It's worth repeating more than once: no one mom's journey is the same as any one else's. This is the only true fact I can give you about motherhood: maybe you (you know, you) are reading this and you're already a mom and you're like, Michelle, you take this way too seriously. It's not so bad. Or maybe you are reading this and you aren't a mom yet, and you're like, Oh my god, W H Y would I ever want to take this on? But the truth is: you might have had an easier time than me OR you might have an easier time OR you might have a worse time than me (scary thought). It's impossible to know.
But what I can tell you is that beauty and fashion become incredibly unimportant, and yet, incredibly alluring, in one fell swoop. I don't know how else to describe it. Never have I had less time for beauty and fashion, and never has my skin and face and body been less apt for any of this, but I just can't keep away. I read more fashion blogs than ever; I read lifestyle blogs by the pound; and I watched beauty YouTubers everyday at work. I even forked over $52 for Nikkietutorial's Too Faced palette. Is that sad? No, it's awesome.
When I say this is a new mom's guide to beauty, that new mom is me. I can only tell you what has worked for me and how I've helped myself to feel pretty when I feel I am slowly becoming a rock upon which a sea anemone (Forrest) lives. It's hard not to feel reduced to simply a life source (and that's it) as a new mom, but I'm here to tell you: you matter; you deserve to put on make up and shower and wash your hair and put on something other than leggings (unless you want to wear leggings, I can't blame you).
Here's how I got my groove back, a little bit at a time.
Step #1: I set small, realistic goals for myself.
One of the very first goals for myself was that I would wear pants (real pants) to work every day. When I first went back to work, thanks to the casual nature of my office, I wore leggings and sweaters and sweatshirts. Not....super flattering and also not a great way to feel good about yourself every day. I set a goal to wear jeans, or maybe even a dress, every single day. And real shoes, not my Uggs.
Once I successfully passed that hurdle, I set other goals: washing my hair every day, packing my lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking Forrest for a walk. As I got more brave, I felt increasingly good about myself.
Step #2: I treated myself to something I wanted.
Listen: moms, as a rule, seem to put their kids first. It's natural. It's normal. It is what it is. But, here's the thing: you matter too. Sometimes, I will make lists of things I need (legitimately, actually need): I need work dresses and new jeans and professional tops and a new blazer. I have bought 0 of these things, but Forrest has western print jammies for every size in the foreseeable future. I'd rather buy Forrest a new book, a new toy, a new outfit than myself something. The more I did that, though, the more I realized I was sabotaging all my efforts to feel good about myself.
I'm not saying you should go hogwild. There is a middle ground and I definitely believe in limiting spending on things that aren't necessary. But if you need new clothes because all you feel like you can wear are leggings and tank tops, it's ok to give yourself the gift of some new duds. Or if you've been scraping out your foundation container for two weeks, it's time to bite the bullet and just treat yo' self.
Step #3: Screw it--I did whatever I wanted.
At the end of the day, my job as a mom is this: to keep my son happy and healthy; to keep my house clean enough so it's at least safe for his survival; and to be happy myself. That's it. None of us are perfect. And certainly, I'm never going to be a perfect mom. I'm going to make mistakes. But I don't want one of those mistakes to be hating myself--and passing that kind of behavior onto Forrest. I want Forrest to see me for what I am: a woman who is his mom, who feels beautiful, who feels smart, who takes care of herself, who takes care of other people. He doesn't need a martyr or a perfect mom. He just needs me. And if I have to hand him off to Danny for a few hours each weekend to go work out, or run, or grocery shop, then so be it. He's not going to grow up and say, "Mom, you spend 30 minutes putting on make up that made you happy--and it ruined me." That's just not going to happen.
Beauty is ultimately a way for us to repair our relationships with ourselves. And for some women, new clothes and learning to put make up on in a way that makes them feel beautiful is one way to do that--it won't work for every body, but it works for me and that's all I can tell you.
After becoming a mom, it's easy to feel small, to feel a little downtrodden, especially in the early months. But you don't have to. It doesn't have to keep going. I've been in a relationship with myself for 27 years--it's okay for me to take time to work on that relationships, to feel good about myself, to take steps to repair the damage that's been done. And it's okay for you too--however you choose to.