Some say the way to gain humility is to deny the self and pray for it. I say it’s by birthing children. From the time baby is born, we give up so much of ourselves, our past ways and nearly all of our pride, to keep our most precious ones alive, and happy.
For me, like many moms, vain endeavors were the first and most painful luxuries to die since bearing children. We just don’t have the energy, and we just don’t care. I was in Target the other day, killing time with two babies and justifying a Starbucks purchase when I caught a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors. There was audible yelping. Somewhere between changing diapers and wrestling two babies into car seats, I failed to ensure I was presentable for the public eye. The result was me starring at what I wish was a stranger amidst merciless fluorescent lighting: mascara-smudged under eyes, a baby carrot-stained scarf and hair like a Katrina victim. I looked like John the Baptist wandering the desert, except he had a good excuse – he was carrying the Gospel. I just looked like a crack head with a flair for fashion.
Some mothers keep up the front. I’ve seen them, sauntering through the park, looking all A. Jolie. I’m more Team Hobo. I’m continually humbled by a friend with six children who greets each day by applying full makeup, slipping into cute jeans, straightening her hair…and staying home all day. To me, there’s just not a lot of return on that investment. I tell her I’m bringin’ frumpy back, but who are we kidding. I’m lucky if I brush my teeth before 5. Pampering and self-care post-kid is reduced to an immeasurably small modicum of time, and there are moments you hardly recognize yourself. I’ve recently gone shopping with hardened poop under my nail, and the closet thing I’ve come to a day spa is scoring the “good park bench” that faces the sun.
Child-rearing also hits us hardest in the wallet, bringing us to a level of meekness we never thought possible. I went from shopping Nordstrom Rack pre-kid, to purchasing clothes a little corner of underworld knows as Savers, a used clothing store with horrific organization, but amazing brand names. I held back tears of joy finding a pair of Nordstrom jeans once, as though Jesus himself was rewarding me for my humble pilgrimage. Sure, it smells like bad life choices and the cashier clearly is high on Cannabis, but this is shopping reality you face, raising a family of five in New England. We’ve given up Thai takeout, DVR and anything ending in -icure the sake of kids’ karate and ballet lessons. We’re told we’re better for it, but I’m on the fence. That amazing salon offering champagne and espresso has long been replaced by my childhood bathroom, where my mother cut my hair with scissors she swears aren’t kitchen shears. She attempted layers once, and I wore a ponytail for a summer.
From being forced to shop amongst consumers who sport sleepwear to Walmart, to tag saling for home items, most shreds of dignity and pride were left on the birthing table. I’m sure our feet will set foot on the wonderment of J. Crew soil later in life, and beauty treatments will occur elsewhere than a toilet. I can picture it now, sitting back with a green tea exfoliant mask, exhaling away traumatic memories such as unknowingly tag saling at a town councilman’s house, whom you attacked in a newspaper column, just one week before. I believe the term, “nepotistic thugs,” was used. The Texas-sized amount of pride I had to swallow was excruciating, as he helped me cram his bouncy horse into my trunk. Humble pie, served up fresh in his $600,000 garage.
But the reduction of material goods and forfeiture of egotism is only the beginning. As your kids grow older, you’ll find your free time-your weekends and your sacred “leisure time” -on the chopping block. Saturday morning yoga and afternoon strolls at farmer’s market? Gone. Coffee with a friend or a spur-of-the-moment matinee with your hubby? Preposterous. Because from years one to ten, family activities and dutiful children’s parties is where your Saturdays go to die. You’ll find yourself surviving activities you wouldn’t be caught dead doing, pre-kid: standing in ankle-high manure at the country fair, paying $10 for a carnival ride operated by a questionably intoxicated 16 year-old, freezing your toes off while voluntarily getting lost in a corn maze, tractor riding with 30 strangers to pick a $20 pumpkin, swimming in the noxious town pool, and sitting in a circle with strangers during your library story time. You haven’t been thoroughly humbled siphoning up the McDonald’s playscape to sit amongst the e-coli to ease your acrophobic toddler’s fear. In moments like these, as you sit, knees up to your ears in plastic filth you’ll find yourself pondering some big questions. Why am I the only parent up here? How come I don’t remember my mother doing this? Should I revisit the idea of therapy?
But all this loss of personal time…and well, everything, is always worth the memories you make with your kids-watching them shriek with laughter or watch them sleep with cotton-candy encrusted faces on the way back from Fun Town. Even if your car still smells like pony dung.