You know how the old saying goes “Never judge a book by its cover”. I’m not too surprised by how often this holds true. I can think of multiple situations where I find myself judging, thankfully usually in private, and am able to see that it might not appear to be quite what I had thought. Yes, I am judging. Don’t judge me…or do. Whatever. Either way, at the end of the day I realize the error of my inquiring questions and mark it in my brain to not do it again. At least not in that next moment.
My most recent episode of judging happened a few weeks ago. Hubs and I got a new car (yay!). You see, we had our delightful minivan, a 2006 that had graciously made it to over 203,000 miles. She was a trooper and saw us through many trips, kid pickups, work adventures, you name it, she got us there. However, she was getting old and tired you might say. I felt like a good analogy was that she was in hospice, it was only a matter of time and we had known this for a while. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that once you get over 200,000 miles that things start to go. We thankfully had not had to put a lot of money into her- only the necessary items – but no timing belts, transmissions and whatever other things cost more than she was worth. So, after much deliberation, we decided it was time for her to “retire”. Now, this deliberation period was over the course of the last several months. It basically consisted of us riding in the van and looking at other cars and seeing what we thought looked like a fit. Hubs wanted an SUV and I thought that might be a good option for us too, after all, a lot of the newer ones (newer than our van) have third row seating which is great when you have 3+ kids. So, we had our eye on a couple of specific SUV’s for a while, but just knew that they were out of our price range. In my mind (I won’t speak for hubs) I just knew that those vehicles were the best ones ever because they looked so awesome and if they were priced that way, they must be great right?? Anyone feel me on this one?
Well, we were certainly blessed. We went to the dealership I had been talking with and they just happened to get in one of those models of SUV, in our price range AND even in the color I wanted! Never saw that one coming! So, after testing driving it, we knew that was the one for us. So, off we went with our new addition (yet to be named). Now I’ve driven it for a couple of weeks and I do like it. It’s newer and rides nice and, of course, it’s CLEAN! But, there is something to be said about a car that has doors that can SLIDE open. Or that kids can walk into and sit down instead of climb into. So, I still like it, but it’s turned out to be a bit different logistically that what I was thinking. But, I am keeping a positive attitude because, after all, this is just the one I wanted right?
So, back to this whole judging thing. I was driving Elijah to school one morning- in the new car- and as I’m going along, I found myself looking at other cars again! At first I chalked it up to habit- I mean we had been “looking” for months so how can I just stop? I was happy with our purchase- well, except for the idea of a car payment- that makes me want to vomit in my mouth a little bit. Was it that it happened so fast that I forgot what I was driving or we’re just SO busy lately that I have barely paid attention and haven’t really been savoring the new ride? I’m not really sure of the answer but I knew I had a problem that particular morning. About a block away from school I see this really nice car in a driveway. I’m admiring it thinking about how nice the car looks and that maybe next time we can go with that kind of car. As I get closer….I realize that it is the EXACT SAME model of car as I’m driving! What the heck is the matter with me??!! All those months spent eyeing longingly at that car from a distance through our finger smudged van windows wishing that we could have just that car and now, for whatever reason, I’m feeling like it’s just not what I thought it would be. So much so that I am admiring the same car from afar. Again.
That whole moment of shame and realization got me to thinking. How often do I do that- I look at something and do my judgment, good or bad, all in an effort to see where I compare? Am I the only one doing this? I look and make my 10 second decision while not knowing what is really going on. I openly admit to shoving my foot in my mouth regularly. Usually at least once a week, if not more. As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning to pause before speaking but there are times I barf my comments out before my brain can even stop it. I remember once saying to a friend how perfect her life was. How I admired her parents and siblings and it just seemed like they were the modern-day family. She smiled and just said it’s not always what it seems. What I found out later was that one of the children was battling a disease behind closed doors. Talk about inserting my foot in my mouth! That was quite a lesson I learned!
So, all this time I had been simply looking at this car at face value. How it looked and how I felt when I looked at it. It seemed to be less “soccer mom” and more, well, really just less “soccer mom”. Not knowing that logistically it wasn’t what I thought and then once I had it, it really didn’t seem to turn off that need to keep looking. It’s like I was cheating on the van. I am going from one car to the next only to realized that my “true love” is the minivan (don’t tell hubs!).
I was thinking of this in context to being a working mom. I’ve worked in a couple of corporate offices now and there are always women I’ve worked with who look like they have it SO together. I mean, hair is perfect, outfit is straight from a magazine- they are rocking the working world. Some of them are even moms too! I cannot even begin to fathom how they can make it out the door looking so glam all while getting kids ready for the day. By the time we are running (literally) out the door with the boys, I am sweating which means my hair is flat and I likely have a lingering odor. I probably have mismatched socks and I am hoping the food I spilled on my shirt while packing lunches dries without leaving a spot. So, that same morning that I saw the pretty car in the driveway was also a morning where the baby fat was in all the wrong places and the 3 outfits that actually fit me were dirty. I felt frumpy. That might be the worst feeling in the world for any woman who is not feeling great about any extra lumps and bumps. I mean, I’m okay without a thigh gap, but I would like to lose the kangaroo pouch I’m sporting lately. So as I’m driving the kids to school and making my way to work, I’m having to give myself a little pep talk. I started to think about how I had such strong opinions about that car and felt that I just KNEW that was a great car. What if, just what if, those same opinions I have about the girls that have it so together are actually not quite accurate?? What if I am judging their covers the same way I was judging that car and making simple assumptions about it without even knowing. I mean, I’ve never gone up to any of my glam coworkers- past or present- and asked how they were doing. I’m not sure that would be comfortable enough for someone to just dish about whatever might be bothering them. And, quite honestly, I don’t want anything to be bad for them anyway. Not just because I don’t want someone to be going through a hardship, but for my own selfish reason. I NEED to see that it’s possible. I need that motivation that I will lose this extra love handle all while making gourmet food for my perfect children. I just have to remind myself that things may not always be what they seem. I forget that since I tend to be a pretty transparent person. I need to remember that it’s okay if I have a frumpy day as long as my kids are fed, happy and where they need to be and I make it to work in one piece. My cover does not dictate who I am, it might make me a little crabby when things don’t fit right, but I want people to know the content of my character and judge me on that- good, bad, or ugly. I think that as a working mom, that is something that can be a struggle that gets overlooked because it seems (and sounds) trivial. We worry and hear more about balance, kids and cooking and less about making sure we’re feeling good ourselves. Maybe it’s the nature of being a mom, everything else comes first. The only time I see it and am reminded, is when I am comparing myself to others and making my quick judgments about what they’re doing right and I’m doing wrong. So, for now, I will drive my new car, wear whatever clothes I can assemble in the morning (hopefully more trendy and less frumpy) and take one day at a time. And, I will continually remind myself that things may not always be what they seem, so I can cut myself some slack.