I was chatting with my best friend on Sunday. She and I have been friends for 35 years and we have seen each other through marriage(s), children, jobs, divorce, illness and death. When we met she was a young bride going back to college to finish her degree while working part time. I was a young college kid, fresh out of high school who wanted to party all day and night in order to forget my feelings. I was on the cusp of adulthood and I wasn’t ready. My family was ripped apart when my brother joined the Army. I didn’t have career plans. I wanted out of my parents’ house and I was determined to do that, no matter what. 4 years later she was my maid of honor at my wedding to a man who was never right for me.
She and I were each other’s lifelines during the lonely and turbulent years when our children were small. We talked on the phone daily and went on outings with and without our children. On the surface, both of our lives looked idyllic, but neither were and that was one of our strong bonds. When you are a young mother and you’re surrounded by everyone else’s perfectly clean and perfectly behaved children and your own clothes came from the thrift store, you tend to wonder what you are doing wrong. Remember, this was the 90’s. Parenting magazines focused on childhood milestones and ways to help yourself stay organized. The show “American Housewife,” which depicts a mother who wears flannel shirts and curses like a sailor, wasn’t even a thing yet. You weren’t accepted into the Mommy crowd if you were an Earth mother (I was) or if you dared to raise your voice to your children within earshot of others (like my friend did.)
Fast forward to the present. I am divorced and remarried. She has resigned herself to staying with her husband even though it’s a very unsatisfying marriage. Her two oldest children are doing well in life and so is my oldest. Our youngest children are both special needs and are “getting by,” but they continue to be a source of worry and emotional stress for us. We are still not a part of the Mommy/Grandmother crowd and may never be. My friend said that she visits the Facebook page of a mutual friend of ours and “gets ill” from seeing all of her perfect posts with her perfect husband, children and grandchildren. I get it. We always wanted the perfect life. I tried like hell to make the perfect life with my ex-husband. He wasn’t perfect material and neither are my children. You might be saying, “well, nobody’s perfect!” That is true, but some are closer than others. Some marriages are better. Some people did everything right and their children ended up in trouble. Or on drugs. Or worse. Some people’s families are close and some aren’t. My friend and I still don’t have the careers we longed for. Money is a worry in our lives. Many of our friends are already retired and living very well. We hope that someday that is us.
My friend said that she has realized she has a “not perfect life” and probably always will. I am right there with her.