It’s about the eyeliner, but it’s not about the eyeliner

Stitch Fix modeling

Stitch Fix modeling


Every morning, I put on the same dull eyeliner and think: Why am I doing this?

I’d already found a different brand I love. Purchased faithfully for years, I finally used up the last of my beloved black eyeliner pencil — but rather than replace it, I decided to make do what what I already had.

That’s a very sensible idea, of course — in theory. Thanks to years of Birchbox subscriptions, I had a serious backlog of makeup samples. When the clutter got bad enough, I decided to sort through them a few months back (a modified KonMari, if you will). I purged what was open and old, then passed along new samples to coworkers. If I haven’t tried out a blush in three years, do I really need it? (No. The answer, I told myself repeatedly, is no.)

So I threw out my beloved Mally eyeliner pencil, the one worn down to the nub, and tried to get by with one of the random “waterproof” pencils wedged in my makeup drawer.

It seemed silly — and wasteful — to buy another $22 eyeliner duo . . . especially now with a baby (and his associated costs). I have all these products here just gathering dust, and they’re already paid for!

I’ve followed the same basic makeup routine — concealer, blush, Chapstick, eyeliner, mascara — since middle school, and have been on the hunt for the “perfect” products since earning my first paycheck. Once I was making my cool $6.75 an hour as a Michael’s cashier, I had some cash to blow on my makeup experiments.

And experiment I did. I spent years trying to find the right eyeliner. A complementary color for my olive skin tone, something dark but not too dark. A product that looks as fresh at 6 p.m. as it did at 6 a.m., and hopefully doesn’t cost a fortune. Something that my oily skin will not destroy in no time — a product that never winds up smudged beneath my eyes.

And I found it: Mally eyeliner. But I talked myself out of replenishing it, thinking that money would be better spent on incidentals for the family.

I talked myself out of thinking it mattered, this relatively small purchase that actually makes a big impact on my day. In wanting to be resourceful with my heart in the right place, I made a choice — daily — to apply makeup that I did not like, that didn’t work well, because I didn’t think it mattered.

But this morning, I was done. After an extremely stressful month at work, one filled with lay-offs and huge changes and more anxiety than I’ve felt in years, I was tiredly getting ready for another work week and thought: I can do better than this.

I can do better than a few rushed minutes to myself each morning, stolen before Oliver wakes up.

I can do better than treating myself like an afterthought: someone wearing frumpy clothes with tangled hair, a woman hiding behind her new mom identity to rationalize her sloppiness.

I can do better than this eyeliner that will quickly fade, doing nothing to make me feel happy and confident.

And it goes even deeper, of course. Post-pregnancy, I’ve struggled with buying new clothes — again. Between an almost 40-pound weight loss, pregnancy (and purchasing maternity wear), and adjusting to the 30 extra pounds I’m now carrying after birth, I feel guilty and frustrated rebuilding my closet . . . again.

But what’s the byproduct of that refusal? Every day I feel unpolished, either squeezing into clothes that feel too tight or wearing the same few “larger” tops over and over. Pair that with my makeup situation, and frankly? It ain’t good.

Having a baby is lovely (and amazing), but also quite strange. Your life changes in every possible way — right down to how you look and feel about yourself. Though I’ve never obsessed over appearances, I can recognize I haven’t been taking care of myself over the last six months. Like: at all.

And it’s time to change that, I think. We’re all familiar with maternal guilt, and this sense that we have to give it all — every bit of our energy, time, money — to our children. But there must be a way to reserve a little for yourself? If only to be the happy person — the strong, capable parent — you know you can be?

I need to get back on solid footing. I need to start caring for myself again. That’s something the nurses discussed in the NICU — “self-care” — but it was totally irrelevant to me back then, this idea that I would need to look after myself the way we had to look after our vulnerable baby.

But Oliver is no longer so vulnerable. He’s a hulk, actually — and I have to stop using that preemie parent identity as my defense. It serves no one. And since he’s sleeping through the night, I can’t blame exhaustion for why I’m not making strides to feel better.

It’s time to do that for myself.

With a few clicks, my favorite eyeliner is back on its way to me. I’ll head to the clearance racks at Kohl’s and get creative with my budget, investing in a few new pieces of clothing to switch up through fall and winter. And I’ll check out Goodwill, too, as I’m dropping off bags of the belongings that no longer serve me. I have lots of them.

I’m going to place all my favorite “small” clothes in bins, labelled for when I’m ready to pull them out again. But in the meantime, I don’t need those sizes taunting me. My closet shouldn’t be three-quarters full of items I cannot wear. Just seeing them daily — a harsh compare-and-contrast as I stand before my full-length mirror — is depressing.

