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Girl Talk: Dealing With Mommy Envy

Q. I'm envious. It seems like everyone has her act together but me! All the other babies in our playgroup wear perfect outfits (down to cute socks and headbands), and the moms actually wear makeup and accessories. I'm lucky if my daughter and I get out the door in clothes without formula stains. How can everything be so easy for them?

Now I'm envious. How did you get your hands on a crystal ball that gives you a window into other people's lives, and where can I get one? Seriously, though: You're assuming, based on the hour or so you spend with these moms, that everything is easy for them. So forgive me for invoking the following cliché : Don't judge a book by its cover, even if it is enveloped in a gorgeous Anthropologie dust jacket.

I'm wondering: Do your feelings have less to do with what these other women and their babies have than with what you feel you lack? Because I don't believe for a minute that if you did manage to show up in matchy-matchy outfits and perfectly coiffed hair, you would be suddenly at peace or, somehow, a better mom. The real issue here is how you feel about yourself and what it is you would like to change (hint: the answer may not have anything to do with your wardrobe or your baby's).

It might help you to know that I also frequently look at other mothers and think, "Now why can't I do that?" Of course, what I really mean is "Now why don't I do that?" That is the key question.

For example, if you honestly ask yourself "Why don't I wear makeup, blow-dry my hair, and accessorize?" you may realize that you would need to skip your morning coffee to get it all done. Now you can clearly see the choice that you have in front of you. Or, if you ask yourself "Why don't I bother to pull out all the stops when I get my daughter dressed?" it may dawn on you that trying to surpass all those other mothers stresses you out. Now you know that what you are feeling is just simple insecurity. If you can pinpoint what your priorities are, you can make choices based on what's best for you and your baby.

Another tip to consider: Just ask those other women how they are able to pull it together. You might be surprised and reassured at their confessions. But if, in the end, you find that you still cannot enjoy this playgroup, take your happily disheveled self and find another class.