10 Ways to Feel More Like a Woman and Less Like a Mom

I needed pretense. I needed to feel like I was a real person even though I was really a milk machine. And for me, the way I dress has always been an outward extension of who I am, even as my style has changed.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

I like to get dressed. No, I need to get dressed. The Yoga Pant Mom Trend looks cozy and yes, black is always chic, but I can't get down with it. I love how it looks on you, I promise. But it just ain't me.

I discovered this four years ago when my son was a baby. I found myself putting on cute outfits, even when I wasn't planning to go anywhere. I know that lots of folks love hanging at home in their pajamas postpartum, soaking in the relaxation and lack of pretense. But I needed pretense. I needed to feel like I was a real person even though I was really a milk machine. And for me, the way I dress has always been an outward extension of who I am, even as my style has changed. And so I'd get dressed in a cute skirt and a fun, printed tee and then I'd sit around nursing until my a** fell asleep in the glider. But, whatever, sleepy a** or not, I felt OK because I was dressed.

Similarly, I recently decided that it wasn't absurd or selfish to consider the idea of showering every day. I think there's a large population of folks that do that, right? I know not every mom ever is among that particular population, but I decided it was time to bridge the gap. At first, it felt like a horrible chore, the daily shower, what with all of the wetness and drying and the why-the-hell-are-the-kids-so-quiet part. But damn if it didn't feel good to realize that being clean meant I was taking care of myself. That I -- gasp! -- maybe mattered a little bit.

From there? My ball was rolling. Herewith, my list of 10 things that make me feel like a woman instead of just a mom:

1. Shaving. We covered showering up above, but, gals, don't forget about shaving. If you're a non-shaver, that's cool, you can just skip ahead. But I fall decidedly into the shaving camp, and discovering that I could take the extra five minutes in the shower to shave my legs and underarms any ol' time I was in the shower felt like discovering electricity. There doesn't need to be a party or a wedding -- you can shave just because you like smooth legs. How 'bout that?

2. Eyebrow maintenance. For serious, I'd have one giant band of eyebrow if I didn't stay on top of things. In fact, tweezing has been the only self-care practice I've been consistent about since I was a pre-teen. If you don't own a pair of Tweezermans, RUN TO THE DRUG STORE IMMEDIATELY and buy a pair. Spend the seemingly-too-much-money. You will thank me, I promise. A clean and natural-looking brow line makes me feel neat and like I care about myself. Which is a feeling I need to foster in any way possible. In addition to tweezing, I've toyed with liner (which I suck at applying) and have recently taken to "defining" my eyebrows with a pencil. I then blend in said "definition" with a special little brush, and, further, "set" my newly-fuller brows with what is essentially clear mascara. This whole process takes about 47 seconds and makes me feel way Euro. I like.

3. High-waisted skinny jeans. ENOUGH WITH THE LOW RISE. Jesus. I just discovered that you can even buy skinny jeans that aren't low rise and I feel like a new person. Every pair of pants I own that doesn't at least touch my hips is now in the giveaway pile. Because I'm tired of feeling like a doughy, postpartum mama four years postpartum. And because a little thing like three extra inches of jean hides SO VERY MUCH. I have an incredible pair from a J. Crew outlet store, and recently bought a pair online from American Eagle for less than $40. I've heard that H&M also carries high rise skinnies, but every time I've checked the only available sizes look like they'd fit a 3-year-old with extraordinarily long legs. I also happen to be of the opinion that skinnies work on all body types. Yes, even yours.

4. Declare a space your own. A few years ago, I decided that the mudroom off of our bathroom was going to be my studio. When I made this declaration, the ancient, cracked linoleum was covered with dirt, shoes, winter gear and (probably) traces of lead paint. I was prepared to throw every single one of those things in the trash, vacuum and move a writing table in. My husband, a skilled and loving man, insisted that he was going to recreate the space for me. I moaned, knowing how long it typically takes a carpenter's wife to get work done at her own house. But my studio is now so kicka** and gorgeous and totally perfect that I honestly can't even remember how many months of gentle, "Sigh... should I just buy a desk from IKEA?"-like things I needed to say. Just knowing that my studio exists makes me happy. And when I actually get to be in here, writing (like I am right now), making things, or simply moving stuff around BECAUSE I CAN, I feel like a real person. There's some stellar kid art on the walls in here, yes, but it's, like, their Picasso-level stuff. I try to keep the kids out of here because this space is MINE. Find a closet, a corner, or a dirty mudroom and set up shop, ladies.

