Moms are notoriously tough on themselves. We beat ourselves up for not having a visible six-pack in the ninth month of pregnancy, for not being back in the size four jeans three days after pushing a baby out, for not having hair, makeup and the baby all bundled up in a pretty little package one week in.
There are plenty who tell you it’s not difficult to raise a few kids and look put together and there are plenty who think showering is overrated. For some working out is a priority. Others feel they get their workout chasing after a toddler.
The fact is, you change after you’ve had a baby. Or two. Or five. Sure, you change emotionally, but you change physically as well.
It’s not always easy to look in the mirror and like what you see. Even on a good day. If it is after a few months of sleepless nights? Forget it. If you are focusing on spit-up on your shoulder or milk stains on your shirt it’s easy to forget to comb your hair or brush your teeth. When you have a toddler it’s easy to choose nap over shower. After all, you’re probably going to be covered in oatmeal soon enough anyway. The first time I planned a big outing with my first-born I made a real effort. I showered, did my hair, put on makeup. Ten minutes before I was supposed to walk out the door he pooped on me and I had one of those nursing sessions where it looked like my breast was a milk sprinkler.
As a mom, sometimes you go without so they can go with. You wear clothes from five years ago because they’re just going to get ruined anyway. You wear the ratty bras and the granny knickers, slap on some chapstick and call it a day. And every now and then you catch a glimpse of yourself in a passing shop window or a dressing room mirror and think: Holy shit. I used to be so hot. Who the hell is this haggard banshee staring at me?
And then you realize it’s you. You’re tired, you’re saggy or baggy or ratty. You’re cranky, you’re pale, you’re disheveled. You’re ten pounds off your goal weight.
You’re amazing. Just the way you are.
Those lines and bags and sags? They’re evidence of putting your child’s need above your own those first 365 nights. The crankiness and the short temper? Proof that you’re doing what you need to do. So what if you look tired? You made a human being. That’s tough work. So what if you don’t put on mascara or get your hair trimmed every six weeks? You’re raising a person, a full-fledged person with feelings and thoughts and emotions and preferences all their own. It’s hard sometimes.
Your skin isn’t glowing? It’s probably because you are making sure your pre-schooler gets his veggies while neglecting your own. Belly all jiggly? Yeah, that happens when you grow a few lives in there.
You made a human! Probably several! You protected those little lives in your womb. You sang to them a lullaby of heartbeats. You brought forth life. This ‘you are the vessel’ bullshit doesn’t cut it when it comes to motherhood. You are the vessel, sure, but you are captain, first mate, life boat, engine and sail as well. It’s no wonder you feel like you don’t look your best.
Stop. Think for a moment about what you are doing.
You’re taking the time to make sure these humans, these lives, these children have everything they need not just to live, but to thrive. Sometimes you’re going to look tired. Or old. Or wrinkly or just plain scary. Sometimes the creases from the nap you just grabbed are going to take a while to go away. Sometimes you might feel fat or ugly or unattractive. Sometimes you may look around you and think, how come everyone else manages to look put together?
But I promise you two things.
You are a mother.
And you’re amazing, just the way you are.