I will get back to a good place. It’s going to take time and dedication — but I can make small steps to feel good each day. I may never again wear a size six, but I will get stronger. It could take months (or years), but I want to be healthy: for my husband, my son. Myself.

And while I battle my way back? Well, at least my eyeliner will look awesome.


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15 thoughts on “It’s about the eyeliner, but it’s not about the eyeliner

  1. Brava, Meg! Taking care of yourself should be your number 1 priority. I know it seems odd when Oliver is the one who needs everything…but take it from me, I’ve been a mom for almost twenty two years…losing yourself when you become a mother is the scariest thing! By consistently putting yourself last you start a pattern of self destruction, and that’s not good for anybody! Sometimes you need the “spendy” eyeliner to remind you that you matter. That you are not only a mother, but a real woman, too! I promise you can be both and Oliver won’t suffer. In fact he’ll thrive because you’re thriving. I’m sending you so much support and my heart is hugging yours! ❤

  2. YES WOMAN, YES!!! It’s not selfish to make time for yourself, it’s vital! And you’re so right…it’s definitely about more than the eyeliner. But “the eyeliner” can be the vehicle to give us the confidence and attitude to do so many other things. For me, it’s clean hair. When I’ve taken time to wash and dry my hair, I always feel more polished and confident. When I walk out like a schlumpadinka, I feel like I lose a bit of my fuel. Keep doing things to make yourself feel great–your son will love having a happy, confident mom.

  3. I hear you, Meg, loud and clear. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging more than five years ago, to reclaim a tiny portion of myself when my then-four-year-old and then-two-year-old demanded everything from me (and more.) As they got older and our income scooched up a little bit, I started doing things my mom (who is an amazing example as a mother but from the self-sacrificial generation) would never do. I go to movies by myself. Sometimes go out to breakfast or lunch by myself (literally did a happy dance when both kids were finally in full-day school.) I love Target and can just stroll the aisles looking at cool stuff (another store with an awesome clearance rack, by the way. You just have to dig.)

    So, yes, eyeliner is important. And so is that reclamation of who you are, independent of your beautiful son and the rest of your family. It’s a choice we make that brings about anxiety but can bring so many good things too.

    Hear you, loud and clear.

  4. Yes, times a million. I’m in the exact same boat over here. I’m trying to be the best parent I can be and sometimes lose myself along the way. I make very little time now to read and blog (just a few minutes a day now!) and those are my passions. Same thing with running and exercise. I’m super passionate about both have done hardly any of it since Caeb was born.

    I’m also feeling frumpy and uncomfortable because I’m still up about 35 pounds from the pregnancy. I put a lot of my smaller clothes in the spare room for now because it is a painful reminder. I know I will get back in them eventually but I always feel like I have no time to work out because of the baby. Jerry and I decided over the weekend that we need to re-commit to it because we need to be healthy for ourselves and our son. We’re going to work out twice a week for about 30 minutes. It’s not much at all but it’s time we are going to take for ourselves.

    I’m glad you got that eyeliner. I’m glad you’re going to look for new clothes that will make you feel good. I got quite a few things at Goodwill myself. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a size that I hope will only be temporary.

    It’s very important that our babies are priorities but I know a lot of parents forget about themselves and I’m guilty of it too. You have a great attitude and I know you’ll be feeling better soon enough!

  5. This was actually the perfect thing to read this morning, just an hour after I went through MY morning ritual of applying cheap black eyeliner that I don’t actually like but settle for because it’s cheap. But then, what’s the point? Maybe one day I’ll actually learn how to live by the “quality over quantity” philosophy one day, but in the meantime, I’ll enjoy cheering on others as they try to do the same.

  6. Aaaahhh the never ending battle to care for ourselves in order to care for others. I’m 3 weeks shy of being 2 years into this mom gig and I’m still learning daily how to care for myself. It’s an ebb and flow, it comes in waves and with each crash comes a new lesson. You’re doing an amazing job, keep up the good work and remember Grace>Guilt always always always.

  7. I’ve got those closet and makeup issues too, and have recently started making my own Goodwill piles with an impending move on the way–it’s rather exhilarating, don’t you think?! Hang in there, mama. And in the meantime, if you want to check out some dress-up/makeup fun, check out aliteralinterpretation.wordpress.com You won’t regret it!

  8. I have totally ignored my well-being since the baby, so I know what you mean. Occasionally I “plan” to take care of myself then find it not worth the time. But you are so on the dot here – a few minutes here and there towards making ourselves feel a tad bit happier about ourselves should be a must.

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