Before I got pregnant, I scoffed at mothers who said they didn’t have time to do basic things like eat, do laundry, or even watch television.
Sanctimommy that I was during my pregnancy, I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those moms. (Yes, I’m eating my words.) But there’s one promise I kept. I told myself I’d shower daily once the Peanut was born. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. At least for the first year.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not at ALL high maintenance. Besides ensuring that my eyebrows don’t take over my entire forehead, I don’t really primp and preen. I often leave the house without makeup, and I constantly battle with hairdressers who don’t understand that all I want is an actual wash and go style.
I’ve never felt like one of the ‘polished girls.’ Once, while working for a magazine in Britain, my colleague volunteered herself to spend a night on London’s streets to get an inside scoop on the homeless. She was of the pretty and polished variety. My editor snorted, looked my way, and suggested I take on the story instead. My t-shirt, boho skirt, wool socks and Birkenstock sandals probably sealed the deal for him. Thankfully the story didn’t go any further, but it certainly gave me a wake up call about my lackadaisical appearance.
Two decades later, my fashion sense is iffy at best, and I still struggle to dress my postpartum, advanced maternal aged body. Nowadays I simply strive to be clean. Which brings me to my personal shower challenge.
A day after my c-section, when the anesthesiologist checked in on me, I mentioned some lingering numbness in my leg. I told her I couldn’t feel the razor on it when I shaved. She seemed more surprised by the fact that I actually showered and shaved, than by my inexplicable side effect from surgery.
From then on, I renewed my vow to shower daily, strange numbness or not. I couldn’t control these side effects or even the anesthesiologist’s response to them. Showering though somehow gave me a small sense of sanity.
You see, when the Peanut arrived, I felt like everything was out of my control. This little creature was clingy, disturbed my sleep, and made my whole body ache as I recovered from having my stomach sliced open.
Because the Sailor is away at work for months at a time, I got thrown in the deep end only eight weeks into motherhood, when he returned to sea. Throughout our marriage people have told us to think twice before having children because Daddy would only be home for half of the year. It’s really nobody’s business but ours, but sometimes those words lingered… and stung. What if I couldn’t do this motherhood thing when the Sailor was gone?
So, perhaps to drown out the voices of the naysayers, and more to prove a point to myself, I showered daily. Every single day, I gave myself five glorious minutes where I didn’t have milk, puke, poop or parts of my own lunch glued to my skin, even if I could hear the Peanut wailing safely in the Pack ‘n Play in the next room.
I usually took a shower during the Peanut’s (seriously brief) nap times. Other times, I strapped him into a baby bouncer and hauled him into the bathroom with me. I actually measured my day’s success on whether or not I had showered. Sometimes I’d panic by 9pm if it hadn’t happened yet.
I couldn’t control when my son got hungry, when he slept or for how long, when his teeth started coming in, or whether he was going to melt down if I turned on the blender. I may not have gotten dinner on the table, or the dishes done, and mold was probably growing in the bathroom. I didn’t answer emails, texts or even pay bills on time, but by golly, I was winning at the daily shower game, and that made me feel just a little bit successful.
Often when I’m surrounded by other moms, someone inevitably announces that they didn’t have time to shower before they got out the door. Ironically, they are usually the most put-together moms there. (Polished moms, what is your secret? Dry shampoo? Silk sheets? Do you sleep with your makeup on? I’m genuinely curious here. Enlighten me, please.)
I on the other hand, usually show up with wet hair and a mismatched outfit I probably had on the day before. But inwardly I give myself a high five. I took a shower.
Even though the Peanut is now a toddler, most days are still out of my control. I thought for sure this kid would be out of diapers by now, but I can hear the washing machine swishing a load of dirty cloth ones. I hoped he’d be sleeping through the night regularly by this point, but he’s also trying to give up naps. And I never know what he’s going to say (loudly) in public. Recently, in a crowded post office, he laid a hand on my chest and proudly proclaimed, ‘my boobies!’ with a grin.
Mommyhood makes me dizzy on the best of days. And yet, even on the worst of days, I feel just a little less crazy because I showered. Sometimes we moms need to take small victories where we can.
Maybe that makes me a control freak. Maybe not. I think all of us moms have one or two things we try not to budge on, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. I’m pretty sure if I had more than one kid, I’d let the daily shower go by the wayside, but I’d probably just replace it with something else to obsess over, like making sure my coffee never got cold, or putting every single waylaid toy back in place before bedtime. Who knows.