Since becoming a mother, I can't tell you how many times I've stood in front of the mirror, sullenly wondering what happened to the girl I used to be. The one who showered every day. The one who put effort into her appearance, never leaving the house without styled hair and tasteful attire.
I've been at home with my kids for eight years now and to say my appearance has changed is an understatement. Sure, I'm a little saggier than I once was. My body is creased and wrinkled in places that were once smooth. And strands of glistening white regularly appear on my head. I've aged, yes. And the state of my body is different than it was before carrying and nursing babies.
But more than that, I barely even get dressed anymore. Most days my style generally consists of tracksuit pants and old t-shirts. Sometimes even maternity clothes and nursing bras even though my youngest child is 3 years old. Gone are the days in which I showered daily or put together a cute outfit from the clothing selection hanging in my closet. Or styled my hair and brightened my complexion with makeup. To put it bluntly, I've become rather dishevelled.
Just today I stood in front of the mirror and sighed. Undone hair, the same clothes I wore to bed, shadows beneath my eyes — and I once again realised that the girl who put effort into her appearance, or even cared about it, is long gone. You could blame it on laziness, I guess. But the truth is, the time spent "getting ready" is almost never worth it.
Just last week, I spent a few minutes putting the tiniest bit of effort into my appearance. I washed my face and spruced it up with some very basic makeup. I put on a stylish shirt and skirt. I wore earrings and mascara. And while the whole process took no more than 10 minutes, I was quickly reminded why I don't take the time to care for myself all that often.
I walked out of my bedroom to find my kitchen stools coated in a thick layer of toothpaste, one child rubbing his hands in it like finger paint and the other laughing hysterically. There were stickers covering the table like a tablecloth. Cereal littered the floor, peanut butter was smeared on the walls. And then there was the pee.
It was immediately clear that the 10 minutes I'd spent changing into real clothes and tackling some basic hygiene had been a waste. I hadn't even taken a shower, but in the short time I'd spent focusing on my appearance, a good portion of the house had been destroyed by my kids. And it took only seconds for those little toothpaste covered hands to make their way onto my clean clothes.
It's true that without a professional job to go to, I don't have much reason to put effort into how I look. But more than that, I know that if by some chance my kids leave me alone for long enough to put on more respectable clothes and a prettier face, my kids will take that as an opportunity to destroy something — or everything.
And those nice clothes I decided to wear will immediately be ruined in the aftermath of their destruction. My clothing and makeup will get smeared by dirty little hands or the sweat that pours from my body as I clean up big messes — or perhaps by my very own tears of frustration.
It's not that as a stay-at-home mum I don't want to look nice. It's not that a shower, nice clothes, and a little makeup don't make me feel good. It's just that putting effort into these things provides very little payoff. Looking good — more human — sounds wonderful. But in the end, I know that both my house and clothes will be destroyed in trying to do so.
The day will come when my kids are older. When getting dressed won't equal destruction. And when that time comes, I will relish in my ability to put myself together each day without all hell breaking loose.
But for right now, I know that when I take the time to put myself together, everything around me will be falling apart. So, I choose to keep everything else together instead of myself. Because that brings me more peace than a cute outfit or a pretty face. And if my kids, the only ones who see me for the bulk of each day, don't care what I look like, why should I?