I work out at a gym and see lots of very fit people. One woman, I don’t know her name, is a sight to behold. She obviously works out every day and eats nothing with fat. Always dressed in skimpy, stomach-bearing work out clothing, she seems to shine while she exercises. Hell, I would shine, too, if I knew that every person who walked by looked at me and said “Wow” under their breath.
J and I recently rehired our trainer, Steve, and on our first day of forced strenuous exercise, we walked by this woman. Once we all whispered “Wow” to ourselves, Steve said, “That woman worked out with a trainer for 9 months. She was 190 lbs. after her second child and now look at her. She is in here twice a day.”
My first thought was, “Who is taking care of her children while she works out?” (I know she has kids, I’ve seen them.) Then I had another opinion: all that focus on her body is going to be exaggerated in her children. Kids don’t understand moderation. They simply mimic and mostly they mimic their parents. Any child who sees her mother fret over calories will begin to fret over calories without the understand of what that means. I expressed something like this to Steve but he thought I was nuts. “But she’s so healthy!” He doesn’t have children, so he doesn’t get how children think. I simply shook my head.
At home, J made a comment about how flirty the woman acted. “Maybe she comes to the gym so much because she’s having an affair,” J threw out there. I didn’t think it was fair to assume that flirt equals affair. And an affair is a heavy accusation to make.
In our next meeting with Steve, I brought up this woman again to make my point about her parenting skills (because I just can’t let go) and Steve interrupts me. “Oh! Didn’t I tell you? Her husband called the next day and canceled her membership when he found out she was having an affair. She’s done at the end of the month.” That put our conversation to rest. But I didn’t stop thinking about her.
As J and I walked out of the gym, I became very, very sad for the children. For the first time, the impact of an affair on the kids hit me in visceral way. A child’s world is made up of the adults who care for him/her. In this case, Mommy and Daddy. To process the affair (“Mommy loves some other man?”), their world view will have to be destroyed. And the destruction of that world made me sad for those kids. And if they don’t know about the affair, they will have to make up reasons why Daddy is so mad at Mommy that even if she apologizes, it won’t “make it better.” That is a scary world to live in.
I explained this to J and his response was enlightening. “Well, insecurity is costly. Obviously, this woman was insecure about herself, and when working on her body wasn’t enough, she had an affair to feel better about herself.” Whether or not this is true, we don’t know. But I thought about my own insecurities and how they effect our family. When I am feeling insecure, I get angry and lash out. That makes me unpredictable, another fear children have. They need security, and for them that comes in the form of predictability. That hit me hard. I thought about L’s sweet little face and how much she needs me to be Mommy so she can develop her own confidence. I can’t be perfect, but I can be honest when I am feeling lousy about myself and not take it out on my family, something I tell Lillian not to do.
The experience of seeing myself in another person with different circumstances isn’t new to me. But I was surprised how much the cost of her (assumed) insecurity hit home and how it changed me. I guess I have her to thank for helping me be a better mom. I hope that she has a similar insight about herself someday. And for the sake of her kids, soon.