Hey you. You, sitting there reading this in your stretched-out T-shirt and elastic waistband pants. You, who haven’t had the chance to shower yet and whose hair is a little on the greasy side, but you’re hoping your messy bun will help hide that fact. You, who has a crusty patch on her clothing that could be food — or maybe it’s snot; it’s hard to tell.
I see you.
I know it feels like you’re drowning in motherhood sometimes. It feels like you spend so much time attending to everyone else’s needs that yours are pushed not only to the back burner, but to the back burner of a stove in the appliance showroom 10 miles away. I know that a shower where you actually have time to shave feels like a luxury and the thought of curling your hair or spending more than two minutes on your makeup seems nearly impossible. Some days, a brush is the best you can do. Some days. All the other stuff just takes a monumental effort. You don’t feel like you have it in you, so what’s the point?
I know you feel like you’ve let yourself go. I know a part of you worries your partner isn’t as attracted to you anymore. But another part of you is actually okay with that because at the end of the day, you’re all touched out and used up; you’ve given all you can, and you’re honestly more interested in sleep than sex.
I know that if someone gave you $100, you would walk through a store and spend it on your kids. Maybe you’d pick up something for yourself, but you’d put it back before you reached the checkout. Any money you used to spend on your own wardrobe or at the salon is now used to outfit your little ones and to give them the extras: the mommy and me classes, the toys, the books, the admission to the zoo and the carnival and the museum. I know you tell yourself all those things are more important. I know your body is different than it used to be, and you’re not sure you want to spend any money on bigger jeans, anyway. Yoga pants are just fine because they’re forgiving.
I know you think about the person you used to be before you were somebody’s mom. Even though you’d never in a million years trade motherhood for anything, you still wish you had your pre-mom self back. I know she seems far away and unreachable, like someone you used to know, and you’re trying to resign yourself to the fact that she’s gone forever.
But she isn’t gone forever. I promise.
Right now, you’re learning how to love and take care of another human being. You’re figuring out how to balance your own needs against those of someone who literally requires you for every aspect of their existence. This isn’t something that just happens automatically; it’s a process, and it takes time. And before that balance is reached, someone’s needs will have to slide so another’s can be met. And it’s going to be yours — because you’re a damn good mom. So stop beating yourself up and wondering why you can’t be more pulled together.
It might not be tomorrow. It might be years from now. But take heart: One day, your babies won’t need so much from you, and your attention will gradually shift back to yourself. You’ll have time to de-fuzz your bikini line and wax your eyebrows, if that’s your thing. You’ll do something just for you, and it will feel wonderful. You’ll catch glimpses of the person you used to be — fleeting ones at first, then more and more frequent — until one day, you realize that she’s back. Yes, she’s changed because she’s somebody’s mom now, but it only makes her a better, more complete version.
The season of baby and toddlerhood is hard. Expecting to make it through without letting yourself slide a little is like expecting to run through a rainstorm without getting wet: unrealistic. But it only lasts a little while. And just as surely as the sun comes out, so will your mojo — returning at last, shining through, breaking the unpolished surface.