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Lowering the Bar

Last week’s poll certainly revealed to me that I’m not alone in the “Less Ain’t So Bad” school of grooming these days.

The poll focused on how your grooming habits have changed since becoming a mommy, and almost half of you said you try to look presentable and shower daily, but don’t spend as much time in front of the mirror as you used to. Most of the rest of you admitted to showering a couple times a week and combing when necessary, while one brave mommy (God bless your honesty!) said she’s happy to get out of the house without her breast pads showing, and with the spit-up blending into her fabric.

This topic came to me a couple weeks ago while I was showering one evening. I was hacking away at nearly a week’s growth of leg hair and thinking how different my standards are now than they were a year plus ago; I’m happy to shower twice a week and find time to shave maybe once in those seven days. As I realized how embarrassed I’d be to admit that to a lot of people (ironic, since I’m confessing it in cyberspace), I became defensive in my inner monologue, reasoning that there’s just no time with the baby! 

And then I realized – that excuse left a good nine months ago. No longer do I have a newborn who’s up several times a night, making every second of sleep that much more precious. When Maddie was newly arrived and Brian was back at work, the only way I could shower in the morning was to get up before he got ready for work.

Let’s see, take a shower every day or sleep an extra 45 minutes . . .

Nor do I have a baby who needs total quiet in the house for an hour after bed time to ensure that she’s truly out; she’s been pretty easy to put to sleep for several months now. So it’d be fairly simple for me to shower at night, after she’s in bed. Except that now, I’m used to doing all my website work (That’s it! Blame you gals!), and if I’m being totally honest, I’ve grown accustomed to watching Tivo’d shows again, since television was something else sacrificed for more sleep with a newborn.

So if it weren’t for the fact that I take a bath with Maddie twice a week, I’d be pretty stinky by now.

And I’m exaggerating, of course – I’m in and out of the water a lot this summer, and there’s usually a rinse-off somewhere around that. Just not always soap.

And that’s just the bathing issue. With my hair pretty much all one length, I didn’t think I could get much more low maintenance than I was. I never blow-dried, never curled. But I did put it in a few different cute styles.

Now my hair regime is brush (sometimes, if she insists, with Maddie’s rubber brush), rubber band, done. And as for color – let’s just say that when I walk into the hair salon now, my stylist squints and says facetiously, “The face looks vaguely familiar . . . what’s your name again?”

Because the truth is – at least for me – I’ve stopped noticing how I look nearly as much as I used to. I mean, right after the baby arrives you expect to look like Medusa, with your hair sticking out everywhere and your newly swollen boobs bursting to get out of the clothes you naively thought would fit you a week post-partum. So you sort of stop looking in the mirror. And then there’s the weight thing, which of course you can’t even think about for a few months as you wait for it to disappear magically all on its own.

And then, right as your uterus has finally contracted down and you’ve lost a good bit of the weight and you’re sleeping four hours in a row at night, you get the chance to shower and look in the mirror and care a bit about what you wear.

That’s about the time you notice your hair coming out by the handful.

You start counting the hairs left on your head, trying to calculate how much longer you can keep this hair loss up before going bald. This totally distracts you from the weight thing; after all, the weight’s something you have at least some control over! It’s not like you can choose to stop losing hair.

So by the time your hair loss stops and you take another look in the mirror – we’re talking a good six months now - you’re getting a bit more sleep, you’re moving close to your pre-pregnancy weight, and you’re pretty accustomed to the whole sparse showering thing. And what you see in the mirror is sort of what you used to see, albeit with thinner hair, darker roots, and bigger boobs. You kinda forget what the real you actually used to look like – the one that wore tailored business suits or skin-tight jeans, that put on eyeshadow (!!!) every day and painted her toenails.

You’re so relieved that you resemble your former self that you sort of end up with this new, lower maintenance person, and are happy to have her. You can’t believe you used to stress about gaining three pounds; in fact, you’re happy you’re only three pounds away from your pre-pregnancy weight and figure that’s good enough. Time to call it a night, and set the alarm for as late as possible the next day.

So we end up being happy with a less labor-intensive “us”. Or at least I do.

And all the stuff I said up there is true, but here’s another big reason I care less about how I look. It’s not because I’ve “settled” or “given up”; it’s because I’m looking at someone else much more than I look at myself, and can’t imagine why anyone else would do differently.

Every night I pick out Maddie’s outfit for the next day, and love seeing her in a cute sun suit with a matching hat and coordinated shoes; while I’m happy to walk next to her in clothing that’s a) clean, and b) vaguely matching. She’s beautiful and magnetic: my eyes are drawn to her even while we stand side by side in front of a mirror. I’ll scrub her face after every meal, only to find I’ve walked around all day with an ink mark on my cheek. And you know what? I just don’t care as much these days.

And that’s the truth.

And I know I’m not alone; I talk to lots of women who forgo their old manicures and pedicures, even “necessities” like new shoes, so they can buy their kids more cute outfits. We get truly excited by a Children’s Place sale, while a Gap sale seems not worth the effort.

So there you have it. Part laziness, part more contentment with how I look these days, and part besottedness so deep I forget to primp myself.

I guess that's motherhood.


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