What's a new mum supposed to look like anyway?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I was having a pedicure the other day when I overheard a woman beside me saying she had a new baby and this was the first time she'd had a chance to get out and have her 'toes done' in weeks. "It's so not like me," she said.

Good on you, I thought. "It's so important just to do something that makes you feel like you after having a baby," I said.

She nodded, a look of relief washed over her. "It's much harder than I thought," she replied.

Not very long after my daughter was born, I also went to get my nails done. It wasn't an easy task, it certainly wasn't like the old days - I took my sleeping babe along in her capsule, terrified she'd wake at the most inappropriate moment.

But it wasn't for anyone but me.

I knew no one else could give two hoots whether my nails were chipped and bitten to the core - but I did.

During those often long and lonely nights when I looked down at my hands clutching my precious bundle to my chest they looked pretty, even though I felt anything but.

It was a small mercy in a new world which had seen my old one thrown out with the baby's bath water. It was a reminder I was still in there - somewhere! 

But I also remember feeling guilty for any method of grooming I attempted to manage with my new baby in tow.

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Maybe it was just me, but there seemed to be numerous articles admonishing new mums for daring to look good.

Headlines like: 'Why we mums' don't want to look like new mums anymore - what's wrong with us?' 'Why do we feel the need to prance around dressed to nines, with our baby nothing more than an accessory?'

I couldn't agree more, we shouldn't have to look a certain way.

I knew a lot of pregnant mums who said they were really looking forward to being able to 'let themselves go' when bub came along.

What a blissful opportunity – to leave the rat-race and down the heels. Pyjamas all day! High five to that.

One friend, Amy, pointed out that she wanted to let having a baby change her. "I want to have new priorities like the baby, for example, but also not like my hair."

The thing is, the idea that new mums should have to look a certain way cuts both ways.

Of course, few new mums I know (including myself) want to put any effort whatsoever into personal grooming when they've just given birth and are so sleep deprived they could literally fall asleep mid-shower (if they get one, that is)!

But what about when the novelty of being a brand-new mum and all that goes with it begins to wear off a little. Popping things that resemble sanitary pads down your bra and finding tops that are breastfeeding-friendly all gets a little ho-hum. 

Any mum will tell you, as heart stopping as having a new baby is, it can also make you feel like you've lost a little bit of yourself amongst the endless pile of dirty nappies and a bubble of breast milk and drool.

"Hello, is anyone in there?" you whisper to yourself in the dead of the night or the middle of the day when you're desperately trying to remember which breast you last fed on. Right, left, right, left…ahhh whatever! 

But while I still continued to get a blow dry or my nails done, once in a while because it made me feel good, or wore a little make up to my new mum's group to detract from the extra set of luggage under my eyes, I felt the deathly stares of other new mums.

'Why is your hair clean!' 'You absolutely must have neglected said baby in some way to be sporting shaved legs and eyeliner,' 'Ugh, why would you bother?'

I even heard new mums ridiculed for wearing 'shockingly tall heels.' 'Give it up sister, embrace the flats,' they chant!  

Well I say, "Why not put on a pair of strappy stilettos if you want to?!" 

You can still look okay and be a kick-ass mum, can't you?

No matter what your vice is, whether it's going to the gym, getting a blow dry or just rubbing some fake tan on, looking or most importantly feeling nice, is not a crime against motherhood.

The two are not mutually exclusive. 

For me, it was never about putting looks before motherhood, or making my baby an 'accessory'…Somehow I just don't think the average mother could pull that off, even if she tried. 

And it wasn't about being pressured by society to look good after having a baby - even though we're inundated with images of celebrities a week after giving birth looking anything less than amazing.

Ultimately, it's about doing what makes you feel good. And whether that's wearing trackie-daks out in public or putting on a bit of lippy, it's totally your call.