I have a confession. My fellow moms, think about the picture you had in your head of what kind of mom you would be, before you became one. My friends who are not yet parents, think of the parent you envision yourself being. Maybe you had a vision that you would be the super crafty mom, whose Pinterest inspired creations would delight your kids and be the envy of all your mom friends. Maybe you were going to be the “cool” mom, or the “fun” dad, or the mom who did it all – seamlessly blending work and family and still having time for friends.
Well, I had a vision too. I am ashamed to say it had nothing to do with my parenting style. That part, I guessed, I would figure out along the way. My vision was all about me, and all about the way I would look. I wasn’t going to be one of those moms who “let themselves go”. I mean, how hard is it to eat semi-healthy, work out occasionally, take a shower every day, do your make-up and hair, and put on a cute outfit? Those other moms who claim they just “couldn’t” must have been a little lazy. I knew it was possible.
I was going to drop the baby weight in the snap of my fingers. I was going to be frolicking in the pool in a bikini with my six week old and say things like “I don’t know how the weight fell off! I didn’t even try!” I was going to be beautiful, sexy even, every time my husband came home from work. Other men were going to say things like “I hope my wife looks that good after having a baby!” And my friends would “hate” me for the ease with which I looked exactly like I did the summer I got pregnant. Tan, toned, 15 lbs freshly fallen off my body, shiny blonde hair and perfectly put together.
We are now 14 months post baby. I would say I “get dressed” once or twice a week, max. Make-up goes on every other day. I weigh now almost exactly what I weighed at my heaviest before getting pregnant. I look in the mirror some days and think: where the hell did I go? Sometimes, I feel genuinely ashamed of the state of my appearance when my husband walks through the door. I will sporadically latch on to an idea of what I was “missing” that would take me back to pre-baby Ashley. At times it has been a highlight. Other times a bronzer. Or a new top. Or counting calories.
But it never works. Post-baby me shakes her head slowly at pre-baby me. Tells old me that my life has changed now. That I have new priorities, much bigger things to worry about than an extra 10 lbs I would like to lose. Old me looks at new me and shakes HER head. “You were going to be different,” she says with disappointment.
Yeah, I know. I sound very shallow. It is hard for me to let go of the mom I thought I would
be look like.
It is a damn hard rope to walk, the “I accept and love myself as is.” I have no problem doing that about the real me, who I am inside. But it seems a thousand times more difficult to reconcile that sentiment with my outward appearance. For me, I cannot find the balance of truly loving my outside self as-is while at the same time, attempting to make improvements. I feel like I can’t have it both ways. I know its possible, but I don’t know how.
I rarely feel competitive with other moms. This is my one weak area. I see a mom who is everything on the outside I want to be, and a little flame is ignited in me that says “do better, Ashley.” Not “oh, hey, Ashley, you are doing a good job! Your daughter is healthy and happy and you have food on your table and a house over your head and people who love you. And you got dressed today! And showered! Round of applause to you!”
Nope, that voice says “do better.” And I know there are plenty of places I could do better. Places where I could improve that would genuinely help humanity, or at least the people closest to me. But the “be prettier” voice is louder. The urge to win that mom-petition is the strongest. The dumbest, and most superficial, and least important.
Its embarrassing for me to admit. I am hoping by putting it into words, giving this thought life on a computer screen, I might be freed a little bit by the grasp it has on me. That I might be able to read my own words and say, I get it now.
I was born a new woman the day my daughter was born. I am torn between completely embracing this new me and still hanging on in futility as the evidence of old me slips away. Old me was fun. She could stay out all night, she could proudly prance around in a bikini, she could spend her free time napping or shopping or watching reality tv. She was selfish, she was stylish, and she was worried about things like not having enough extra cash to stay in a luxury hotel room on vacation.
New me is stronger. More tender-hearted in pretty much every way. New me can balance a career and staying at home with my baby and keeping the house clean and the bills paid. She knows how to stop and hold a moment and how to make the worlds sweetest baby giggle whenever she wants. Even though she can still “technically” fit into her pre-pregnancy wardrobe, she has transitioned to clothes that can handle chasing a 14 month old around the yard, drool from a sleepy teether, and the strong grip of a toddler who seems intent on yanking the shirt completely off my body.
My prayer to the universe is that I can see the beauty in new me. That my obsession with beauty is the last dying breath of all the parts of old me that were ready to “be better”.
Can I get an Amen?