My daughter was six months old and there were no two ways about it—I was struggling. I sat in my living room confiding in a close friend my challenges as a first time mom. As we spoke, I felt that familiar, lingering feeling of overwhelm envelop me like a dulling cocoon (some might say straight jacket instead of cocoon, LOL, but for me that’d be too dramatic for my feeling).
I went on to explain to her that my new-mom-overwhelm felt kind of like how I felt in chemistry class freshmen year. I was just trying to stay ahead of the class curve and yet, no matter how much I studied, chemistry was really, really difficult for me. I wasn’t going to ace a test because it simply wasn’t possible. If you scored a 70% you were at the top of the class. Which is kind of like motherhood…
If you’re getting it right 70% of the time, you’re killing it and you should get a bumper sticker that says “Motherhood Honors Student.”
I went on describing my feeling of treading water that left me tired, ineffective and at times drowning in the sea of overwhelm. My friend listened while I vented and then said, “I’m surprised. You always look like you have it together. Whenever we get together you always have your hair and make-up done. You aren’t wearing yoga pants all day.”
And she was right. The vast majority of mornings (notice I don’t say all!) I showered, dressed in something non-lycra, blew out my hair and put make up on. Most of the time this required getting up before the baby or using the valuable morning nap “free time.”
It dawned on me in that moment that my daily effort to pull myself together (in a way that was close to my pre-baby life) helped keep my feelings of overwhelm somewhat in check.
Why? Why was the effort and time worth it? It’s not vanity; it’s sanity. It’s about self-respect and autonomy.
I realized that the extra time it took to get ready was worth feeling good about myself. Ever heard of working to thrive and not just survive? Taking the time to tend to myself, my physical individuality and how I present myself mattered.
Please note that I’m not advocating women need to be dolled-up or that makeup is a requirement for being put together. Your state of “ready” and self care is likely quite different than mine, and different from your neighbor and your best friend. It’s different for everyone frankly. To some women, presentable is showering and to other women, it’s a full face of makeup, a blow-out and a coordinated outfit that includes accessories and heels.
What I am saying is that just because you’re busy (and I know you’re VERY busy) you should still take some time to do whatever it takes to feel like you’re ready to conquer the day.
Even as you move out of the newborn era and into the toddler tantrums or the elementary age negotiations, confidence is key. As my toddler lay face down in the middle of the department store floor kicking, screaming, and flailing because the store ran out of pink balloons, I needed to be able to tell myself “you got this.” In those moments, when I haven’t showered and I’m wearing sweats, I just don’t feel as equipped.
You need to feel equipped and able to cope with the curve ball that inevitably will be headed your way, right?!? So think through your pre-baby state of ready and feeling good. Then think through what (if any) of that “getting ready” routine should be modified now and then make it a point for yourself to do this. Every day.
Here are some ways to make getting ready more feasible:
- Consider the night before a crucial step in getting ready. Check your calendar and the weather forecast so that you can prep anything needed. Things like re-setting your diaper bag allows you to have a sane morning.
- Pick out your outfit the night before. Yep, just like mom advised you to do. Layout your clothes the night before and it will save massive amounts of time. I’ve heard the phrase “dress for the day you want to have” from a variety of people and it may sound a little corny, it really works!
- Set your alarm to rise before your kids wake up giving yourself enough time for drinking a cup of coffee and getting ready. For more ideas, check out Easy AM and PM Routines for Maximum Productivity and Energy.
- Choose between showering before the kids get up or before you go to bed. I’m a morning gal but a few friends swear by the relaxation of nighttime showering.
- Don’t wash your hair every day: dry shampoo or learn a new braid technique on YouTube.
- Use makeup/face products that are multi-step. For example, use a tinted moisturizer with SPF in it. You’ll only have one application as opposed to moisturizing and then applying foundation. You could also invest in a simple make up routine such as Beauty Counter’s Flawless in Five.
- Edit your closet and dresser down to only things that fit you well, are flattering and in good condition; also whittle down to items you wear regularly and ideally things that coordinate with each other. Watch a few episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix to get motivated or listen to her book on Audible.
This advise holds true whether you work outside the home or stay at home but I’d say from personal experience, it’s especially key if you’re a SAHM. When you choose to stay at home with children and forego or postpone your career, out the window goes the necessity to look respectable in front of colleagues or clients. The irony is that carving out time to get ready each morning really is compulsory for your mental and emotional sanity. Feeling good about your appearance and feeling confident go hand in hand. And let’s be honest, new moms can use a boost of confidence—I know I needed it.