It’s a well-known phenomenon:
Major Life Change = Major Physical Change.
Some examples: women who get boyfriends, then stop dressing to the nines. Husbands who gain 40 pounds as soon as the wedding’s over. And women who have a baby and suddenly stop wearing makeup and doing their hair.
Two of these situations make little sense, though I can’t claim to have been immune to them. I cut out the hoochie wear once I was in a committed relationship. What’s the point of being uncomfortable when you’ve got a fish on the hook, right? As far as the weight, I gained about 10 pounds after our wedding, but then again, I had been shunning cupcakes for 18 months when we got married. I’d gotten way too skinny, and my body was just returning to a reasonable, healthy weight.
The third situation, where a new baby causes Mom to suddenly become a sweatpants-wearing wench with a permanent ponytail who leaves the house without wearing foundation… for that one, I must admit yet another situation where I once judged from a position of total ignorance.
When I saw these disheveled new moms, I used to quietly admonish them for not “taking enough time for themselves.” Their selflessness, I thought, was translated into buying clothes for baby but not for themselves. Bathing baby, brushing baby’s fine little hair, and making baby look good, but not bothering to make themselves look good.
I once was blind, but now I see.
This past weekend was Date Night #2 for the husband and me. My in-laws came to stay and babysat Peanut for the night. We needed to leave by 5:20pm to get dinner and catch our 7:10pm movie, and I showered at 1pm, during baby’s nap, so I’d have plenty of time to get ready. But post-shower, the dog needed walking, and I’d already sunburnt my scalp once in the sun. So I put my still-wet hair in a loose ponytail and threw a hat on, trying not to wrinkle up my bangs. After the walk, the baby threw a succession of crying fits, and I found myself holding her, bouncing around the house, trying to find a position she liked, rather than making myself presentable and preparing for her evening with babysitters.
My inlaws arrived and while my mother-in-law held her, I wrote down instructions for them: bedtime was between 9 and 10; she sleeps in a short-sleeve onesie and a sleeper; she’ll eat about 3 oz. per feeding but let her decide how much to eat; extra breastmilk is in the fridge; if she has trouble sucking switch to the variable flow nipple; she is due for a poop so be on the lookout.
I laid her PJs out in her bedroom, made up three bottles of breastmilk with rice cereal, restocked the changing table, and made sure a pacifier was close by. I showed them how to work the “Baby Log” iPad app, how to turn on the white noise machine, and how to warm up and position her Snuggler in the crib. When I finished all of this, it was 5:05pm, I was in my sweatpants, and I still needed to pump. I banged out a few ounces in 5 minutes, then ran to get dressed.
I didn’t have enough time for my typical routine, so I calculated what I could cut out. Straightening my hair? Nope, not enough time; I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and ran a flat iron over my scrunched-up bangs (thanks, hat). I managed to hurriedly apply foundation, powder, and blush, but ran out of time to do my eyes. I opted for mascara only (something that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a few months ago, especially not on date night!), brushed my teeth in record time, spritzed myself with perfume, threw on my wedding ring, and we bolted out the door.
I didn’t exactly look like a hobo, but to anyone who knows me, it was obvious I was off my game. But I simply ran out of time. That’s been the story throughout most of my maternity leave. Every time I’ve left the house, something has been sacrificed in my personal prep routine, whether it’s my hair (ponytails appear to be my destiny for a while), makeup, or non-wrinkled clothes. I’m embarrassed to admit I met friends today and was in the car before I realized I’d forgotten to brush my teeth. Ew. I’ve never done that before, and hopefully I won’t be so spacey again.
In short, this is yet another of those things I thought I understood before I was a parent. I get it now — these disheveled moms aren’t letting themselves go. They just ran out of time and had to prioritize. Parents (most of them) realize that being a parent means prioritizing your babies, and putting your own needs second. Vanity is something that can be safely relegated to #2. Feeding the baby? That will always take the #1 spot.
When I’m looking less-than-put-together in public, I might get a few sideways looks. But I can handle it. After all, my little Peanut is cute enough to make up for my dishevelment. And then some.
*Note: My husband doesn’t have this problem. He doesn’t care what he looks like, and his prep routine consists of brushing his teeth and throwing on shorts and a T-shirt. Lucky bastard. Someone remind me why in every other species, it’s the male’s job to look attractive, but for humans, it’s the female’s job? Total crap.