In the past four years I have gone from boafide hippie to chic Mama. Yes, it’s possible to be both at the same time, especially in a hip, liberal, pot-growing town in British Columbia. And yes, it’s possible I have been and always will remain both of these things. However, my appearances, and how I keep them up, has changed quite drastically since I’ve gotten married and had children.
I have thought a lot about why I cut off my dreadlocks and began visiting salons, seeking out hair stylists, buying nail polish, putting on my face, shaving, plucking, and yes, even waxing. These feminine routines of making myself up are things I haven’t done in years. I haven’t been this interested in makeup, hairspray, and razors since high-school. Perhaps the glitter, pink nail polish, and hairdryer I can blame on the resurgence of 1980’s big and loud styles. But shaving? There’s obviously more to it than that.
All these little routines take time. If I want to blow-dry my hair, I have to make time to do it. I have to ignore the children, set aside their wanting to be held, wanting to help, wanting another vitamin C wafer, for five minutes and just let the hot air of the hairdryer blow everything away. It takes two hands. I can’t hold a toddler on my hip, wipe a nose. For five minutes, I am my own agent.
My new interest in making myself fancy is really just another way of taking care of myself. Self Care is, for me, the most important thing a parent can do to maintain a happy family, a happy marriage, and healthy children. It’s no different than putting the instructions on the airplane – If you are traveling with a child, put on your own mask before assisting your child.
In a recent parenting class I took in town, we had a long conversation about Self Care. The instructor brought up the airplane reference, and one mother asked why in the world anyone would put on their own oxygen mask before putting one on their child. She said she’d never understood or agreed with that instruction, knowing that she would always assist her child first. For me, Self Care is self evident. I have always been pretty good at looking out for Number One, for the only person I can really change, for myself. That is my personality, my gift and my burden. But even I have had to consciously carve out moments for myself since I’ve become a mother. If I need help and reminders to do this, I know that most mothers do.
So go ahead, paint your nails. Fall is coming, and with it, closed-toed shoes. No one even has to know. Buy a cheap little pedicure kit with a nail buffer and a file for your rough callouses. After the kids are asleep or whenever you can wrangle someone else into watching them, give yourself an hour just for primping. Soak your feet. Rub lotion into them. Care for your cuticles. Buy a new color of nail polish that you love and slather it on. Sit still. Let it dry. Read a book for a while, then apply another coat. If you have time, put on a sheer top coat too. If it’s sloppy the first time, no worries. You just took an hour for yourself. You can’t do much while your toenails are drying. Fingernails are even more time consuming… forget helping your toddler to use the toilet on a midnight potty break if your nails are drying. You’ll just have to get your partner to do that.
Revel in these little luxuries, or find some of your own that make you feel pampered, beautiful, and put together. Even more important, make sure they are time consuming. I mean it. That time you take is an act, and it will convince you more than my words ever will that it’s okay to take care of yourself.