The Road Not Taken

by Traci Vujicich

It was a difficult morning. The alarm did not go off,
and we all got up in a panic. Seven year old Madison is grumpy, and the baby is hungry. I have breakfast to prepare, lunch to make, and a 45 minute commute to school.

Madison emerges from her room wearing a red-and-white
striped shirt and blue flower-print shorts. It is
January. "Can I wear high heels with this?" "Not
unless you want to look like Cher."

After much "discussion" the fruit of my loins returns
to the kitchen wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes. 
The striped shirt is a compromise. She is also
wearing a scowl. "I don't understand why I can't wear
those shoes to school. Kelsey has the same shoes and
HER mother lets her wear them."

My mother's voice surprises me as it comes out of my
mouth, "Well, I am not Kelsey's mother. I am YOUR
mother, and I say you are too young to wear those
shoes to school."

When did I become such a fuddy-duddy?

To prove that I am still "cool" I put on the
Backstreet Boys in the car. I am driving along
singing, "Everybody groove to the music, everybody
dance..." A handsome man driving a taxi smiles at me
and motions to roll down the window. I smile, "Good
morning!" 

"Do you know where the freeway is?" he asks.

"About a mile down the road this way." I cheerfully
reply.

"Thanks. You look like you're getting a groove on in
there" he smiles.

I blush a little. "Yeah, just some Backstreet Boys."

"Well, maybe you ought to save it for the dance
floor."

Oh.

I turn around and see my seven year old with powdered
sugar on her face and my infant blowing drool bubbles
in her sleep. Yeah, watch out Jennifer Lopez, here I
come.

I drop Madison off at school and head for the
cleaners. I left in such a rush this morning that I
am still wearing my pajamas. Not Victoria's Secret
silk, but my flannel pants and my holey Laker shirt. 
My uncombed hair is stuffed into a ponytail to
complete the ensemble.

"I can just run into the cleaners real fast. No
problem" I assure myself. I schlep the carseat and
the laundry out and shuffle in.

Inside the cleaners is the most beautiful woman I have
ever seen. She appears to be in her late thirties. 
She has perfect red hair, styled elegantly. Her green
silk suit matches perfectly with her high heels. Her
nails are done and her fingers clad in expensive
jewelry. She is explaining to the dry cleaner that he
had gotten stains on a skirt he was supposed to have
cleaned. She is firm and authoritative, yet has an
empathetic smile.

I am looking at myself. She is the me I would have
been had I not had kids. She is OtherMe.

As I turn to the clerk at the counter I see my
reflection in the mirror. The ponytail. The flannel
pajamas I am wearing in public. The powdered sugar on
my cheek from my daughter's kiss. In the reflection I
see OtherMe sashay out the door, past my Chevy, and
into her Land Rover.

When did this happen?

For the rest of the day I wonder about her. As I am
drinking my Folgers and reading Dear Abby I imagine
OtherMe sipping a cappuccino and consulting her day
planner. She prepares a budget report, I clip
coupons. As I am helping Madison with her homework, I
imagine OtherMe running a staff meeting. OtherMe
settles a dispute between two employees; I prevent a
fight between two children. As I wipe yogurt off my
face I wonder if OtherMe is reapplying her makeup. 
When I am hauling a load of laundry up the stairs I
imagine her on a stair machine at an expensive gym.

Are our lives really that different? Does she wonder
about me?

Later that afternoon, the handyman comes to do some
repairs on the apartment. Mercifully, I have changed
out of the flannel. I am wearing sweats that look
remarkably like the ones I wore yesterday. I have
brushed my hair, and returned it to the ponytail.

The cute handyman is a fellow I went to high school
with 15 years ago. His equally cute assistant walks
in shirtless. Is it really necessary to be shirtless
in January?

So the cute, young, shirtless, single guys are putting
up a new screen door. I'm chatting and making light
conversation. I'm feeling good. One of the guys
says, "Ohhh. You're making spaghetti." I smile. 
"Yes, it's an old family recipe."

"Kids food. Good idea."

Right. I'll bet OtherMe is having sushi.

Later that night I am tucking Madison into bed. "I
love you mommy." I check on my tiny, sleeping baby
and notice her snoring softly. She smiles a gummy
smile; dreaming perhaps of my sweet kisses. I walk
into the living room and see my husband. He is not
young or shirtless, but he is my best friend. I lean
to kiss him goodnight and I realize a very important
thing.

OtherMe would be jealous of me.

As much as I may envy her freedom, her clothes, and
her job; she envies me too. She envies the time I
have to spend with my family. She envies the sticky
kisses and the gummy smiles. 

Every woman has to make this choice because we can't
have it all. We can be stay-at-home moms and long for
a "real job". Or we can be successful career women who
long to be at home with our children. Today I
remembered that, while the silk may seem greener on
the other side of the cleaner's counter, I am happy
with the choice I made.


Traci Vujicich is the creator of the The Apple Pie Weekly, an ezine that takes a humorous look at family life.