Parenting, Self-Esteem, And Toddlers Holding One Leg Up

My self-esteem kind of fell to the shits some time after my daughter was born. It wasn’t postpartum depression; I’d made it okay through the weeks of shifting hormones and months of endless infant crying. I cried twice after she was born; once in frustration that I wasn’t getting to hold her as much as I wanted during what felt like a never-ending cycle of visitors, and once that first day after my husband went to work and everyone was gone. Other than that, I was fine.

Until I wasn’t. I started losing confidence. New parenthood can be isolating, physically: You just can’t leave the house as easily as you used to.

To compound matters, I had less to say about work, because I was working half-time. I had been used to connecting with people on the basis of work.

Sometimes it’s said that people who talk about their kids are boring. Emotionally, I bought right into that, while intellectually I still know this is a feminist issue that angers me. Frowning on kid-talk serves as a way to silence and trivialize women since we often find ourselves serving as primary caregivers to any children we may have.

All of this meant I became more isolated still.

I realized in the grocery store that I was getting out of tune with myself; it was becoming too hard to buy basic things like pasta or peanut butter. I would look at multiple varieties and not know which to pick. I didn’t trust myself. Decisions that should have taken three seconds were taking 10.

So I wrote an email to two of my closest, dearest friends, telling them that I felt my self-esteem was hitting a lower patch and asking for advice on what they thought I should do. I also asked my husband for ideas.

I think, honestly, it surprised some of them, although they all rose to the occasion, were supportive, and offered awesome ideas. There is some taboo in admitting when you don’t feel great. There shouldn’t be.

Our security in ourselves and the way we feel about the world are hardly static. You could even be the strongest person in the world and still hit rough patches. Admitting the crap times when you have them is a really helpful step to tossing them down the Litter Genie.

Through conversations with my lovelies, I came to realize that what I was really missing was a sense of accomplishment, and that was what was decking my self-esteem. When I had been working around the clock, I had stacks of achievements in the detritus of my to-do lists. People recognized my work. I had the ability to write for pleasure 20 times more often than before the baby, and get feedback in the process.

Motherhood didn’t feel like that. Every time I changed her outfit, my dear sweet daughter seemed to spit up profusely again. Even putting her down for a nap wasn’t much accomplishment, since she’d usually wake up and start crying almost immediately. What I needed, bluntly, was something new that we could do. I knew it had to be us and not just me, or I wouldn’t get the accomplishment near often enough.

So we tried a baby yoga class. And we started coming back, week after week. We’ve been going for almost a year and a half now. Thing is, it worked, and actually fairly quickly. I just needed something new, something I could point to as something I was getting done. As time went on, and my daughter grew, the class became irresistible fun. I love to watch her sing, dance, and do a tree pose (A DEAD-SERIOUS TODDLER DOING A TREE POSE!).

Recently I shared this story in a workshop I facilitated on pregnancy after an eating disorder, as an example of how it’s totally cool to speak up during the divots of life and work toward your own mental health. A doctor who was also leading the workshop responded to my claim that probably none of the other parents in the room knew how important that 45-minute class is to me. She said: It probably is for them, too.

We need to be honest that parenting is not always easy, that life is not always easy, that it’s okay to experience ups and downs and talk about them. It’s actually a sign of strength. At least, that’s the message I hope I’m teaching my daughter.

No More Bad Hair Days And Skinny Clothes

I’m done with bad hair days, they don’t exist. Men don’t have bad hair days; those few who say they do are distinctly in the minority because bad hair days are about sexism, not appearance.

Bad hair days are a way of trivializing women and making us feel like we aren’t good enough as we are. It takes hours for a woman to get the kind of hair that graces magazine covers — time that could be spent getting more sleep. Death to bad hair days!

My hair is neither curly nor straight nor wavy. I had been thinking of it as kind of this perpetual bad hair day. Except it’s not.

Recently I realized how much time I’d been spending beating myself up for not having time to blow dry my hair, since my mornings are about walking dogs, feeding dogs, changing diapers, and then getting a toddler dressed and fed before encouraging her to brush her teeth (good luck). I’m fortunate if I get in a shower before starting to work.

Thinking negatively about my hair had started to invade my space. I started thinking I didn’t look “professional” enough to see colleagues or “good” enough to see friends. I had all this self-imposed stress in the mornings to meet this goal to blow dry my hair.

Wait, what?

When I started unpacking it, I realized I have the same hair that I used to think was totally hot on guys I used to date. (I focused a good chunk of my single life on men who look like Jesus.) This made me realize — hey wait, that’s bunk! I’m not having bad hair days. I’m feeling bad about not measuring up to impossible standards for women. Perhaps, even, my natural hair looks good.

Well, okay then. Bye-bye bad hair days.

On a similar note, the other day I purged my closet of small (skinny) clothes. It felt wonderfully empowering. Leaving clothes that are too small in my wardrobe implies that I need to lose weight to get dressed. No, thank you. Clothes are supposed to fit people, not the other way around.

Self-esteem is not fluff, y’all. When we are able to stand tall, we are able to insist others respect our bodies and our minds. We can dare to be vulnerable, and we can dare to change. Creating the world that should exist is actually a hell of a lot of fun.

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