, that hourglass figure, that impressive degree, or the supportive family. It is human nature to compare ourselves to those around us but what we often forget is that there is a lot more that goes on outside of the life we post on Facebook or twitter about. The disappointments, the failures, the challenges, and the setbacks usually don’t quite make it to your newsfeed or mine.
If you are a 29 year old single woman wondering when you will get married, stop and enjoy your life for what it is now. Focus on yourself, your career and your life goals because before you know it, you will be married, with 2 demanding kids and crave a moment to yourself.
If you are a married woman who does not have kids yet, take your time to enjoy that coffee and linger in the café. Because before you know it, you will be dodging straws that your 1 year old is darting right at you across the table.
If you are a woman with a fantastic career, enjoy it because the time may come when you have to give it up or choose to give it up to focus on other goals instead.
Things happen to different people at different times. Careers can start at the age of 40, just as motherhood can strike at 23. There is no set timeline or one way to achieve success – life unfolds for all of us at a different pace.
So what I have realized is that even though I stared at that girl wistfully for a second, I actually do not want to trade places with her. That was me then and I have done it all – the leisurely coffees, the exotic vacations, the sleeping-in-on-the-weekends and the movie and date nights with the husband. But all those great, unforgettable memories, still can’t compare to the absolute joy of watching my daughter giggle at the bubbles in the bath, or say her first words, or much to our excitement, take her first steps.
So before you wish you could fast forward or rewind your life, take a deep breath and just enjoy the moment you are in. It is important to truly treasure each chapter in our life, because before you know it, it will be time to turn the page.