Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bringing Sexy Back

I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror at Walmart last week. I had on baggy sweatpants, a hooded sweatshirt, no makeup and a baseball hat covering my unwashed hair. I quickly turned away, and continued down the aisle. As I grabbed the rest of my groceries and headed home, I wondered what happened to the confident woman I used to see in the mirror. Something changed after I became a mom and as much as I try to rethink my attitude toward outward beauty, the physical aftermath of pregnancy still haunts me. When I mention my insecurities to Matt, he always tells me I’m crazy, and his actions and affection toward give me no reason to doubt his sincerity. So if he doesn’t see a difference, why do I?

I started wondering if maybe the problem isn’t pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or motherhood. Aside from the fact that my bra got downgraded an entire cup size and I’ll probably never have a flat stomach again, all of my issues are much more related to my lifestyle than anything else. Now that I am busy being a mom, I don’t exercise as much or take time to do my nails. Now that I have nowhere important to go, I often skip the makeup and resort to sweatpants, t-shirts, and messy ponytails. Now that I don’t see anyone besides Reese and Matt on most days, it somehow got easier to skip a shower or go (I won’t even say how long) without shaving my legs. Then when I get a glance at myself in the mirror, I get upset and blame it all on motherhood as if I have no choice but to accept the disheveled new me.

Well, my Walmart pajama party was the last straw, and I decided to make some very simple changes. I started by rearranging my clothes. I moved all of the sweatpants, t-shirts, and anything equally unflattering to the back of my closet. I threw out any underwear with stretched elastic or frayed edges. My makeup and nail polish are now easily accessible and my hair ties and sports bras are not. Then, I started getting up extra early to exercise, shower, and get ready for the day just as I did when I worked full-time. No, I didn’t wear pantyhose or business suits, but I did put on a nice outfit and some makeup (even if my biggest outing that day would be a trip to the mailbox).

I was surprised at how quickly I started to feel beautiful again. When I first started staying home (after the newborn stage ended, of course) I got dressed almost every day. Then it was every other day; then just when I had the extra time; then just when I was going somewhere. And although I never got to a full-fledged pajamas-all-day-every-day stage, I’d say it was easily 50/50… ok, maybe even 60/40 with sweatpants in the lead. Before I knew it, I was wandering around Walmart in my pajamas and a baseball hat wondering how this happened.

Somewhere along the way, I started to believe that I didn’t need to look good anymore because it didn’t matter anyway. It does matter, though. Taking a little time for me every day makes a day at home just that much more productive and enjoyable. It helps my confidence, boosts my energy, and reminds me that my work is important. And the compliments from my husband have been pretty great too, which give me even more motivation to do it all over again the next day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The comfy clothes aren’t gone for good, and I have nothing against wearing sweatpants to Walmart. I know I’ll still skip a shower here and there and I may not always keep up with shaving my legs as often as I’d like (sorry, honey). The difference is that now I can appreciate my lounging around days as an awesome perk of staying home rather than believing that’s all I’m worth now just because I don't have anywhere else to be.

If you’re proud of your role at home, and if you’re proud of yourself for making the sacrifice and the commitment to do it, then you deserve to be equally proud of the way you look while doing the job you love. So grab your yoga mats, nail polish, and makeup. Le'ts bring sexy back. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Lessons from a Tiny Farmhouse

I just wrote the date at the top of a check and I realized it has been over a month since our move. I paused to think about all the luxuries I’ve been enjoying for the past few weeks – things like my basement, garage, dishwasher, linen closet, and pantry. I thought about how great it’s been to have plenty of storage space, room to exercise, and a guest bedroom for friends and family to visit. Then I thought about all the time I spent in our old house wondering if I would ever have those things and complaining about all the little inconveniences. Now, as I sit here in our new house, I look back and wonder how many moments were wasted on worry and how many memories didn’t get cherished because I was too busy longing for something better.

I recently returned to our old house to clean for the new renters to move in. Although our possessions are gone, each room still holds signs of our presence. There are marks on the bathroom wall from Matt knocking down the towel bar after almost every shower. There’s a faded silhouette from the wall art that hung above Reese’s crib: “Angels danced the day you were born.” And on the closet door in our old bedroom is one tiny handprint that I never could bring myself to wipe away.

As I cleaned each room, I thought about all the things we will never do in that house again. Some of the memories are ones I always knew I would cherish, like the nights we fell asleep together on the couch, the mornings when Matt’s parents came over for coffee, and the day we brought our new baby home from the hospital. Then there are the memories that seemed like such an inconvenience at the time; memories I never stopped to cherish but now wish I had. Like the times we raced down to Matt’s parents’ house in the pouring rain to wait out a tornado warning; or the times when we would both get up in the middle of the night to search the kitchen for a noisy cricket; or all the times we played “Scissors, Paper, Rock” to see who would be hand-washing the dishes that day. At the time, I never thought I would someday stand in that kitchen and cry because there were no more dishes to wash or crickets to smash.

It’s so easy to assume that we won’t miss something until the moment we realize that it’s in the past forever. Now I miss fogging crickets and scrubbing pots just as much as I miss rocking Reese in middle of the night, or her tiny fetal limbs jabbing my ribs. I miss those things as much as I might someday miss the long drive to town or the wood floors that seem to need sweeping every five minutes; or the way I’ll miss Reese’s constant dependency the day she no longer needs me to dress her, feed her, and change her.

As I get settled in this next phase of my life, I hope I always remember to hold the aggravating moments just as dear as the joyous moments. I hope for a renewed ability to find humor in the wake of frustration. I hope to spend less time worrying about my new inconveniences like the half-hour drive to town and my sudden inability to keep my home spotless, and I hope to spend more time enjoying the many blessings our new house provides. And most of all, I hope I stop in the midst of those aggravated sighs, frustrated eye rolls, and irritated scowls, and listen to the voice in my head that says, “Someday you will miss this.” That way, when someday comes, I won't stand in my empty kitchen and cry because I missed out on some of it. Instead I'll stand there and smile knowing that I fully lived all off it.

Here's to new beginnings. Happy 2012!