Mothers are always being accused of “letting themselves go” once they have children. The cliché of the frazzled mom with her hair in a bun, no makeup on, clad in sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt, and holding onto the extra baby weight, comes to mind. But the act of letting oneself go is more complicated than it might seem.
Why Mothers Let Themselves Go
“Letting oneself go” is as much mental as physical. It’s more than simply not putting in the effort to dress up and look attractive for your husband every day.
Nothing shifts and disrupts a woman’s world more than having her first child. Nine full months of pregnancy aches, pains, and bodily changes, culminates in the birth of a baby, who is completely helpless and dependent on mom and dad for survival.
Those first few months with a newborn are often dark days. You don’t know exhaustion until you are up multiple nights in a row with a newborn. Your whole world undergoes a cosmic shift. Instead of living for yourself and possessing the freedom to do whatever you want, now you have a baby that relies on you for everything. It goes without saying that baby’s needs come first.
So, the process of “letting oneself go” begins. Days become nights, then weeks become months, as a mother sacrifices her own wants and needs for those of her baby’s.
- Her body feels wrecked from the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, and she becomes so enmeshed in the needs of her child that she eventually stops caring about losing those last 10-20 pregnancy pounds.
- Her clothes no longer fit, as she falls in the gray area of being too small for her maternity clothes, but too big for her pre-pregnancy clothes. So, she wears stretchy exercise or yoga pants most days. If she underwent a C-section, tight waistbands hurt her incision site, so jeans or slacks are out of the question.
- Her hair remains in a bun or ponytail, because she must keep it away from her baby while she’s changing diapers or cleaning up spit up. Keeping her hair up also helps hide postpartum hair loss and keeps baby from knotting the loose strands of hair around his or her delicate fingers or toes.
When you decide to become a stay at home mom, “letting yourself go” is common. If you don’t have to dress up to go into work every day, it seems silly to waste the time straightening your hair, applying makeup, or dressing in nice clothes, when you know that your day will consist of diaper changes, breast or bottle feeding, spit up and burp rags.
When a mom “lets herself go”, she is telling the world that her kids come first, and her own wants and needs are placed on the backburner. It isn’t just laziness, like her husband or society might think.
I know as a mom I have “let myself go.” There are a million excuses I could make: being a SAHM of 2 under 2 and a school-age stepdaughter, being a SAHM and not wanting to waste any money on myself or a new wardrobe when I am not down to my goal weight, postpartum hair loss, not being able to wear contacts since my back-to-back pregnancies made my eyes super sensitive, and so on.
I keep thinking that it will get easier, in a few years. With 2 under 2, I am still in survival mode most days. My kids need me constantly, and so I give and give and give, until I forgot who I am, or what I desire.
A Little Pampering Goes a Long Way
Last weekend, I went with my stepdaughter to the nail salon to get manicures. In truth, it was not my idea, but hers. The only way she would agree to get her hair cut, was if I took her to get her nails done afterwards. I was dreading it, to be honest.
What kind of woman doesn’t want to get her nails done?
But then again, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had my nails done in my 32 years, and two of those times were for weddings. It is hard for me to justify spending $50 on manicures, when I know that the polish will chip in a few days, and it’s not like I need pretty nails to change diapers all day.
But now I have pretty pink fingernails, and a memory of time spent with just my stepdaughter and I, and it isn’t all a waste like I thought. We are already planning on getting pedicures together, before our vacation to the beach this summer. A little pampering, every now and then, is worthwhile for every mom.
The truth is, I don’t want to be known as a woman who has “let herself go.” When my kids are a little older, and I have more time and energy to devote to my appearance, I will. I want to be a “hot mom and wife”, someone that looks and acts like she has herself put together. I know I will get there, eventually. But it will take time.
Mothers, don’t feel guilty if you have “let yourself go.” I have too. I understand the struggles you face, both mentally and physically, and what it’s like to give everything you have, to put your kids first.
But also know that you deserve to be pampered. You deserve to get your nails done, or a new haircut, or whatever it takes to make you smile and feel pretty again. Spending a little time on yourself is worth it. You are worth it.