I have always had a routine, and being a morning person, I rarely deviated from that routine. I laid out my clothes the night before, set the coffee pot to brew the next morning, and even placed my laptop bag and purse in the car before going to bed. You see, like my father, I detest being late for anything so I rarely am, which is one of the reasons I plan ahead and follow a routine. On top of that, I have always been a morning person, not the kind of morning person who drags myself out of bed, but the kind who sings and dances and just can’t stop smiling because it is the fresh start of a new day.
And then I had Madeline, and suddenly everything changed. I was not as chipper in the mornings for one thing. I had to rush around to get out the door for work, often, I hate to admit, running late. Needless to say, my morning routine started slipping, and I began wearing wrinkled clothes and my hair pulled back, like everyday. My traditionally polished look was replaced with a quickly thrown together look, because, well, it was.
But the real kicker came after I had Abigail, which resulted in yet more compromises in my daily routine. I started working from home, part time, and could really work whenever it was convenient, morning, noon, or night. Now it was no longer necessary to leave home every morning by 6:30 a.m., being no longer bound by a fixed schedule. Also, I had a newborn and a two-year-old who were taking turns spitting up on me and putting their sticky fingers on my clothes, my face, and in my hair throughout the day. Lastly, because it was summer when number two arrived, my days consisted largely of going to the pool, working out whenever I could and squeezing in every extra second of shuteye possible. Oh, did I tell you that my now almost 2 year old still cries at night and wakes up at 5 a.m.? Yeah, it goes without saying that my perfect morning routine wearing a starched blouse and power heels was definitely OVER.
As the weeks turned into months, I embraced what I call the “stay at home” wardrobe. Yep, most any day of the work week you would find me in some sort of workout outfit. Let’s be honest — that wardrobe is just plain comfortable and sensible; it keeps me from having to think about what I am going to wear and from spending extra effort on myself after dressing three children. What — three children? Yes, I include my husband in that category because sometimes making sure he’s dressed properly takes more work than the girls. So I stopped really caring about my appearance, which is not altogether a bad thing because prior to having children, I often fixated on it. So, I resigned myself to this lifestyle ( or no style), by telling myself that my appearance really didn’t matter — it was just my kids and husband who saw me, so who cared? But I saw who I was becoming, an ordinary stay-at-home mom, and that image depressed me.
The problem stemmed from my great enjoyment in the act of dressing up to make myself presentable — from selecting clothes to applying the finishing spritz of perfume. I have never had overly expensive clothes, but I learned at an early age that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to look “put together.” “Put together,” was the look and the feeling suddenly missing in my life. Most days I barely managed to keep my head above water, so to speak, much less “dress for success,” a concept I firmly believe in, by the way. No doubt many of you wonder why this is such a big deal to me since it is easier to be in workout clothes or maybe jeans and a t-shirt while with your kids all day long, and most days, I would agree with you 100%! Just earlier this evening, when I took my daughter to dance, still wearing the same clothes I worked out in six hours earlier, a wave of embarrassment hit me me about my appearance. But I will tell you like I told the other mothers there, “it was just one of those days.” You know how it is.
For me, not finding my own sort of beauty routine led to negative, dark thoughts, making me feel like a sloppy and frumpy failure, like I had given up on ever being attractive again. Of course, this wasn’t altogether true, but because I had begun neglecting my week-day appearance, it was easy for me to listen to the lies Satan was telling me. I remember the day I decided to turn things around, that staying at home with children did not mean I could not still look nice or “put together.” Having young children was no excuse to stop investing time to take care of my appearance. No, I wasn’t expecting a free pass to wear a white shirt or my favorite jeans without their being stained by who knows what, but I knew it was time to get back in the game. On that particular day I had encountered a friend and mother of four, wearing workout clothes at the grocery store and thought nothing about it. But she did and apologized by saying, “ I did not think I would see anyone I knew today, but I plan to work out later and need to be in workout clothes to stay motivated.” I just smiled and reassured her that I often stayed in my workout clothes every day and never worked out! We both had a good laugh, but it made me realize something important — she dressed for that day’s upcoming activities. On other days, she completely dressed, did her hair and applied her makeup first thing, and it totally changed her attitude on how she approached whatever she was doing.
As mothers, wives and homemakers in general, we give so much time and effort to others that our personal needs are the first to be shelved. “Me time”? What is that? I still chuckle when I hear people say to new mothers, “Just sleep when the baby sleeps” to get your rest. Sounds like good advice, except that nothing else that requires my undivided attention would ever get done, and I might as well forget doing anything just for ME. Well, after the encounter with my friend, I decided to implement two changes in my new routine moving forward. First, I got up earlier than my children to get myself ready for the day. Of course, this doesn’t always happen after pulling an all nighter with a crying or sick child, so I stay in bed as late as possible, but when the first girl wakes up, my work day officially begins, so I decided to be “dressed for the day” whenever I could. This really improved my outlook for what lay ahead of me, for I felt fresh and ready to go. You know, often times it just takes a slight mental shift to make us feel more positive about our situation and more confident in ourselves. Second, on a day when I was going to be super active with the girls or involved in messy projects, I wore leggings (or the such) and waited until the end of the day to shower, and that is just fine, trust me. I no longer feel like a frumpy failure because I do not “dress” every day of the week. So, if you’re struggling with this, I urge you, Momma, to be kind to yourself and to remember your own needs, whatever they may be, because before you were a wife or mother, you were you, and YOU are something special.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
Real Life Hacks:
- Find a beauty routine that works for you, but realize it can differ from day to day depending on your weekly schedule. For instance, Tuesday and Thursday mornings I go to the gym while my girls are in school so I get “ready” while they nap later that afternoon. On other days I try to get ready before they wake up, to avoid falling into habit of just grabbing something to cover myself with while my girls look like they stepped out of catalog.
- Treat hair appointments and manicures as seriously as you would a doctor’s appointment, and DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for pampering yourself!
- Learn a few tricks with your hair. I am notorious for rocking a ponytail but recently learned how to get by without washing my hair every day with hair ties that don’t cause creases. And I keep my hair out of my face without it being perfectly styled by putting it in a messy bun. (still my favorite ☺)
- Make sure you are planning date nights with your husband and DRESS UP! We all are still little girls at heart longing to be Cinderella. Make it special, put on that dress in the back of your closet, grab a pair of high heels, and be generous with your favorite perfume and with my favorite, red lipstick!