When I was a growing up, my mom took time every day for her beauty routine. She took a shower, curled her hair, did her makeup, and put on a cute blouse—even if we weren’t going anywhere. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. It was just a normal part of the daily routine.
Now, as a stay-at-home mom myself, my mom’s routine stands out in contrast to the frazzled image of today’s young mothers. During my first pregnancy, I felt overwhelmed when I read articles suggesting that I wouldn’t be able to take showers. The prevailing narrative is that becoming a stay-at-home mom means living a life of yoga pants, unkempt hair, and spit-up-stained shirts. I wondered: Was giving up basic self-care really part of this rite of passage?
The first few months of motherhood were a time to be gentle with myself—to let my body heal, and to adjust ever so slowly to my beautiful but demanding new role. Life was about feeding the baby, feeding myself, sleeping, and binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. My appearance was one of the last things on my mind.
But as time passed, I wanted to feel put-together again. Gradually, I reintroduced a simple daily beauty routine into my life. And when I did, I started to notice a positive difference in my demeanor.
Practicing self-care through a beauty routine helps me be the wife and mother I want to be. I have more energy, and I’m much more patient and pleasant. I feel calm, creative, and confident. Perhaps most importantly, I feel like I’m being true to myself. Isn’t that a practice we want to instill in our children?
Savoring the Shower
I vividly remember my first shower after my C-section. Every movement hurt, but the warm water was therapeutic. I made a decision early on that I wasn’t going to give up my daily showers, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made as a mother.
During those early days of round-the-clock feedings, when days and nights blurred together, my shower served as a transition. It marked the passage of time as I prepared for the “night shift.” I got time alone, and my husband got time with our baby. It felt good to be clean. Now, I look forward to my nightly shower as a way to relax. Plus, it’s nice not wearing playground dust to bed.
I’m not alone in this. In an article for parenting site Motherly, Jessie Bohnenkamp encouraged mothers-to-be by sharing five things that haven’t changed since she became a mom. Number one on her list: daily showers. To those who are overwhelmed, she offered this advice: “Slow down, take a breath, and remember that there will be a period of upheaval, but things will normalize again.” If a shower is part of creating normalcy, then I’m all for it.
Good Hair Days Are Possible
Whether I leave my hair down or put it up, I’ve learned that the key is to do it right the first time. If I spend a few extra minutes on it in the morning, I don’t have to stop half a dozen times to fix it throughout the day, so I save time in the long run. And no matter how crazy the day gets, I have the consolation of knowing that at least it’s a good hair day.
I recently had a revelation about the stereotypical millennial mom hairdo: the messy bun. I always thought messy buns just haphazardly happened—a quick loop through the ponytail holder, and done. All my attempts left me feeling frumpy and frustrated, so I stopped doing them. Then, my sister sent me a YouTube tutorial on six ways to do a messy bun. I had no idea there was such a thing as a styled messy bun, complete with bobby pins and hairspray. These messy buns look less like a “mess” and more like a casual updo. I tried one and was hooked. Not only did it look super cute, but it stayed in place all day long. I consider that a double victory.
A Touch of Makeup
In an unexpected twist, I appreciate makeup more now as a stay-at-home mom than I did when I worked full-time. Call me crazy, but putting on a little bit of makeup helps me feel more energized than drinking a cup of coffee. I think there’s a mind trick involved: I look alert, so I feel alert.
My grandma recently shared with me that her mother—my great-grandmother—never wore a lot of makeup, but “she wouldn’t have dreamed of going out without lipstick.” This makes sense to me.
Lipstick, in particular, has a powerful positive effect on women. As Mary Colleen Fowler has written for Verily, there’s scientific evidence to prove it. “Lipstick,” Fowler explains, “isn't a sign of superficiality, but rather a symbol of confidence and feminine strength in the face of struggle or uncertainty.” Life as a mom is full of struggle and uncertainty—I’ll take all the help I can get.
Finding cute clothes postpartum is downright difficult. Maternity clothes are too big, but pre-baby clothes are too tight. The “I have nothing to wear” meltdowns are real—it’s no wonder we gravitate toward yesterday’s yoga pants.
Sophie Caldecott captured this struggle well. “Somehow, caught up in the whirlwind of early motherhood,” Caldecott explained, “I started thinking of getting dressed as a chore and that spending any time on my appearance was precious time wasted.” I can relate. But I can also relate to her transformation as she began to “rediscover the joy of dressing well.”
The first several weeks after my daughter was born, I lived in my nursing gown. Then, I moved on to athletic shorts and loose-fitting tank tops. A few months in, I started longing for “normal” clothes. But most things in my closet didn’t fit, so I tossed aside my pride and bought a few transition outfits in a larger size than I was used to. When I put them on, the size didn’t matter—it just felt good to be in something cute again. And when I did wear my faithful yoga pants, it was by choice, not by default.
According to tidying expert Marie Kondo, even our loungewear should make us feel good. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” she writes, “Precisely because no one is there to see you, it makes far more sense to reinforce a positive self-image by wearing clothes you love.”
The key there is “clothes you love.” My friends and I don’t all dress alike, and that’s part of the beauty of womanhood. Some people feel their best in athletic wear. Others prefer jeans and t-shirts. Others thrive in tailored dresses. Personally, I’m a big fan of flannel shirts. Becoming mothers shouldn’t mean we suddenly end up in the same mom “uniform.”
Motherhood requires a lot of self-sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean we have to set aside our beauty routines. Of course, just as in the pre-parenting days, style isn’t always perfect—there’s nothing wrong with declaring a pajama day. And it can take a while to figure out the logistics of fitting in a beauty routine while caring for young children. But self-care is important, so it’s worth the effort. After all, when we feel our best, we’re more likely to give our best. And that’s something that benefits the whole family.