One day I overheard my brother making a remark about a family member. “She let herself go,” he said.
This particular family member was a mother of multiple children. Prior to her children’s births she was the “hot girl.” I know because I witnessed the attention she received.
Nevertheless, something rose up in me when my brother made that particular comment, mostly because it was incredibly unfair and shortsighted.
I am 38 years old and I am now the mother of two. My body is different. This latest bundled blessing has taken the little butt that I had and magically placed it at my mid section. The grays in my hair are seeing the light of day more often because I no longer can find the time to go to the salon (no kid policies).
My pelvic floor you ask? I didn’t even know what a pelvic floor was until I delivered my first child and felt like my vagina had fallen out with the baby. I was reminded of the value of a strong pelvic floor with my second child when I successfully peed on myself while bolting into the door of my house. And this is not to speak of things that are already here or rumored to come… yeah, like stretch marks and hemorrhoids. So goes the experience of many mothers.
All this to say, being a mother is a humbling experience.
I was more vain than I care to admit before I had children. Most of the time I had was spent on me and it showed…and people noticed…and yes, I liked that.
I spent my days shopping for dresses, shoes, lingerie. I got my hair done on the regular, it was my one splurge item. Heels, wow. I wouldn’t be caught dead walking onto the job without them including MAC products adorning my lips.
And my guess is that all of these things are associated with not “letting yourself go,” according to my brother.
But guess what? All that time for yourself vanishes when children come, so much so that extended family members have to rescue you for a few hours on the weekend so that you can get basic shit done like pick up toothpaste and laundry detergent, you know, things you took for granted before children. Lately I find myself booking local hotel rooms just to be away from the kids and to get some sleep.
After the birth of my latest child, a lovely Muslim woman (and mother of 5) imparted this wisdom to me, “Another word for ‘mother’ is God.” As I nursed my baby in the wee hours of the morning, I would let her words settle into my heart over and over and they blessed me.
Her words were also a sobering dose. Outside of the everyday care of a baby, like the feeding, changing, dressing, bathing, and putting to bed, there are the emotional needs.
When my baby is scared, he looks for me. When he is sad, needs affection, is too cold, or too hot, sick, needs entertainment, he looks to me. Most people who are not mothers nor have the experiences of moms cannot hold together what it’s like being god to another human being. The level of demand is beyond comprehension for some folk.
That’s why I could never get into the “Housewives” brand. Most of the women on these, particular “reality”shows are moms and I just couldn’t resonate as a mother with the things they concerned themselves with and how they spent their time. And I say this without judgement.
To be fair, reality TV is a construction…not at all as real as producers brand it. But mostly, being on television necessitates a level of ego. And I’m just not here for it anymore.
It’s easy to fall for the myth that they represent, that you can look put together all the time and hold down your children. Never forget that they pay people to shop, dress, and style them. You, sitting on the other end of that TV don’t have the glam squad waiting for you in your bathroom.
Being vain is not how I want to spend my time these days. And frankly, vanity is a set up to be knocked down several notches when motherhood kicks into full gear (as I scrub off the poop and spit-up on my pants).
Motherhood has so liberated me that common aesthetic mistakes no longer bother me. A co-worker once noticed that I left my zipper open while I was talking to her. She pointed it out with a stifled chuckle. I looked down, zipped my zipper, thanked her and kept it moving. Why? Because it happens and will happen again. Several years ago, I would have been devastated…scratch that, it would not have happened because prior to children, I spent more time in front of the mirror.
Today, I could care less about my zipper being open because at any given hour I have 500 things on my mind and 400 hundred of those have to do with my children’s well-being (and trust me, I have a life outside my children). A zipper is bound to be left unzipped at some point.
I wear flats all the time now and only look for heels on those rare date nights. Why you ask? Because when you’ve made lunch, got that and the homework in the book bag, nursed the little one, paid the childcare provider, and made it through traffic on Lake Shore Drive in less than 30 minutes to get to work on time, you pat yourself on the back, not wish you’d worn heels. In heels, at least 2 of those things wouldn’t have gotten done.
There are so many hours in a day and mothers have choices to make. While self-care should always be something a mom makes time for, the days are over for having time to do all the self care you want, at least while the kids are young. So instead of shopping to update your wardrobe, perhaps you only have time to hit the gym and get dinner on the table. Or instead of spending the day at the salon, perhaps all you can do is bring the magic in your own bathroom while the kids play in the other room. Motherhood reality.
Don’t get me wrong, I do my best when it comes to looking good (and on occasion, I still get noticed) but my best today is not the same best I had prior to children, mainly because time and sanity are much more precious commodities. Life looks different for me today and so do my appearances and as long as I’m okay with that, I don’t need you to be.
So the only thing I’m “letting go of” these days are flippant comments towards myself and other moms, comments from those who cannot handle both the gravity and the radiance of motherhood.