Remember that Pantene commercial back in the 1980's? Kelly Le Brock flips her lengthy, yet bouncy and swirly tresses and announces, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful..."
Yeah, I agree, it was dumb. It was. But, sadly, we all know it is the truth. Being even halfway pretty ensures haters. It's even worse when you are beautiful female working in the professional world. Isn't it? Surely, the haterisms will fly around the office if a pretty gal works there. Then, if you are super amazing at your job and pretty, rest assured, at least someone in that office is going to play the hater role.
But, there is one type of beautiful that you simply cannot be. If you are a mom who takes care of herself, how dare you? Seriously. Certainly, you cannot be a devoted and nurturing mom if you look pretty. You will never hear the end of it.
No matter how it's worded, the tone of voice is obviously incredulous when they ask the question. "I would never guess you have five children!" Or, in my case, nine. And, "how do you stay looking so good?" That is the question that has perplexed me since the years when I only had three kids, when I started hearing it.
I have asked it before: What does that mean? What am I supposed to look like?
But, you see, that is just one of the nicer ways that people handle their somewhat hater-ish behavior. What they really want to say is: "You're not supposed to be beautiful or thin if you have children." Being a mess is a requirement of mommyhood.
Spending the day in pajamas, sweatpants and t-shirt, or, my favorite, leggings and a tank top, your hair tied up in a tangled, gnarly mass (now glorified as "the messy bun"), with no makeup on and teeth rarely brushed. Usually a coffee in hand from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m., Red Bull in hand from 10 a.m. until around eight p.m., and a couple of glasses of wine in hand (sometimes, both at the same time) from eight p.m. until far beyond the hour that the children are asleep in bed. That's the expectation.
I have learned that there is only one way to handle this question.
"It's because I'm selfish."
I refuse to let motherhood steal away all of me from myself. Sure, I have to make sure, each day, that I spend time with me. I cater to my children and husband from sunup to sundown, and at the end of the day, I allow myself to indulge in reading something that I love, writing, or chatting on social media. Sometimes, it's a hot bath that floats my fancy, accompanied by a book or my cell phone (haven't dunked it yet...).
I take the time to apply my favorite face cream, brush my teeth, and brush out my hair. Because I am selfish.
Truth is, I don't believe that. If I am lucky, I might get 30 to 60 minutes to myself. If you calculate it, that's either 1/48th or 1/24th of my entire day. That is the bare minimum requirement to maintain my sanity and emotional state. Kinda like going to church on Sunday morning to renew the spirit, that little bit of time each day is vital to recharge the batteries.
Think about your cell phone. It's fully charged in the morning, but by the afternoon, it may need to be put back on the charger. I might not be able to take a break to get rejuvenated in the afternoon or early evening. By the time I get to the last child falling asleep, my battery is completely dead.
It took me many, many years for the realization to hit me. I watched other moms who had enviably pleasant attitudes all of the time, and often seemed more healthy. What was I missing out on? Then I realized...
I need to spend some time alone every day. If not, I notice that the anxiety, frustration, stress level, irritability, and every other negative mental and emotional state are elevated unbearably. I was pouring bowls of cereal, wiping butts, and preparing sippy cups. Simultaneously, I was sweeping up every little crumb on the floor, vacuuming, washing laundry, doing dishes, and, all the while, my battery was wearing down.
To make matters worse, I never recharged it. Now, you better believe that I take my time. Sure, I might have to wait until midnight to do it, but if I don't, I might not make it through the next day with the best attitude. I have no choice to be selfish.
It's truly in the best interest of my family. I am an all-around happier and healthier person.
When you look at me and see that I am taking caring of myself, you can judge me any manner that you want to. I will openly admit that I am a selfish mom, like 1/24th or 1/48th of the time. Which, if you think about it, is really nothing, compared to the other 23/24ths (or 47/48ths) of the time that I am catering to others.
Anyway, we mothers shouldn't be criticized for looking good or being pretty or even beautiful, nor should we be judged for taking a little "me time" or trying to stay healthy - mentally, emotionally, and physically.
There are two lessons to take from this, if you haven't guessed them yet:
1) You need "me time." There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, a beautiful mother is a rested and positive woman who takes time to care for herself as well as others.
2) The next time someone marvels at how "good" you look as a mom, let them know it's because you are selfish. And, you don't mind being selfish, because it helps you stay beautiful. :)