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New-Mom Envy

Object of envy #5: You

Before you fall off your chair laughing, consider this: There's bound to be something you have or do that other moms don't. Maybe it's the husband who actually enjoys diaper changes or whipping up a meat loaf on Saturday afternoon. How about that not-so-meddling mother-in-law who babysits at a moment's notice? Not in size-6 jeans? The fact that you've made it to size 12 signals serious progress to onlookers in 16s. Even sagging breasts hoisted up in a push-up bra look good to the woman who promptly deflated back to her A cup. That job that limits your time with your baby may mean the end of hand-me-down strollers to the stay-at-home mom of three down the block.

"The funniest thing is, my friend says how organized she thinks I am," says Susie Lancaster of Glendale, Arizona. "She envies my sewing and baking and other craftiness. What she doesn't realize is that I'm so absolutely disorganized that those hobbies are my escape from the wreckage of the rest of my life!"

Peters agrees: "My neighbor wonders how I have the time to do my own projects. What she doesn't know is that I don't want to sort socks."

Which makes you wonder, "What if she did know?" One soul-baring conversation between Marx and another mom, who seemed to be handling everything perfectly, was all it took to squelch the green-eyed monster in Marx for good. "As we chatted, this mom's problems came tumbling out. Turns out the 'togetherness' was a facade masking a family in turmoil," says Marx. "She told me about struggling with a husband who let the kids run wild and mountains of credit card debt. I had to focus to keep my jaw from hitting the floor."

As Smith explains, envy not only dupes people into believing that others are better off, it distracts them from appreciating their own good fortune. It would be healthier to say, "Wait a minute. Look what I'm doing," he notes.

For her part, Denise Koster, a mother of three in Hugo, Colorado, says that experience has taught her to shut out envy. "I guess being a slightly older mom, I'm comfortable in my own skin. I don't give a tweet how much smarter your baby is, how much cleaner you keep your house, or how wonderful your husband is about picking up his socks. I'm happy for you!" And, she adds, "if you have time to waste worrying about me, please come over and clean my kitchen!"

But if that happens, Denise, please don't tell the rest of us, or we may turn green with envy.