It was a beautiful summer's day, and I was at the swimming pool with my kids. Actually, we had finished swimming, and had even showered and dressed, but they still wanted to play for a while at the token by-the-pool playground. They were clearly exhausted from their afternoon of energetic splashing, and my own resources of patience and kindness were severely depleted. After two falls from playground equipment, one refusal to leave alone an abandoned half-empty juice box despite my five separate requests (crescendo-ing to all-out yelling and pulling away of small hands), not to mention a whole lot of whining, I snapped, “OK, that is ENOUGH. One more minute and we’re going!”
Then, suddenly, Emily said, “Look, there’s C’s mommy!” (C is a girl in her class at pre-school).
I looked where she was pointing and I saw C’s [single parent] mommy, and I tried not to let my jaw drop too obviously. She was wearing a very small, white bikini, and credit where credit’s due, she looked fantastic in it. She was spreading out her towel on the grass next to a stunningly attractive man – tall, tanned, sun-bleached blonde hair, white teeth… the full stereotype. She looked happy and relaxed and in love, and literally no more than 22 years old. I pictured myself – cheap and fairly unflattering sundress; hair pulled back under an old cap; flip-flops; flushed and sweaty from trailing my kids around the playground and yelling intermittently at them.
A feeling of intense jealousy hit me like a barb.
What I would have given, at that moment, to be feeling that young and loved-up. Out somewhere with a man who had eyes only for me. Out somewhere without my children and able to think of myself as a woman rather than a mom. Out somewhere just kicking back and lying in the sun — not running errands or doing housework and, for that moment, not responsible for any other person except myself. Wearing a WHITE BIKINI, for God’s sake, and not having to worry that my two-year-old might yank at it and give me a public wardrobe malfunction, or that I might distractedly perch my butt on a dirty spot while helping small people with sunscreen/swimsuits/towels/toys/snacks.
I didn’t say hello or try to catch her attention. She didn’t need to be brought back down to reality when she was quite clearly on cloud nine.
I did go home bad-tempered and irritable, feeling low for a couple of reasons. Keenly aware of the fact that, at that moment, I would have gratefully welcomed a break from my kids and all my other usual responsibilities, I felt selfish and guilty. Not only that, though — I felt low because I could see blissful happiness written all over C’s mom’s face, and I could not remember the last time I had felt like that.