I know what you’re thinking, mama- another self-care blog written by someone who is going to make suggestions of expensive products I can’t afford, of skincare regimens I don’t have the time to maintain, of workout routines that aren’t feasible for me right now (or that I’m just too damn tired to consider), of foods that sound so unfulfilling and tough to prepare that I’ll just stick to eating my toddler’s PB+J crusts, thankyouverymuch. I promise you, I won’t do that to you. I get it. I have some simple strategies and solutions for you to not completely “let yourself go” physically in those first few months (months/years, potato/pa-tah-to) of parenting, when you have very little energy, motivation or free time.
A mom’s job is a round-the-clock exercise in the care of others, and especially for new moms, we’re required to focus all of our efforts into keeping these babies alive- well, not just alive but flourishing and rested and bathed and fed and happy and mentally stimulated (but not too stimulated)…it’s quite easy to lose yourself in that sea of giving. It’s hard not to. More often than not, I think, we arrive home from the hospital after giving birth in that new mom uniform, wearing no makeup, a sloppy bun, comfy pants, in desperate need of a shower and a good shave, and before we know it, that’s our new norm. Showing baby his or her reflection in the mirror, we catch a glimpse of our own faces and our eyes are met with a quizzical look in return: “Who is that?”.
I let myself go completely for awhile there. I didn’t feel that it was by choice, though. Being thrust into motherhood was so transformative and all-encompassing that embodying a life of complete selflessness just seemed the only possible route. I felt guilty or selfish to take any time at all for ‘me’ and honestly, even if given the time, I could barely manage much beyond a short shower because I was just. so. tired. I’d use the “free” time to nap or read or handle the necessary tasks to keep us afloat, but beauty? Health? Fitness? Not at all where my head was at. It just seemed like such a tall task when my body had been ravaged by pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Gone were the days where I could enjoy curling my hair and applying my makeup cross-legged and carefree while listening to music. In those early days, primping was definitely not happening- but additionally, I was completely neglecting my physical well-being. Obviously, sleep sucked. Famished by breastfeeding’s caloric demands, I’d eat nothing but bagels and crackers and cheese and processed bags and boxes of food. I’d shower when I absolutely had to, but I definitely wasn’t feeling beautiful. “Just a season”, I’d say. “It’s just not a vain time in my life. I have no room for vanity right now.”
However, it hurt when on those rare times I did pull myself together and try to look nice, I rarely got complimented. When I’d meet a friend for lunch or attend a gathering, I’d genuinely dole out the compliments and find that I rarely received them back. It was a shitty feeling. I’d look at myself in pictures and see that no matter how I tried to mask it, I was holding onto pregnancy weight, I looked exhausted, and my skin did whatever the opposite of glowing is.
It took me a few years of momming before I was able to physically preserve my sense of self. And When I did do it, I did it consciously and unapologetically. I finally decided that it would probably be okay for me to start taking a bit of interest in my own appearance again. It wouldn’t mean I was a bad mom or take anything away from my family. For me, it meant carving out free time (which, when I got it, was always used for work or “home” stuff before then) to attend a class at the gym or to take the time away from my kids to go get fitted for a nursing bra that actually fit and supported my boobs the way they needed now that they were being incessantly milked (oh my God, do this. It’s lifechanging). It meant forcing myself to shower whenever I had the opportunity, and bringing my makeup into the living room in the mornings and attempt to apply it with a baby whining on my hip and another one parked in front of the TV bingeing Daniel Tiger episodes. It was an exercise in allowing myself to be selfish, because like they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. As much as I used to reject that concept, because I did pour from an empty cup for a long long time, I realized that I just didn’t want to. I was still pouring, but I was feeling down about it, and a little bit resentful. I didn’t want my kids to pick up on that energy and I just didn’t want to feel that way anymore.
Maybe you’re in the stage where you can’t do much. It is a season which will pass, so hang in there, mama, and be patient. There are things you can absolutely make the time to do. Here are some simple things you can totally find the time to do now:
- Shower. Do it. You are tired. Unmotivated. Don’t feel like “starting all over” with your hair. Do it anyway.
