The first few years after I had kids, I found out what my true hair color was. Why? Because I stopped dyeing it. I also stopped wearing makeup, stopped dressing nice, and forgot to brush my teeth more often than I’d like to admit. I was focused on my family because that was what I’d signed up for and it was what I was supposed to do. I had quit my “real” job after having my second child, so I devoted my life to raising them. I joined a Facebook group for Stay at Home Moms, started frequenting all the playgrounds and playgroups in the area, and did everything I could to try to fit in with the “mom crowd.” And I loved getting to be there for so many precious moments in my kid’s lives and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I still feel grateful for getting what so many other moms never do. But .. I wasn’t happy.
A lot of the moms on the Facebook group I'd found for support were judgmental. Some of them were great, but many of them had very strong opinions on breastfeeding, cloth diapers, organic food, and co-sleeping. I love strrong opinions and standing up for what you believe. But I also love that we are all different and we are all allowed to do what works for us. I believe in celebrating that wholeheartedly. When one mom accused another mom of child abuse for piercing her daughter’s ears and another said that circumcision was also abuse, I knew I was done. It wasn’t healthy for me to be there and I felt guilty enough for every mistake I made in daily life without the “sanctimommies” making me feel worse. These people weren't my salvation. I didn't feel like they were my tribe in the least. They made me feel ashamed for wanting more than what was within the walls of my home with my family. I felt that itch to get out and hear my own breath and stretch and find a place where I could do things that were just my own. Isolation does things to you. Some people are fine sitting at home in their pajamas working on home projects and watching Daniel Tiger, and I say GO FOR IT if that makes you happy. I have real respect for you for being able to hang out there in that world, but I just COULDN'T. And thankfully, I discovered that before I went completely insane. But who was I, if I wasn’t "just" a mom? I didn’t have a clue.
Then I changed the question and mustered the energy to ask, “who was I before kids?” I had let myself go for far too long, and before kids, I’d taken pride in getting fit and strong. Why couldn’t I shoot for that again? Because I felt guilt. The guilt, the guilt, the guilt. It gets so much worse after kids. Taking time to care for myself seemed beyond selfish to me. Doing stuff for the sole purpose of making myself happy? And taking time away from my family, which is what I had quit my job for, that was terribly unfair of me .. Right? But then I had a moment after a trip to Cannon Beach for the annual sandcastle contest. I had walked a couple of miles in the sand with the stroller and was sore for days and I realized .. I was not healthy. I wanted to be healthy for my family, and to be able to chase my kids around and keep up with them. That wasn't just me wanting to fit into skinny jeans. That was me wanting to be around for my kids for a long time. So I finally took the leap and joined a stroller fitness class. I could bring my kids to workouts with me and I finally started meeting other moms who were also putting a priority on their own health. Before I knew it, I was an instructor, and things began to snowball and I found a bit of the person I was before kids again. Finally I had an “aha” moment .. I was happy. And my family was too. When I took time to take care of ME, I was a better mother, wife, and person. The old saying was true .. You can’t make anyone else happy if you can’t make yourself happy first.
So, SELF CARE. Yes. Always. It’s as important to your life as getting sleep, eating better, and spending quality time with all the people you love. And these days, I take a lot more time for things that are for myself. I’m not going to lie, it’s harder when your kids are babies. When they have more independence, so do you. However, I wish I’d realized my lesson earlier than I did, (my youngest was 2 when I finally made that jump.) The longer you wait, the harder it is to find yourself. And, as expected, the sooner you start, the easier it is to find yourself again. But don't dispair, you're always still there somewhere. It's never too late.
As a fitness trainer and running coach, I’ll tell you, of course, that exercise matters. And I believe that A LOT. Being a runner is part of my identity, and has been both before and after kids. It's vital to me to never lose that. But there are other things that matter too. Here are just a few: 1.) Date nights. Not only with your partner, but with your friends. You gotta have those people who support and love you always, and you need to make memories with them too. 2. Clothes that make you feel pretty. Not clothes that make you feel too fat or too skinny, but clothes that you love for whatever reason that is yours. 3. Hobbies. God, I miss painting and drawing. I used to hole up with an easel for hours. I took a painting class recently and I was in Heaven. 4, 5, and 6. Simple things like long baths, good coffee, and little presents to yourself that you WANT rather than NEED. All of these things may seem shallow, but they aren’t. They are all little pieces of a bigger package and they all celebrate YOU. And guess what? I do these things and my family is still ok. Nothing has fallen apart. The sky didn’t fall. And I appreciate things more than I ever did before. I come home missing those snuggles from my boys. Because, as we all know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And maybe they hug me a little tighter then too. How can you miss someone who's always there?
This year, I did something I never thought I would. I let my good friend Maya cosmetically tattoo me. She microbladed my eyebrows and gave me permanent eyeliner on the top and bottom of my eye. I don’t wear makeup all the time. In fact, I’ve only recently been starting to wear it again for my new part-time job. And I never would have considered it if I didn’t love Maya so much and know how gentle she is and how much of a perfectionist she is. I knew if anyone would get it right, it would be her. She’s a mom too, and I want to support her Mom Owned Business. She works hard, as all of us moms do. At the risk of sounding like an advertisement (and I swear I’m not a salesperson,) I’m so glad I did it.
I didn’t go get the cosmetic tattooing for my husband (who doesn’t really care for makeup at all) or to keep up with my friends or to look younger or more on trend. I did it just for me. It’s something I never needed or would have dreamed I’d want. I never thought I’d be the type, though now I don’t really know what that type is. And it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I love it. Recently I got sick and felt like hell, but I took a “poor me” selfie, and hey, my eyes looked good! The tattooing still made me look just a little bit pretty, even while looking awful, if that makes any sense at all. It makes me feel a little glamourous. It makes me feel feminine. Some days, I don’t always feel that otherwise. And though I love being “mom,” there’s more there, and this reminds me of it every time I look in a mirror.
So my advice to you, no matter where you are in life or who you are, get out there and do things that make you feel good. You don’t have to have a good reason for it. As long as it’s not hurting anyone and it makes you happy, go for it. 100%. Because in the end, the person stuck with you is .. YOU. And who wants to live with a grouch?