It’s early in the morning, the hallways of your child school are teaming with kids and parents rushing to get jackets off, last minute hugs and kisses in before parent and child are separated for the morning or the entire day (I can’t wrap my mind around that yet), you are in the throws of morning school drop off.
Now, if you are like me, this time can be stressful for another reason besides just the insanity of the chaos in that hallway. It can be a sinkhole of anxiety too. My mind starts to play tricks on me. Tricks like, I don’t look like these other parents, my financial situation is different then these other parents, I just don’t feel like these other parents. There can be a feeling of being an outsider sometimes and it can be a horrible way to start your day if you feed into it mentally.
Some days, I’m good. If I focus on my son and only my son, those are the good days. Make sure he has what he needs for the morning. Don’t look up. Don’t look around you. Say hi to the teachers and other parents, but don’t think too much about it. Go through the motions.
But then there are the days, maybe even the days when I’m more awake for drop off, that I begin to really get stuck in that quicksand of comparing. I have a mohawk and usually look pretty thrown together. That’s just me. That’s been me as for as long as I’ve known. I’ve been lucky enough to have jobs in my life that haven’t made me adhere to any dress code, present job (stay at home parent and part time blogger) included. I haven’t had to change the way I look for sometime now and to be honest, school drop off is not going to make me do it either.
But, if I’m going to live my life like this, I need to be okay with the fact that other people choose to live their lives differently than I do and both ways of living are okay.
The other day my son was invited to a birthday party. I took him and was a little scared because I didn’t know any of the parents. I walked in and found myself in a gorgeous house, huge, in fact. My entire two bedroom apartment could fit in the living room. There was wine being offered and an actual upstairs, downstairs and furnished basement.
Not my reality at all.
Suddenly I felt completely out of place.
It was terrifying.
This situation dove tails exactly into school drop off for me. It’s a time when we are forced to interact with people that we normally might not because of our children. No matter what tax bracket you exist in, both the rich, the poor and the in betweens all have kids and suddenly the school system mashes us all together.
As a parent who thinks of her little two bedroom apartment as a safe haven from judgement from the rest of the world, the outside world is more complicated. But isn’t it for both types of people? Isn’t that gorgeous house that family’s safe haven? They don’t know me either. It was just as awkward for them to have a stranger in their safe haven as it would be for me to have them here. But they were doing it for their child, inviting strangers into their comfort zone for the sake of their child’s special day, a pretty brave act in my book.
When I feel myself getting sucked into the quicksand of comparison, be it at school drop off or at a birthday party, what is that really saying about me? It’s really saying that I have hang ups about these things. I live in income based housing. Why should I feel bad about that? What is that teaching my children if I do? We have an amazing roof over our heads. This housing is allowing us to raise our children the way we want to right now. I’m proud that we are making it work. I need to continue being proud as you should every day. No matter what tax bracket you live in. You’re making it work for your family. Some days it can be really hard to make it work, some days you feel like you’re not making it work. I’m right there with you. There are days I hold my breath when I swipe that debit card at the grocery store, hoping I get back that magic “approved” on the screen.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A wise friend of mine, who lives in a similar situation to mine once told me,
“There are people with big pieces of cake and people, like us, who have little pieces of cake. It’s important for those people with the bigger pieces to see that we have smaller pieces but we are happy with them.”
Words I plan on living by this year.
Your reality is always going to be different than someone else’s, always. The best we can do is show our kids that yes, that is the case and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. My reality, in my little two bedroom apartment is as perfect as any other reality because I have these two wonderful human beings in my life, all the rest is dressing.