Friday, March 16, 2012

Can We Make Size 10 the New Size 6 and Call it a Day?

By Terri Lively

I was a dutiful expectant mother. When it was my time to have children, I did my homework. I diligently studied all the right books, subscribed to the web sites, and meditated about the kind of mother I wanted to be. I mentally prepared myself to expect that having a baby would change my life. And when my son was born, he did change my life in lots of expected ways.

Six years, and two more children deep into this process however, I am shocked at how being a mom has changed my life. What I was not prepared for was my willingness to lower my standards in other areas of my life to facilitate being the kind of mother I envisioned from my meditations. In the interest of time, of which I usually have little, I have narrowed them to the following 3 main categories:  physical grooming, general cleanliness, and social etiquette.

Physical Grooming:

My Facebook profile picture is of me wearing a mask and snorkel on a trip to Hawaii my husband and I took in 2009. I haven’t changed the photo for three years now mostly because there is a moratorium of all photos of me. So quite frankly, a newer photo of me does not exist. As an old lady looking back on my life, I will notice that my thirties are mysteriously missing in my recorded history. Too bad.

When I had my first child, 6 ½ years ago, my standards for grooming were vastly different than today. I had highlights, done in a salon chair, freshly done for my labor and the subsequent new baby photos (I still allowed photos then). I had acrylic nails, done in French style, that were filled every two weeks by Rebecca at Happy Nails without fail. My eyebrows were freshly waxed and my legs were shaved. I wore makeup, including eye shadow and liner, from morning until night. I wore heels. Daily. And I always wore underpants that had no visible panty lines…if you get my meaning.

Staring in the mirror today is a lesson in contrast. Dark roots and grays peak out in my part and by my ears in a hairstyle that I didn’t comb today. I did some at home highlights about 9 months ago. My toe nails haven’t seen a salon in at least a month, and before that trip, probably a year. You don’t want to know about the length of my leg hair, although everyone at the pool at the gym wishes they could forget. My idea of make up is mascara and lip gloss applied occasionally in the rear view mirror on the way to pre-school drop off. And my underwear is definitely the kind that leaves lines.

Part of it is just getting older. I was warned about this. When I was young, my mother was putting on her make up one day and I was seated on the toilet in her small bathroom watching her. She said, “You know, I look at myself everyday in this mirror and feel like a 23-year-old who doesn’t know who this old lady is looking back at her.” I nodded. I heard her, but I didn’t understand. Now I see that old lady staring back at me and know exactly what she was saying.

I am not the only one to compromise. My friends have too. I know a mom, who is beautiful, who told me that her standards for nails have fallen so far that she said when she goes out to an event, she just makes sure that her nails have no visible dirt. My favorite part of that sentence is “visible dirt” which implies that she doesn’t even care if they are dirty, she just doesn’t want to see it.

Nails are a common area of compromise. Another gorgeous friend of mine dropped her standards too. Upon observing her feet in sandals recently, she painted her nails with her 6-year-old daughter’s toy polish before dashing out the door to a social engagement.

My nails rarely get even as much attention as my friends’ do these days. My idea of a manicure is to bite off the hard cuticles periodically during my down time. Down time is a loose term for me now defined as small caches of time that I am unable to use for anything productive. Down time for me occurs when I am sitting at a stoplight, waiting in a line at Target or watching my son’s karate class. These moments of me-time keep my nails in the tip-top (!) shape that is acceptable by my new standards of grooming.

General Cleanliness:

My favorite show for years was Designed to Sell on HGTV. I always admired the way a small house could look larger and more elegant simply by keeping its counters clean and clutter-free. I strove to maintain that standard in my home as well. Even today, I feel happiest when my house is in order.

I am fortunate enough to have a cleaning lady that takes care of the real dirt so my main housekeeping responsibility is for the day-to-day clean up and non-stop straightening. Alas, even this is too much for me these days and I find myself compromising these reduced responsibilities. For example, I found that I could forgo sweeping under my table after meals if I just push all the chairs in really tightly. And I wear flip flops or UGGs around the house to keep from feeling the tell-tale crunch under my unmanicured toes.

