I was dropping my kids off at school recently, dressed in my active wear and carrying a coffee. It's a look I rock at the school gates a lot, if I'm honest. Hair is scraped back into a messy bun or a pony tail, and makeup is minimal, if anything.
I was gripping my six-year-old's hand and scurrying along, trying to get to her classroom before the bell went. My eight-year-old had abandoned me as soon as we got out of the car, keen as ever to pretend he doesn't have a mother in front of his friends.
Standard week day morning.
What was different about this particular day was that I heard another mum mutter to her friend as I hurried past, "I wish I had time to hang at the gym and drink coffee all day."
It was a comment I was clearly not meant to hear, but I did, and it made me laugh.
My first thought was to turn to her and say, "Me too!"
But I giggled to myself and kept moving – I hate being late.
What I wish I could have told this mum is that, as on every week day, I'd been up working since 4am. I'm a single mum and I have a job that starts super early. Lucky for me I can work from home, and my kids have learned how to get themselves ready for school.
After four hours of work, I took a break to drive my kids to school. On this day, I planned to squeeze in a quick run before heading back to my desk for another six or so hours of work, and then picking up my kids from school to start the afternoon process of ferrying to extra-curricular activities, homework, reading, making dinner and coordinating baths.
Then I head to bed at the same time as the kids so I can get up and do it all again tomorrow.
I'm no martyr though – that chaos is the life I've chosen and I love my job. My life isn't like that every day either. On the days the children are with their father, I do have a bit more time to go for a long run and, yes, sometimes sit around drinking coffee.
But the comment felt like a good reminder of the snap judgements we all make about others every day. We have no idea what other mums are going through from the way they dress or how they conduct themselves in the 30 seconds we might see them.
I'm writing off the comments of that particular mum as just her having a bad morning. Who knows what she was going through at that moment? But I won't feel bad for wearing my active wear to school: firstly, staying fit and healthy is a priority for me and makes me a better human, and secondly, active wear is the most comfortable attire on the planet.
Who could possibly be anti-comfort?
And while I'm at it, why would you begrudge any mum a morning coffee? I don't have many vices left, having given up wine, ice cream and bread – coffee is the daily treat I cling to that makes me excited to get out of bed in the morning.
So next time you're at the school gate and you see a mum in active wear, holding a coffee cup, maybe give her a smile instead of worrying she's got it better than you. We're all doing the best we can, aren't we? And we could all do with more friendly smiles at the school gate.