- Facemasks. Find a few that work for you and rotate them. You can take the 12 seconds it takes to apply one and the 35 seconds it takes to wash one off, every week. That’s 47 seconds out of your week. You can do it. Sure, some of the mask will inevitably end up in the baby’s hair. Some of it will be stuck to the inside of your nose for the entire day before you realize. But you’ll feel good. Like you’re doing something for you. I recommend getting samples of a few masks so that you can test them out before you commit. Here are a few masks that I really like:
- GLAMGLOW SUPERMUD: The holy grail mask for oily congested skin. As this mask dries, dark spots appear from where the oil and grime was pulled from your pores. Nasty, but oddly satisfying. I’ve been a fan for years!
- Perlier Royal Elixir Face Mask: This is a hydrating, softening mask that helps to even out your complexion. It’s calming to the skin and I always feel like my makeup sits nicer after I’ve used it.
- MALIN + GOETZ clarifying clay mask: I was introduced to this line by Stephanie, the owner of The Blushery in Beacon. Stephanie told me a great application tip with this mask- wet your face and gently pre-exfoliate your face as you put the mask on, then let it harden. Gently exfoliate again when you rinse it off. I try not to overexfoliate but it’s necessary for me to slough off dead skin cells.
- Hydrate. I used to purposely avoid hydration because drinking water means peeing and I found peeing to be one of the most annoying things as a new mom. To break away from the baby to run and pee while they screamed their heads off or to pee whilst holding a little baby are equally annoying situations to find yourself in, I know. But drink at least half your body weight in water daily. I mentioned this to Mike once and he was like “like, in pounds??” so I’ll clarify: drink the equivalent of half your body weight, in ounces, daily.
- If you can’t wash your hair, find a dry shampoo that works for you (it’s trial and error). Before dry shampoo was a thing, I used baby powder in my hair to cut the grease- just make sure you rub it in completely or you’ll look like the Old Maid from the card game, in which case it’s just as bad to look like a greaseball.
- If you can’t wax your brows, tweeze the inner area and underneath.
- Aquaphor. I know you have plenty of Aquaphor at arms’ length these days, girl. Use it to moisturize your legs and arms, to massage into your cuticles, to coat your dry feet in and then put socks over it to let them really absorb it. Lock in your eye cream at night with aquaphor, too. When you wake up, your eyes will look ten times as hydrated as they would have without it. Note: This is not recommended by opthamologists, but I make sure to not get the product inside my eyes, and it feels so nice! So- do it at your own risk, I guess?
- If you can’t eat WELL, just don’t eat like complete shit. Buy apples, grapes, snap peas- items that require zero prep required and can sustain you better than potato chips and PBJ sandwiches.
- If you can’t exercise, stretch. Simple yoga stretches such as Child’s Pose can help reduce stress and fatigue while gentle stretching multiple parts of your body. If you’re feeling ambitious and can carve 60 seconds out of your day, do a plank for one minute. It will create strength and endurance in your core, back and glutes.
- Be mindful of your posture. Especially for nursing moms, who are so accustomed to mastering sitting or laying at awkward angles in order to feed our babies, this is a biggie. Practicing good posture will keep your bones and joints aligned properly, decreases stress on the ligaments, lends itself to consciously tightening and strengthening the core, and it contributes to a more attractive appearance overall.
- Finally, choose at least one beauty practice that you refuse to compromise. Maybe it’s coloring your hair every six weeks, a daily exercise or your monthly pedicure (go gel- much better staying power). Find the one thing that makes you feel like you, amidst the diapers and the wailing and the Googling of butt rashes and DO IT.
My personal must-do self care item is my skincare- I always always always go to sleep with a clean face. Even in those newborn days, when I was hairy-legged and had grown-out toenail polish and ashy knees, my face was clean and moisturized before it hit the pillow. What’s your must-do beauty practice that you won’t waver on?