A brief stroll through my yard, or garden as a good friend of mine would say, and you will see my biggest compromise. Grass grows where it shouldn’t and weeds grow where grass should be. We also have lots of empty planters. And pots of dirt. I call it Minimalist Chic or Naturally Bare. But mostly, I don’t call it anything and ignore it. I haven’t worked outside for one short hour since my third child was born.

And if my house has crunchy floor, I don’t even want to think about what’s going on in my car.  There was a time when my car’s regular state was as if it had been detailed the day before. I used to grumble on Monday mornings on my way to work when my husband left his Home Depot receipts and empty cups and cans there from the weekend trips he had taken in my car.

The current state of my car is compromised. Now my idea of clean is to make sure that all food stuff --and by food stuff I only mean the kind that rots or spills (i.e. cracker crumbs don’t count)--must be picked up and thrown away. Also on the must throw out list are dirty diapers because nothing is quite as pleasant as returning to your car on a sunny California afternoon and opening the door to roasted baby poop.  Or as I like to call it poop-pouri.

On the rare occasion that another adult is going to ride in my car with me, they wait patiently while I move the CD cases, car chargers, empty snack containers, preschool artwork and other assorted stuff off the passenger seat. Then I have to find a new place to put it. I would move all this to the back of my car, but it’s full. I have a constant inventory of reuseable bags, a baby stroller, extra diapers, yoga mat and gym accessories. Needless to say, the new state of my car certainly makes a few Home Depot receipts and empty Starbucks cups look like nothing by comparison.

Social Etiquette:

I once read that it is considered impolite not to respond to an email in 24 hours. And when I was working, I would have said 4 hours was the maximum amount of time to get back to a client by phone.
If you call me now, expect to wait four days. And I rarely answer my mobile phone mostly because I don’t know where it is. I usually find it buried under the CDs and car chargers in the aforementioned passenger seat with a few texts and voicemails that I didn’t know were there. My husband leaves snotty messages using a fake name and talking about how I could have won the lottery if I just would have answered my phone. Of course, he takes his phone into the bathroom with him so he would never miss that call.

Emails will happen sooner, but rarely within the 24-hour time frame mentioned above. For this, I am unapologetic. My friends know that I love them even if I don’t respond within minutes. And if they don’t, well, they probably don’t have kids so we won’t have anything in common anymore anyway so they should just quit emailing me now and save us both a lot of angst.*

I almost never go out with other people. On dates with my husband, for girls’ night out, to book club….forget it. My free time comes without warning, usually in the form of, “Hey honey, why don’t you get a massage tonight?” This is SUPER sweet, but also a difficult scenario in which to arrange for a companion. So I do get out, just not with people I know. I am alone. Happy and relaxed but alone.

The Good Side of Compromising:

I have compromised in good ways too. For instance, I have compromised my gag reflex. When my nieces were little, I threw up in my mouth once when I had to change their poopy diapers. I might have actually thrown up when my nephews were little, but the trauma must have been blocked out by my subconscious. Now I can change the poopiest, nastiest, stinkiest diaper in a line at Disneyland without losing my place. And almost no one around me throws up either.

I have also compromised my need for outside validation. I realize that by making these compromises, the world did not stop spinning on its axis. A lower maintenance grooming schedule, a less than perfect house and car, a bordering-on-non-existent social calendar is just where I am right now. And like all things, this too shall pass.

So what happened to the woman who gave birth to my son six years ago? I said she compromised herself away, but it’s probably more accurate to say that she has evolved. I see her once in a while, in photographs. If I could go back in a time machine, I would tell her to enjoy it now because her future will be bereft of these well-groomed, tidy home and car times. And to take it easy on her friends with kids that don’t get back to her right away.

I know I am not the only woman who is evolving to lower standards. I picture a growing number of regular moms gathering in an angry mob seething in a pool of Hollywood Starlet resentment that are demanding lower standards. Grading on a curve, if you will. And the powers that be have listened. In fact, I heard, in our ever-present media that 40 is the new 30. That three kids are the new two kids.

So as a woman that is turning 40 in a few short weeks with three kids, I ask the media for a final compromise:  “Can we make a size 10 the new size 6 and call it a day?”

* Friends without kids: I am just kidding. Please don’t stop emailing me! : )