I’m typically not a jealous person; I’m more of a “you do you, boo” kind of woman. What works for one doesn’t work for all, and that’s okay. However, there is one particular situation that can bring out the green monster of jealousy — and that’s other moms keeping up with their kids.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not lounging around all day allowing my four kids to fend for themselves. In fact, I work, homeschool my five-year-old, and do the normal errands and chores that come along with parenthood. However, I also have the full-time job of a chronic illness — which means, yes, I have a lot on my plate.
I’ve been a type 1 diabetic for 16 years. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, invisible, autoimmune disease in which the body stops making insulin, a life-sustaining hormone. Since my beta cells decided to crap out on me, I administer insulin via an insulin pump, which is a device attached to my body. Insulin, in case you haven’t seen the news, is insanely expensive — and for type 1 diabetics like me, absolutely necessary to stay alive.
Living with type 1 diabetes means that no matter how well I control my blood sugars, I’m still going to have bad days. A low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, can leave me shaky and exhausted for hours afterward. High blood sugars can linger, causing flu-like symptoms such as nausea, uncontrollable body temperatures, headaches, and more. As you can imagine, it’s really hard to put a smile on my face and do all the things when I feel like I’ve been hit by a snack cake truck.
Like many moms, I have an affinity for social media. Call it an escape or entertainment, or whatever it means to you. When I scroll, I often glimpse at fellow moms — either influencers I follow or the accounts of my friends — who seem to be living their best mommy lives. Their kids are in coordinating outfits or sports uniforms, and they’re jetting off on vacation, enjoying a baseball game, or hosting a birthday party. Their lives look sparkly, celebratory, and hopeful.
It doesn’t help that when I’m having one of my crappy medical days, that’s when I’m the most likely to curl up and skim my social media feeds. Yes, while I’m at my worst, I choose to see other moms at their best. I know what you’re thinking. Just don’t look, Rachel. I hear you. But like most of us, I often grab my phone without even recognizing what I’m doing.
I absolutely know that social media is mostly a mirage. Five seconds before that perfect family photo, the toddler was throwing a tantrum, the teen was rolling his eyes, and the mom was on the verge of a breakdown after none of her bribes worked. I also know that my friends do not live perfect lives. They fight with their partners, their child is struggling with mental health or a learning disability, and the mom is unsatisfied in her job. Meanwhile, her own mom’s health is ailing, and the minivan needs major, costly repairs. The posted picture was just a snapshot of a moment when things weren’t hitting the fan.
I know this. I really do. But it’s hard to think rationally when my brain is scrambled by a disease I didn’t choose.
I wish I had the energy to stroll across the track field, helping my kid haul her gear. I wish I didn’t have to pack emergency medical supplies with me and haul those instead. I hate that my insulin pump beeps at me, nonstop, alerting me to a high or low blood sugar, a faulty tube, or a low insulin alarm.
I have fully accepted my disease — but this doesn’t mean I don’t grieve my reality. Type 1 diabetes is 24/7/365. There are no vacations, no exemptions for special occasions, and no off switch. The disease demands that we either care for ourselves, all of the time, or die; it’s that serious and relentless.
I am grateful, some days, that my disease has taught my children the importance of self-care, of prioritizing their health. I am also grateful that my disease has taught me to pay careful attention to my body and its needs, and thus, to teach my kids to do the same. However, these don’t stop me from occasionally having a pity party when the jealousy gnaws at my soul.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all I needed to keep up with life was to guzzle a venti iced coffee? Perhaps I should just try harder? Maybe I should just slap a smile on my face and fake it until I make it. I need to get out of these sweatpants and put on some mascara.
I could attempt to pretend I’m fine all the time, but that’s not who I am. Plus, putting off the care my body needs just to feign normalcy will only lead to more dire health consequences.
While other moms meet up for a lunchtime walk, volunteer in their kids’ schools, or hustle at work, I’m getting my blood drawn. I sit among people almost double my age, as we wait our turn to be called, evaluated, and dismissed. During those times, I pull out my phone and scroll. There are the other moms who are glowing and capable, and then there’s me: the sick one.
I have certainly set screen limits for myself, and I haven’t allowed my bouts of envy to ruin my relationships. But yes, there are times I say, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” I want to be like them, but my reality is that there is no cure for my disease. For now, I have to play the hand I was dealt.
I know I’m not alone. Many moms suffer from physical ailments and mental health disorders. We all face loads of pressure both from others and from ourselves. We are often plagued with guilt that we are lazy, when in reality, we are coping in the best ways we can. There’s not always a “mind over matter” possibility for us. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also the truth that we live with.
My children are loved, safe, and most of my days are good. I have a wonderfully supportive husband. I’m grateful for every single day that I can keep up with my family’s boundless energy. Perhaps, now that I’m newly in my forties, I will begin to inch more and more toward honoring my temporary down days with rest and hydration instead of picking up my phone.
Even when you’re famous, Mom Guilt is a thing, as these celebrity moms show.