Letting Yourself Go - and Getting It Back Again
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Letting Yourself Go - and Getting It Back Again

Women are always afraid of “letting themselves go”, and I’m no different than most women. The phrase evokes fear in the hearts of exhausted, overworked mothers, who don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to do the necessary upkeep. Fashion magazines present an ideal so airbrushed and homogeneous, it almost hurts to look in the mirror…especially after spending a long night nursing a newborn, or a sick child; or a long afternoon cleaning up toys and making a lot of snacks, not to mention working in a cubicle and riding public transportation. Why bother getting done up, you might ask yourself, when your children don’t care at all, and why not have a few more cookies, too, when you’re tired and hungry…haven’t you earned it? These are the rationalizations that lead me to struggle, occasionally, when doing up my jeans, and to go out of the house with terrible hair, scraped back in a tacky scrunchie, to run errands. I would never have gone out that way before I had my son, but I’ve changed a lot since then.

The weight gain that comes with having children is seen as the first domino to fall in the process of letting yourself go, and I gained a lot of weight. From my pre-pregnancy weight of about 118 pounds, I ballooned up, gaining fifty pounds, and giving birth to a son who weighed a healthy nine pounds eight ounces. I still remember looking at my nude body after a bath, in a full-length mirror, a few days after he was born, and feeling total despair. It seemed impossible that so much damage had been done in such a short time, but it had been, and I thought I’d never feel normal again. I loved my son, and was ecstatic, but my body made me feel terribly sad. Now I struggle to weigh 123 pounds: I will never weigh 118 again, I’m sure. I could, but I won’t: I just know it. And, strangely, I’m fine with that: it’s enough work just to stay at the weight I am at, and I forgive myself utterly for not having the body of a teenager, at the age of thirty-seven.

So there’s weight, and then there’s fashion and makeup. Always an avid reader of Vogue and the like, I gave up Cosmopolitan completely after becoming a mother. Suddenly, taking care of a baby made articles about pleasing my man seem really silly. I want to please him, of course, but I also want to be pleased by him, and as I progressed into full-blown mommydom, my priorities changed. Is “letting yourself go” really what it implies, or is it “coming into yourself”? I’m still not sure, and I think the real answer lies somewhere between the two. I won’t give up my makeup though, because I find the ritual soothing, and my interest in lipstick will never wane. So I look after my face, mostly, am sometimes too tired and complacent to style my hair, and I weigh more than I did before childbirth. According my own harsh criteria, I’ve let myself go, but it’s been so gradual, I hardly noticed: it just crept up on me somehow.

My son thinks I’m pretty however I look, and the happiness he gives me means more than anything else in my life. At the same time, I need to make more of an effort, to be a yummy mummy every day of my life, to get dolled up with aplomb, and to feel as polished as I possibly can. The world might judge on appearances, but there’s so much more to a woman than that, and that’s the lesson I’ve learned from letting myself go: whether I look good or bad, and I can go both ways depending on the day, I’m still the same person, and worthy of love. I don’t need the admiration of society to be happy, but maybe sometimes I want it, and that’s okay, too.

It’s good to know that whatever I choose to be, and however I choose to look, I have my own sense of self, something that I lacked to some degree before motherhood centered my life. Now, if I get a manicure, it’s icing on the cake, and I should enjoy it the same way, a bit of indulgence that makes getting through the day a little bit more pleasant. The better I look after myself, the better I will be for those I love, and it’s okay to take that time for myself, and even to spend a little money in the process. These were lessons in self-esteem I had to learn, that I don’t have to sacrifice everything. Every woman should like what they see in the mirror, before and after motherhood, but parenthood brings many pressures as well as joys: it’s a lot of work, and sometimes it’s going to show.

If you’ve let yourself go a little bit, it might be the first step on a journey to a more fulfilled spirit: or, you may have simply eaten way too many cookies: or both, as in my case. It’s a complicated issue, tinged with feminism and ageism and all the issues women grapple with as we mature. But every loving mother is a beautiful person to their little person, whether they are fat, thin, frizzy, or Pantene-smooth: every mommy is yummy, we just need a little bit of pampering now and then, to smooth out the rough edges of our hectic lives.

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Comments (1)

Letting yourself go from the pain of the past with your love one is the best way to attain happiness. Never let yourself trapped on the pain that someone has given you, you have to learn to let go. Thank you for writing this article, I learned and realized a lot. Keep it up! Voted and shared.