Ok, I am going to admit something that is not nice…..
Pre-baby I used to look at a colleague who had recently returned to work from maternity leave and wonder why she couldn’t make a little bit more of an effort. I mean, how hard could it be to put moisturiser on those flakey hands more often? Or at least make a bit of effort with a touch of makeup? And while she was at it, maybe get rid of those weird white patches on her clothes? I felt compelled almost on a daily basis to give her a makeover. Yes, I can be a bitch sometimes but a helpful one at heart.
Now all those questions are coming back to haunt me.
I have the answers because I live the answers.
That flakey skin is the result of good hygiene when handling a baby. If you wipe away poo or vomit or pick their tiny nose with your fingernail, you need to wash your hands. If they are formula fed, you need to clean the bottles and sterilise them. If you handle raw food and then need to tend to your baby, you need to wash your hands beforehand. And the list goes on.
At the end of the day, I find myself washing my hands possibly more times than the average person suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. Even if I went to the effort of putting moisturiser on between each hand wash, it would be on for only an hour or so before the next hand wash. And while I’m not a dermatologist by trade, I can only imagine that the moisturiser offers little barrier to the depletion of natural oils in my skin from all that antibacterial soap.
Apart from the technicality, my mind doesn’t think of details like hand moisturiser anymore. Even if it did, I don’t have the time to give myself a twenty minute mini-manicure every time I wash my hands. The closest I get these days is wiping the excess baby oil on the back of my hands after Little Old Man has his bath.
Sadly, having a baby is precisely the time when I most needed to pamper my skin more.
Nothing makes my hands look more haggard and damaged than when I hold onto his flawless baby skin.
As for the makeup, this comes with its own challenges. At the beginning I kept the makeup regime going and found concealer to be a godsend for those sleep bags under the eyes. But now my son is a full-blown toddler, the makeup has mostly been given away. Well, except for the concealer. No mum gives that one up easily!
Part of my lack of commitment to makeup is being time poor but the more major part is the physical realities of babies. Looking after my son involves a lot physical contact, drool and food scraps. And then there are the kisses, which I really can’t complain about but they do put the brakes on the concept of makeup. His favourite technique is to kiss me on one cheek and then swipe his mouth across the rest of my face.
Finally, there are the white marks on the clothing. From experience, I now know this can either baby vomit, overflow from feeds or snot trails. Try as I might, I can’t really avoid the appearance of these marks on me. Little Old Man is crafty in his use of me as a human-sized tissue.
He is like a snot ninja, quietly leaving his snail trails all over my clothes and furniture.
So now I am back at work and I am the one with the dried out skin, bare face and white marks. I imagine that some childless woman is sitting there judging me for my appearance. And perhaps I deserve it given I was once in her shoes. But what I know now is that I don’t even care about being judged. If I am at my desk, awake and able to function in the adult world, then I’ve already won.
My only hope is that my old colleague took the same attitude. At any rate, to my old colleague: I am sorry for secretly judging you without a clue. If nothing else, motherhood has taught me not to be so judgemental – especially of situations I have never experienced first-hand. We’re all just, to a greater or lesser extent, getting by anyway we know how.