I have always considered myself to be a warrior for mommy rights. My personal mantra is, "Mommy is a person, too." So you would naturally assume that after my second baby was born, already being a pro at this motherhood thing, I would dive right back into my old routines and rituals. Not so much. For someone who is passionate about making sure her needs do not go unmet, someone who tries to assert her personhood into motherhood as much as possible, I was no shining example of a self-actualized, feminist woman after the birth of my second child.
Sure, I did some things for myself, like watch my favorite TV shows, eat sweets, read books and play on Facebook. I pursued the hedonist pleasure of sitting on my ass, nursing, napping and vegging with my newborn with great vigor. But there were many things, things that were central to my identity (or at least to my self-care and cleanliness) that went completely by the wayside for months. Some for over a year...
- I didn't go to yoga again until my baby was 7 months old.
- I remembered how to meditate when she was almost a year.
- I spent my first night away from her after 16 months (I know some women who have waited years).
- I didn't wear a drop of makeup for 4 months.
- I started sleeping through the night again when she was 15 months.
- I didn't leave the house at bedtime for 11.5 months. I may have squeezed in a quick Happy Hour from time to time, or stealthily crept out after the baby was asleep, but never, never, during bedtime.
- I remembered that I missed writing, desperately, when she was 9 months old.
- I forgot to exfoliate any part of myself until she was 20 months old.
- I remembered that I liked to drink red wine in the evenings when she was 14 months old.
- I still haven't begun to shower in the mornings, unless it is the weekend and my husband is home. 21 months old.
And here's a bonus: remember that Mom Shaming craze?
If there are any moms reading this who are still in that post-baby stage of figuring things out, I hope that you will feel comforted that you are not the only one struggling to navigate this overwhelming time of life, rather than discouraged that it can take this long to reclaim parts of yourself. If you are a pregnant or brand new mama, cut yourself some slack, and try not to rush things.
Or maybe some women will read this and feel motivated to try harder, to do better. Perhaps you will feel compelled to step up your identity reconnaissance efforts. A person who hasn't yet had kids may read this and scoff, "That will never happen to me. I will make it a priority to keep my own identity and needs in the picture from day one." I hope that happens for you. I wish you the best of luck.
But if you find yourself, someday, dismayed at how your fashion (not to mention hygiene) efforts have taken a nose-dive, bewildered that you somehow forgot to exercise, and embarrassed that you have neglected your passions, remember: you will get these things back. It takes time. Be gentle with yourself.