As a young child, I vividly recall 8 p.m. rolling around and just as my siblings and I were finishing up homework and getting ready to shower, my mom would rush into the bathroom to apply lipstick. Then she would switch her flats for black pumps. Our mother's nightly transformation always preceded our father's arrival home from work by about five minutes. As soon as he walked through the door, he looked around for her, gave her a kiss and commented on how attractive she looked. Only after this greeting, would he put his bag down and begin to undo his tie.
Now, as an adult and a mother myself, I still look at my mom and can't believe that I have never seen her wear jeans and a T-shirt. I recently asked her if she owns a single pair of comfortable shoes or pants. Or did she ever just feel like not putting on her makeup or doing her hair?
In response to my questions, she said that she had just given birth to me and they were living in Boston during a terrible winter storm in 1979. She had left her family behind in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and her husband, an aspiring physician, was always working at the hospital. Her own mother, when she heard how down my mom sounded over the phone, suggested that she get up, open the windows, get dressed and put makeup on. My mother, still feeling hopeless, told her she had no need for makeup. She had no one to see her, just two (very) young daughters.
Her mom reminded her that she didn't need to look good for anyone else. What was more important, she said, was that she always take care of herself, for herself, and that she like how she feel, as well as what she sees when she looks in the mirror. Growing up, I always thought my mom dressed to impress her husband, my father. Now I see how wrong I was.
This story struck a chord in me. No, I do not apply makeup daily (or even weekly) and I rarely wear high heels. I am a stay-at-home mom of three rugged boys. At the end of a particularly rough, tantrum-filled afternoon, I catch myself feeling run down and overwhelmed. I think about how many spills I have cleaned with my T-shirt, and how close we may have come to our first stitches.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I take my mother's (and grandmother's) advice and put on my running sneakers. No makeup necessary. All I need is my favorite (and oldest) running shoes and a little bit of motivation. The first five minutes of my run are hell. I feel guilty for leaving the boys, and find myself worrying about the errands and chores I could have done. But before I know it, I am drenched in sweat and turning the corner back into my neighborhood. I feel more energized and am ready to tackle whatever the boys may bring my way.
The old adage is true: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether it's makeup or a pair of overused running sneakers, how we define ourselves is all about how we feel. Don't get me wrong: there is nothing I love more than shopping (and wearing) a new pair of Chanel flats. However, if I had to pick between them or my running sneakers, I'd hands-down pick the latter. I know that if I haven't taken the time to care for myself and fit in a run, I might as well be wearing a garbage bag.
I don't foresee Chanel or Prada making a running sneaker anytime soon. So for now, I'll take the peace and quiet my 45-minute run grants me; it is a necessary and welcome break in an otherwise hectic life. My Mizuno sneakers will lead each step of the way, and as unglamorous as I may appear, I always return home a more pleasant person. Dirty diapers and spilled milk don't stand a chance against this endorphin-filled mama.