Self-Care, Feminism, and Good Mothering Can, In Fact, Co-Exist
On Thursday, an article about primping before birth came out in The Boston Globe and I was quoted as being in favor of it, which — obviously — I am, given that I put it on the record. As I expected, the reaction to the article was mixed; people either thought the article was entertaining and fluffy, told me it resonated personally (“Yes! I hated my fugly post-delivery photos too!”), or expressed that they were pissed. And I mean, really, really pissed. As in, I was accused of things such as reversing the progress of the feminist movement, being a selfish, negligent mother, and not being a mindful human being.
I found the fuss intriguing. Obviously, the Globe story was not all about me; they couldn’t capture the extent of my circumstances at the time of Laurel’s birth and why I’d like to have decent photos this time around (and no, it’s not for the sole purpose of flaunting them on Facebook and Twitter). Regardless, what struck me was that the things I want to squeeze in before delivery or engage in to kill time during early labor (e.g., haircut or blow-out, eyebrow wax) are things I do on a semi-regular basis anyway, but suddenly were representative of a strike against the feminist movement because they were being discussed in juxtaposition with the topic of birth. Never mind that some of my other lofty post-birth personal hygiene goals include showering, combing my hair, and wearing something other than a stinky gray t-shirt and sweatpants –- none of which I managed to accomplish during the 5-day hospital stay that followed delivering Laurel via emergency C-section at 42 weeks amidst food poisoning, a mystery fever, fetal distress, and a birth that was pretty much the complete opposite of the woo woo natural birth I had planned.
In my opinion, feminism (wherever one lies on the spectrum) and being a good mom can, in fact, co-exist with the desire to shower, comb one’s hair, and brush on some concealer at least once within the span of 3-5 days post-delivery. Wanting to feel something other than sweaty and unkempt after delivery does not seem like an unreasonable request. As I mentioned in the article, I have always believed that parents would do well to follow the airline procedure of securing one’s own oxygen mask before helping others. And I will most definitely go so far as to say that taking care of myself — whether it is via healthy eating, exercise, meditation, showering, wearing something other than yoga pants, and/or engaging in my lighting fast 5-minute makeup routine — does help me be a better mother to Laurel. Meaning, I don’t feel resentful for always putting myself second. I feel happier when I don’t stink. I feel more energetic and present with Laurel when I’ve taken the time to nourish my body and spirit with good food and exercise. And so forth.
Obviously, an article such as the Globe’s is meant to spark controversy; an article focused on the flip perspective just wouldn’t be, well, newsworthy. The article did give voice (albeit briefly) to the fact that not all women are on board with the concept of primping around the time of delivery, but clearly the topic hit a deep nerve for many women in the non-primping camp. In fact, it almost seemed as if it was more of a primping versus non-primping battle in general (even though some claimed that not to be the case), and that using birth as the vehicle through which to frame the issue offered those in the non-primping camp deeper and more complex ammunition on the matter.
At any rate, I’ll conclude with three things. First, anyone who knows me understands that I am all for forward progress for women (hell, I lived in a feminist dorm in college and am forced to explain regularly to my mother why I choose professional projects over scrubbing my kitchen sink), that I am an attentive and loving mother (in fact, I have been told in the past that Laurel’s painful adjustments at school would be way easier if I didn’t engage her in so many fun craft and baking projects at home), and that I am, in fact, a mindful human being (whether it relates to breathing, eating, working, or being with my family). Second, clearly, I believe that self-care and mindful motherhood can, in fact, co-exist — even postpartum. Just as much as I believe that non-primping and mindful motherhood can co-exist. And third, the polarization over this issue makes it clear to me that moms still have a hard time realizing that ultimately we’re all on the same team. Lip gloss or not.
What do you think? I’m truly curious. In fact, I’ll probably mull it further tomorrow, while I’m getting that haircut I’ve been neglecting for four months. Which I purposefully scheduled during Laurel’s skating lesson so as not to waste our precious weekend time together.