How Motherhood Changed My Hygiene

I have been dreading this post, for obvious reasons.

But now I have to face the music. Sigh.

Let me tell you how having kids has changed my hygiene (please don’t judge me, please don’t judge me, please don’t judge me):

I started motherhood near a Naval base in Japan. Three weeks postpartum, my husband deployed with his ship and was at sea for a month. I had to figure out how to take care of myself with no extra hands in the house and no family within 6,000 miles. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time dolling myself up in the powder room.

I have a distinct memory of my friend, Ashley, coming over so I could take a shower.

[This is the same Ashley from my first post – what on earth would I have done without her?!]

She said: Take your time in there. I’ve got Steven. Don’t rush. But poor baby and poor Ashley, he wailed the whole time. That ordeal etched in my mind and from then on, my hygiene didn’t go beyond the basics. It just wasn’t worth the difficulty. It was also time spent away from my newborn. And even if it was just a few minutes, as a new mom, I didn’t like having to do that unnecessarily.

I still brushed my teeth (you can do that holding a baby, yippee!). I still washed my face – perhaps once every other day (yikes!). But makeup? Nope. Face masks? Yeah, right. Blow dryer? Not happening. I did the bare necessities.

For the first two years of our son’s life, my husband was in and out on deployments for varying lengths of time. Through this unpredictable challenge, I embraced a lifestyle of minimal hygiene that has stuck with me. Even now, I take showers twice a week. And my routine is simple. There isn’t anything in my bathroom that takes additional scheduling: no night cream, no astringent, no volumizing hair products… Just soap. Toothpaste. Shampoo and conditioner. And coconut oil.

And you know what I’ve discovered? My body has found a balance. A lot of natural oils came through. Sure, I was maybe a little greasy at first. But then my body started regulating itself. My skin and hair now relish natural oil. Through this basic routine, I feel free. For me, the less time spent in the bathroom means the less difficulty trying to make my routine happen. Hygiene is nice and easy.

My mothering life includes fewer showers as well as fewer glamorous moments. But it works for me and it’s to the level that I am comfortable with in and of myself. After a lot of practice, I can now say that I don’t resign myself to any social expectations regarding appearance. Is my skin perfect? Hardly. But I know it’s healthy, strong, and balanced.

The postpartum phase changed my expectations and liberated me at the same time. Now, when I do put makeup on, it feels extra special (though I have to remember not to rub my eyes!). Makeup isn’t my go-to anymore in order to feel beautiful. I sense my inner spark is what makes me appealing. I feel as if I’m exercising what it means to be an authentic woman. One who strives to prioritize connection over concealer.

Often, we are told what’s good for our bodies (“Use this product!” “Reduce your pores!” “This deodorant is great!”), but this experience has taught me that it’s worth learning how to listen to your body and respond accordingly. You are worth that. I learned how to take care of my body by listening to it instead of telling it what to do or how to behave. I’m learning how to nurture it because I know it. I feel more naturally feminine than ever before. I feel pure in heart. And I’ve come to a point where I like being seen for what I am.

The Postpartum Experience and the Church

Five years ago, I joined the Orthodox Church. And I’m tempted to tell you all about it. I’m quite proud of this community.

But I won’t. I’ll spare you the boring testimony of my years of struggle and eventual deep appreciation for the teachings, traditions, people, blah, blah, blah.

But, here’s what I do want to acknowledge:

Although the Orthodox Church has a grandiose exterior and profound teachings, by being a part of the life of the Church, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing traditions that have smaller voices.

The Orthodox Church taught me about the 40-day rest period after childbirth. This can quickly become a controversial topic for some who think this is about the “uncleanness” of a woman (which it is not). I can tell you from personal experience that this gift is a blessing to a woman. Instead of feeling pressed to fulfill our religious obligation or to show face in church because it’s a good thing to do, the Church simply lets us off the hook and tells us to stay home.

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Double & Freeze: Bean and Cheese Enchiladas

This week, we’re introducing a series called Double & Freeze. It’s something I do often in our house in order to get more bang for my buck in the kitchen. The concept is simple: when you cook dinner, you make twice as much. You serve half and freeze half (often after assembly but before baking). This series will include meals that cater well to that idea – that freeze gracefully and don’t get mad when you stop them mid-process.

