Monday, July 23, 2012

Parenting Small Children Has Done Me In.



Didn't I look fairly good back then?

OMG, you all. Let me give you a little piece of advice right now, perhaps the most important piece of advice you will ever receive from a fellow parent. No, nothing about discipline or sleep training or picky eaters or anything like that. Nothing about the actual parenting of a child at all, in fact. But still--so important. Here it is. Are you ready?

Do not go back and look at old photos of yourself from two to seven years ago. Just don't.

Look at the babies, sure. Definitely enjoy the photos of your kids themselves. Just avoid the ones that include your own self.

The other night, just for fun, I took down a family album of photos from 2005 to 2010. (I know; that's six years--in one album? what the...? This is a general album of semi-"leftover" pictures, separate from the albums I maintain for each daughter herself. Thus, ten kajillion photos go in my daughters' albums, and, like, five per year end up in this album. WHICH APPARENTLY IS A GOOD THING.)

And what struck me immediately was how fresh and relaxed and pretty and fit I looked back then. Which is crazy, really, because--seriously, fit and fresh and relaxed while you have babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? I doubt it. But still: there was photographic proof, and I definitely looked better in that album than I do when I look in the mirror every day now. And I don't think it's just aging, you all. I don't think it's just the passage of time. I mean, six years is a long time, yes--more than half a decade, which means a whole lot when you're in your thirties (or forties). But if the photos were to be believed, even two and three years ago I was looking a heck of a lot less....rough....than I'm feeling these days.

Clearly parenting has done me in. Which is funny, because I love parenting. My daughter asked me the other day if I loved being a mom more than anything else and I honestly told her yes. She asked me if I loved it all the time, even when she and her sister are being naughty, and I could honestly say that I did--that in those moments I don't love how they're behaving, but I still love being a mom more than anything else there is in the world to be. So....how come I look like death warmed over half the time? I'd like to blame lack of discretionary income, and state that if I had more money I could pay someone else to take away many of the vestiges of time and the nicks and dings that come along with parenting small children and having no time to yourself--the wrinkles and cellulite and wan complexion and neglected roots and sun damage and scrabbly cuticles--but....come to think of it let's do that. That works for me.

By definition, parenting small children is bad for your appearance. I mean, think about it: two of the hallmarks of parenting littles are: a.) getting very, VERY little sleep, and b.) being outside for hours and hours (= massive sun exposure) each day, particularly in the summer. Right there you're already deep in the trenches of Uglyville.

Beyond that, my personal theory is that when you're far from the social network of an extended family and thus lacking in the immediate physical help and emotional support that comes from having relatives nearby, the stresses and challenges of parenting even an easy child are magnified many fold. Throw in a poor sleeper or money troubles or any number of other additional stresses and your body basically goes for broke just to get through. So there's that too.

But I still can't escape the fact that my life appears to be kicking my ass. Or at least my photographic image.

(Come to think of it, maybe part of the problem is that we no longer have a real camera. All our photos are taken with our phones, and I don't know how to use Instagram yet. Can I blame my scrappy appearance on crappy cell-phone cameras? Please say yes.) 

How about you? Do you ever look at old photos and think, Hey, what happened to that young, pretty, well-rested woman? She is so gone! Please tell me I'm not the only one.


1 comment:

Mnmom said...

OMG yes. The other day I saw of photo of me right when we moved here. At nearly the height of the temper tantrums, and smack in the middle of sleep deprivation. And I was dewey and soft and YOUNG!! Now I look like Bella Abzug, and that's on a good day. Maybe I should just say I'm seasoned, like a really good cast iron pan.