No wonder envy is one of the seven deadly sins. When you become a parent, your capacity for envy doesn't disappear overnight because you've magically transformed into this selfless, beatific human being. No, that capacity for envy is still there; it just shifts focus. Instead of coveting another woman's hair, clothes, thighs or boyfriend, you move on to her lifestyle -- even her children.
You ogle her kids as she ferries them to hockey practice and gymnastics. They're so naturally athletic and talented. Your child still can't ride a bike, swim or skate. Every weekend there's a play date or sleepover. They have friends. Despite years of 'play' therapy, your child barely engages with other kids. Sometimes he pushes them out of frustration or overexcitement.
This mom has time to look after herself. She logs an 8k run every single morning, while you're lucky to drag a brush through your hair before you head out the door -- late again. She belongs to the only book club worth joining, yet you can't remember the last time you read a book that wasn't about autism. Or simply shared a glass of wine with girlfriends, and laughed.
Even her Facebook feed seems designed to goad. The Instagrams full of smiling snapshots from frequent jaunts to the Caribbean and Europe, while your cheeks burn at the thought of your own staycation. Your child isn't yet ready to travel. The last time you went to a beach he screamed blue murder because there was wet sand on his feet. You left in tears.
Even though you don't want to compare -- comparing is for chumps -- you secretly can't help yourself. A litany of comparisons runs through your mind like a never-ending grocery list. Your child is amazing, but his needs limit his day-to-day life and that of your family. And even after all these years, it stings.
I admit it. I sometimes suffer from acute bouts of mom envy. I have countless blessings, so it's not that my life is miserable. Far from it. It's just that hers shines noticeably brighter, richer. She must have it so easy, not having something like autism on her radar. Being her must be a summer breeze.
Such times, I have to stop and remind myself there's probably a whole lot more than meets the eye to her picture-perfect existence. After all, I'm not there behind the scenes to witness the cracks in her walls. And we all have cracks.
A friend recently confessed that she admired how I was raising my son. My first reaction: I laughed out loud. Then I rushed to thank her, admitting that most days having a child with special needs is like wandering around a strange neighbourhood without Google Maps.
Just because you can't see the cracks doesn't mean they are not there.
A version of this article originally appeared at YummyMummyClub.ca.