In My Other Life

In My Other Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

In My Other Life

In my other life, I used to stay up late. When I finally went to bed, it was wearing a nice nightgown—not a stained T-shirt and boxers.

In my other life, the numbers were lower for my weight, my cholesterol, and my blood pressure. I was fine just eating a salad with a glass of wine for dinner.

In my other life, I exercised by taking long hikes up the mountain and watched the sunset. I didn’t have to hurry home to get dinner ready. The meal I prepared did not have to be palatable for anyone’s taste buds but mine. At the parties I hosted, I served gourmet appetizers and cocktails. There were no paper hats or cupcakes involved. I stayed up until 3:00 AM, knowing I could sleep in the next morning. In my other life, sleeping in did not mean getting up at 7:30 AM.

In my other life, my house and car were immaculate. I never had Cheerios hidden under car seats, used tissues stuffed into the side pockets of the backseat, or melted crayons smashed into the rug. I also never had the pleasure of finding a lost sippy cup containing green, congealed milk.

In my other life, my clothes were trendy and plentiful. There were no stains from sticky fingers or magic marker on my best shirt. My hair was cut every six weeks, my fingernails were polished, and I did not wear closed shoes in the summer to hide my unpedicured toes. I only had to worry about brushing my own teeth and cleaning my own ears. I did not have to worry about the cleanliness of someone else’s body parts. I actually had extra money in my bank account that could be used to pay for luxuries for myself. I replaced my shoes before they fell apart. My paycheck was not sucked dry by daycare payments. Extra money did not go toward swimming lessons or babysitters.

In my other life, I could read a book from cover to cover without interruptions. The books I read did not contain pictures on every page or involve any of the Disney princesses.

In my other life, I saw movies in the theater. I made sure to see all the award-nominated films before the Oscars premiered. I stayed until the end of the show. I even watched the credits! There was no worry of how much this additional time in the dark would cost me when it was time to pay the babysitter. I felt sorry for the people who had to rent the summer blockbuster in late fall and watch it on a small-screen television. Didn’t they realize the whole experience was better if you had surround sound while sharing buttered popcorn with your date?

In my other life, I did things like lingering over a cup of tea with a friend in a coffee house. I knew the best places for happy hour and was friendly with the bartenders who gave ladies free drinks. I went to restaurants that did not provide crayons to color on the paper tablecloth. If I came to work tired, it was because of the previous evening’s fun, not because I was in a steamy shower trying to get a toddler to stop coughing. My desk at work had pictures from my latest exotic vacation, pictures in which I was holding a drink in at least one hand. I planned future vacations to places that did not feature a “Kids Club” or have “babysitters available on request.”

In my other life, I didn’t go to zoos on the weekend or look for discount coupons for the circus. I did not know who the Wiggles were, much less get upset when I found out one of them was ill and had to retire.

Would I go back to “my other life”? Not in a million years.

My car was clean but I never had the joy of wiping away tiny fingerprints that made a picture on a steamy window. If I was stuck at a red light, I wouldn’t say the rhyme my father taught me as a child, “Red light, red light, turn to green, by the count of three, or I shall scream.” My father died when I was seven and somehow saying this rhyme with the granddaughter he never met makes me feel closer to him. I play “punch bug” with my daughter on the way to school, and we both get excited as a VW Beetle comes into view.

My hair may not be stylish, but when I put it in a ponytail to keep it out of my eyes, my daughter tells me I look like a princess. And my shoes may be worn or out of style, but they delight my daughter as she prances around in them, pretending she’s wearing Cinderella’s slippers.

My fridge has a portrait of me drawn in purple finger paint because my daughter knows it’s my favorite color. I may not be able to read the latest novel, but I have passed on my love of books and theater to my daughter. She gives a different voice to each one of the three bears as we read the adventures of Goldilocks. I’ve learned buttered popcorn tastes just as good watching television in my basement and sharing it with little, sticky fingers.

My exotic vacations have become places for “family fun,” rather than dancing, snorkeling, or rum cruises. I’m certain my husband and I had as much fun as our daughter did when we visited the Magic Kingdom. And I’ve visited a barnyard zoo on Mother’s Day and milked a cow. I actually made her moo. I’m pretty sure it’s because I was a breastfeeding mother.

I don’t go to bars to flirt or meet a handsome stranger, because my husband will gladly sit on our deck with me and share a bottle of wine. Occasionally, we do treat ourselves for some alone time over dinner, where we mostly talk about how much we love our daughter and discuss our hopes and dreams for her. Once home, and the sitter gone, we check on our daughter as she is sleeping and kiss her good night.

My desk now has pictures of my family on it. These photos serve as a reminder of what is really important. The photos remind me that no one was ever on their deathbed wishing they spent more time at the office.

I’d never go back to my other life. If I did, I’d give up the best thing I’ve ever done in this one . . . becoming a mom.

Kathryn Veliky

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