We are home. We somehow did the 900km drive in under 9 hours and with only one stop yesterday, which felt like a total gift and treat after a rather blah, illness-filled Christmas. We have today to get groceries and unpack our clothes and gifts and just generally get settled. The kids don’t go back to school until later in the week and seminary classes don’t start until next week, but tomorrow I start a week-long intensive class here on campus on the integration of psychology and theology with the professor who taught me Crisis and Trauma in Calgary this past June.
I’m looking forward to it. But taking the class means that my Christmas break is cut short by a week. And I’m walking around the house today in my comfy pants and cardigan and my hair up in a ponytail and I think: “tomorrow I’m going to have to look presentable”. And after a week on the couch, my lips chapped and my nose chapped from the boxes and boxes of kleenex I’ve gone through, well… “presentable” feels like kind of foreign concept.
What does it mean to be “presentable” anyway?
Back in the day (pre-kids, possibly even pre-marriage), I’d always look my best. Hair curled, full make-up, even painted my finger nails. That was how I would meet the world and that’s what “presentable” was. I didn’t do it to be fake, it’s just the way I did things. After I had Madeline I was still presentable when I’d go out, but I spent a lot of time in my pyjamas when I was at home. As a result, a dichotomy was created between what I was when I was out and what I was at home. Once again, I wasn’t being fake when I went out, but slowly I began to feel like because I only “did myself up” when I was going out that somehow I didn’t “deserve” to look presentable for just myself, when I was at home.
I know this is the typical “mom struggle” and perfectly normal for me to feel. I also know that as my kids got older it got easier to take time for myself both before going out and in the everyday. But what was important for me to recognize is that I do not put on make-up or do my hair before I go out because I need to impress people and, conversely, that I do not do my make-up when I am just at home for the day because I don’t deserve to look nice when the only people who will see me are my family. I needed to put the make-up on or not put the make-up on for the right reasons. If I didn’t, I’d be bitter when I went out (because people “expected me to look a certain way”) and bitter when I stayed home (because I don’t deserve the 5 minutes it takes me in the day to look presentable).
Yes. Presentable. And we all have our different ideas of what that is too. And sometimes it’s hard to not meet up with others’ expectations. I had one friend several years ago who, even as a new mom, always had her hair done perfectly, a light dusting of make-up, and always dressed in a very “put together” way. Of course, this was at the time when I was still wearing my red fleece penguin pyjama pants looking after baby Madeline all day. I felt just a little intimidated… (The same was true of her house — always clean. And mine? Always not clean. But I’ve learned the same lesson about my house too, for the most part.)
But my ideas of presentable don’t have to match up with her ideas or the ideas of my other friends either. I can be me. And it is good to be me. It is good to take care of me and not to neglect me. But it is also good to give myself a break and lay off the mascara (and even the hair brush!) if I just don’t have the energy. That is also taking care of me. Yes, there are societal norms, and to some extent you want to fit in them somewhere (like when Marc considered going to the Walmart in PA last week in his sweatpants because “when in Rome…”). But you also want to be yourself and most of all you want what you present to be an authentic version of you.
So, yes, tomorrow I go to class. I will put on clean jeans and cardigan and a nice scarf. And I will (first wash! and then) do my hair a bit and moisturize my poor lips and hide the circles under my eyes. And I won’t look like I have for the past week. I will look better than the rat’s-nest-haired, pyjama-laden girl that was me for the nine days. Yes, I will do it so people don’t gawk at me. But I will also do it for me. Because I love me. Whether I’m in my pyjamas or my comfy pants or my jeans.
(Notice I make no mention of “dress pants or skirts or dresses”. Because, thankfully, I am at a stage of life where those are worn on an annual basis, and for that, at this moment, I am very thankful.)