I bumped into a friend at the mall just days before my maternity leave was over. With her own baby on hip, my stay-at-home-mom friend explained she needed some fresh air — and what better place than among the clothing racks, shoe sales, and hubbub of other SAHMs looking to get out of the house.

I just stared at her. Her life seemed so carefree. Anyone passing by would covet (what looked to be) a life full of free afternoons and minimal stress. But within how are you’s, you look so good, and give me life updates, she pulled me in between clearance racks and divulged.

My dear friend grabbed my shirt, her toddler started screaming, and her shoulders collapsed. She said, to be honest, some days are hard. Many are lonely. And sometimes she just wishes to be back at work, enjoying a lunch with her colleagues, and feeling accomplished by a marked-up to-do list. Doing something for HER for once.

Later, I bumped into another friend who returned back to her office, briefcase, and dress suits after spending months at home with her kid. Another round of how are you’s, you look so good, and give me life updates. All the same, she spilled the beans. “It doesn’t help when he screams at daycare drop-off,” she permits. “That can make anyone cringe – but as I sit in meetings, I’m wondering how he’s waking up from naptimes and looking up to an unfamiliar face. Wondering why it’s not mom.” The worst – those days when she comes home late just in time to put him down for bed, she wonders if it’s worth it.

Both situations are completely understandable, common. Even predictable. You want to be there to witness every major milestone in your baby’s childhood, and you can’t imagine sharing the responsibility of raising your child with someone else. I’m nodding right along with you. But there’s a pull to follow your dreams, pay the bills, and/or get some social time (aka “me” time) for your extroverted self. I’m still nodding. Which to choose?

As a mom who went back to work and then went back to staying at home, I’ve learned 2 things:

1. The grass is always greener on the other side.

 The stay-at-home moms feel like they’re always “on” with no breaks, may go insane if conversation doesn’t go beyond goo-goo ga-ga, and can’t help but partly miss their powerhouse heels and impressive email signature. Working moms feel guilty for missing their child’s day-to-day affairs, frazzled from running here to there, and torn between that work-life balance that seems despairingly impossible.

2. Comparison kills contentment.

Staying home isn’t an option because your mortgage would drown a single-person income. But when you log onto Facebook only to see so-and-so post pics of her homelife plus baby, jealousy rages, and you maybe, sort of (ugly) cry a little. Or you miss the benefits of work and accomplishing something other than getting in the shower and putting the baby down successfully; but when your sister celebrates a promotion, you wonder if you’re maximizing your own potential…or letting it fall by the wayside.

Solution? Fix your eyes on the race set before you. In a race, it would be foolish to take off running looking at the sprinter to your left. The course set before you may zigzag, turn, or cross over, but if you’re gawking at another runner, you may trip, miss the finish line, or forfeit the medal completely.

In the same way, God has a unique plan for each of us – some moms, that means staying at home, and for others, that involves working – and instead of stumbling around with envy or getting tripped up by discontentment, He asks us to turn our gaze upward, grit our teeth, and press on to endure the race set before us. Not the race set before your neighbor mom who works full-time or your actual mom who stayed home. But your race. Which, by the way, is bound to be beautiful because it’s tailor-made by a God who withholds no good thing from you. Take heart that it may be tough now, but in the end, it’s promised to be so worth it.

So fix your eyes today, mama. Believe you me, you won’t want to miss the glory of what God has for you in the course ahead.

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