Our first Double & Freeze is bean and cheese enchiladas! I knew this would be our first as soon as I thought of sharing this concept. I double and freeze this meal pretty much every time I make it for our family. It makes life much easier.

So here we go! Let’s get started.

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On Having A Clean House

It was a peaceful spring morning. And then it wasn’t.

I don’t remember what I was doing at the time, or why I wasn’t minding my kids on the other end of the house. The shock of it all probably blocked that out. What I do remember is the moment I walked into the kitchen.

And all I could see was cocoa powder.

It. Was. Awful.

The 3-year-old had poured it down the cabinets. The 18-month-old tried to eat it (read: wipe it over every inch of his head). I think there were even paw prints from when the cat walked in to find his bounty.

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The Importance of Routine When You Have Small Children (and How to Make One)

Routine is golden. And for moms, it can be the guiding light in a frazzled world full of meal prep, butt wiping, and wrenches thrown in every system. Routines help us keep our heads above water and for that reason, I adore them.

I will say: routines are not schedules. Schedules are by the book, minute-by-minute. If you don’t keep up with them, it’s disappointing and stressful. But routines are guidelines. They’re helpful friends that are flexible and forgiving, ready to steer us back on track when we’ve lost focus or gotten behind. Routines work for us, not the other way around.

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How to Deal with Deep Sleprivation

We make plenty of decisions when we become parents. Daycare or stay-at-home parenting. Crib or bassinet. Stroller or baby carrier. Breastfeed or formula. Or both. But there’s one thing that’s inevitable no matter how you finesse your decisions. At some point, you will be sleep deprived.

Dun dun dun!!

Few parents say, “I get more than enough sleep!” in their child’s first year (or two) of life. It’s simply something we have to go through at one point or another, a sort of rite of passage. There’s no real simple fix, there’s no elixir of life here (though wine does help), but here’s what helped me when the going got tough:

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Cheer Here: You Are Enough

Every 8 weeks, we’re going to take off our big-blog-post hats in favor of simple encouragement. Our needs – a mother’s needs – are indeed physical and mental. But I believe our emotional and spiritual needs to be loftier, trickier to fulfill, and more painful when they’re left wanting. So, every two months, we hope to uplift all the moms out there (new ones especially) with a small encouragement, hoping it comes at just the right time for those who need it.

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In the chaos of life, when seeing your messy house, unbathed kids, and thrown-together dinner at the end of the day, it’s tempting as a mom to doubt yourself and think:

What have I accomplished today? All I do is keep these tiny humans alive!

Sure, we’d all like clean houses, check marks on the to-do list, to have finished that load of laundry that now stinks from seven hours of sitting in the washer, wet and soppy. We’d all like the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day that, you know, what the other moms have when they go to bed.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we have to “get things done” to feel like good moms? Why does the laundry matter when those little stinkers poured salt all over the kitchen floor? Again!

If you’re there cleaning up that salty mess, then you’re a good mother. If you even thought about a to-do list, then you’re a good mother. If you hold your kids at the end of every day and can still say in your heart “I love you,” then you’re a good mother.

Don’t worry about that load that is still stinking up the washer. You’ll remember to fix it when you do more laundry. All you need to do is give every day what you’ve got. And let what you’ve got be enough for every day.

So, say it with me: I am enough, I am enough, I am enough …

An Ode to Best Friends

PREGNANCY IS THE BEGINNING OF YOUR SOCIAL DECLINE. Have you ever had this thought? Do you lie awake some nights over the loss of normal social interaction? From now on, my friends will think I have become a hermit and all I know is the rotation of: diaper change > nap > nurse > diaper change > nap > nurse > DIAPER CHANGE > NAP > NURSE!

Consciously or not, this is something we fear on some level.

The diaper-change-nap-nurse rotation can feel eternal at times. Like you’re in the 9th circle of hell.

Diaper change!

Nap!

Nurse!

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