I ran into the mother of a childhood friend the other day and listened as this woman expounded on her daughter’s many educational and career accomplishments. She is now the chief resident at a prestigious hospital and earning all sorts of accolades.
Then, the inevitable question came as she turned to me: What are you doing these days?
Now, I am very proud of being a mom. I made the choice to give up a full-time career to be a full-time mom and would do it again in a heartbeat. But sometimes, when faced with stories of my peers’ success, I feel like I’ve come up short — like somehow my choice to be a mom is a direct result of me not being able to compete in the “real world.”
So, I laughed a little and said, “Oh, I have two daughters and I’m home with them.”
I expected a polite nod and change of subject, but instead this woman erupted, saying “Oh, that’s all I want! I don’t care about all that doctor stuff, I just want grandchildren!” She then turned to my mother beside me and said, “I’m so jealous of you!”
Her outburst was so unexpected and so genuine that I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went home that evening. Here I thought I was the one who was coming in second compared to her daughter’s glowing accomplishments, and all this woman wanted was what I had.
It made me think of a story I heard once about comparing our lives to the lives of others. It essentially goes like this: I am working hard to climb my mountain of life. Making right choices. Doing my best. Then, I look over and see a friend of mine nearing the summit of her mountain. I am jealous. How did she beat me?
But the point of the story is that she didn’t beat me — she can’t. We are climbing different mountains, and her summit is different than my summit. Her climb requires different strengths, offers different choices and culminates in different results.
Often I forget this when I have a weak moment of comparison. I wonder where I would be in my career if I had kept working. I see other women like this former friend of mine and I can’t help but feel a little jealous. For a moment, I feel like she beat me.
But she didn’t — she can’t. We are climbing different mountains. I have made choices in my life guided by what is best for my family and for me. Being a stay-at-home mom may not be glamorous or even appreciated by the world, but it is the mountain I have chosen to climb.
I climb it because I feel it is where I belong. I climb it because it makes me happy to spend my days raising my children. And mostly, I climb it because at the end of my journey, I know the view from this particular mountain top is the one I want to enjoy.