5. Lip color. My lips are the same color as my skin. It's weird, I know. But if I don't smack some color on there, I look dead. I've never been able to apply lipstick in a way that looks natural, and so I'm a solid believer in lip stain. It stays put, doesn't bleed and makes my lips look like I rubbed beets on them. Which is apparently the look I'm going for. My first and favorite is from The Body Shop, and right now, because of cost and convenience, I buy some schwag from Rite Aid that totally does the trick for less than $4. Even if you've been blessed with not-dead lips, give it a shot. Lip color makes me feel -- yes, you guessed it -- more put together, which is clearly the thesis statement for this whole post.

6. Smile at people. I often feel wildly insecure -- "What if that person doesn't like me? Why didn't he smile at me? Oh, god, I'm so annoying, everyone in here can't wait until I get outta here with my coffee." -- and so I've had to train myself to be a friendly person; my insecurity can make my face shut down and cause me to look like a total b*tch. To combat my B*tchy Resting Face problem, I force a smile. I make myself get into it, too, and so I make my eyes smile. I try to smile at anyone with whom I make eye contact. I get scared if they don't smile back, and often worry that I look like a crazy person, nervously smiling at people all over the coffee shop. But I love it when people smile at me and say hello, and so I have to imagine that other people like it, too. It feels grown-up, all this friendliness. And it forces me to step out of my self-centered worry-brain, which is always a good thing.

7. A good bag. It doesn't need to be expensive. But it does need to function like nothing else in your life. I have two that I rotate, depending on how much crap I'm carrying around. One is a giant gray Martha Stewart for Staples bag that I love because my huge calendar, binder and a few books can easily fit inside. It has just the right number of compartments and can hold a silly amount of stuff before I look like an over-packed mule. The other one is a colorful Baggallini that I adore. My favorite feature is the built-in-near-the-top lip balm holder. I'm addicted to Karite Lips, the most expensive lip balm in all the land, and having it right in its own little holder spot is, like, the most luxurious thing ever. Having a bag that functions how you need it to is so common sense. And having a bag that's not a diaper bag is, when you can graduate, a little slice of heaven.

8. Stand up straight. Dude, my posture blows. When I see myself in photos, my hunched shoulders are the first thing I see. I work on this all the time, and yet I can't help but feel like I'm presenting my chest to the world on a D-sized silver platter when I pull my shoulders back. But whatevs -- good posture immediately gives people a look of presence, class and confidence. And I want to be all of those things. I sometimes am those things, but my posture tells a different story. Be willing to take up all of the space the Universe gave you -- stand right up into it.

9. Strut a little when you walk. And not for the people watching you. In fact, none of the things on this list are for other people -- they're for us and only us. When I pull my shoulders back and toss a little strut into my step, I feel awesome. I feel present. I feel like I've got myself under control. I feel confident. A little bit of swagger isn't always a bad thing. Instead, it can be us just having the courage to be fully in ourselves.

10. Break the rules, yo. See what I'm doing right here? I said this list was going to have 10 things in it and there are 11. 'Cause I'm a rule breaker. Naw, but seriously -- you do not need to do things just because everyone else in your town is doing them. I know your mom told you that, and that we'll tell our kids the same thing. But there's something weird that happens when we become mothers these days (I'm certain the Internet, with all of its "facts," is to blame.) We think that everyone else has it figured out, that we're the only mother who wasn't born knowing what the hell to do when the baby comes out. And so most of us quickly adopt the rules of the people around us. And before we know it, a lot of us pop our heads out of the water, gasp, and say, "What. The. Hell. Am. I. Doing." Gasp, girl. And then decide what rules you're going to follow. And if you end up breaking the rules of those around you? Awesome! Everyone can learn by watching how other people are doing things. The world can only be served by peeps creating an outer reality that matches their true inner reality. Do that.

11. Remember that you matter. Raising our babies to be stellar, kind, loving, creative citizens of the world is, undoubtedly, a massively important and often joy-filled task. And it's probably instinctual for us to want to do and do and do for them. I know that I give a whole lot of me to my kids. But we need to step away from the idea that we need to suffer to be mothers, that pain and distress are a part of the deal. I suffered greatly, completely without knowing it, for the first few years of motherhood. Not because my kids were jerks, but because I didn't realize that the only way to remain a woman and not singularly a mother was to decide that I still mattered. My babies mattered, yes, and my husband mattered, yes, but so did I. And I forgot that. I stopped getting my hair cut and let my leg hair grow and became more and more emotionally depleted from all of the martyred giving. It's unsustainable, that. And it's also a real bummer. Instead, get dressed if you want to and take the time to straighten your hair if it makes you feel whole and good. You matter. Don't forget it, 'kay?

You can find the original post here, where it contains copious amounts of (well-placed) swearing. You can also get new posts from Emily (which, similarly, often contain well-placed swearing) in your inbox by clicking here.

Check out Emily's Facebook page, where she tries to be funny, real, and as brave as she can be.

Also on HuffPost:

Quotes About Motherhood