“Hi, my name is Carolyn.”
“…and it has been 53 hours and 27 minutes since my last shower . . . I think.”
Because, mothers of the world: who can remember anymore?!
Back when I was a newlywed, I managed a perfectly predictable, highly reasonable hygiene schedule. I showered every morning (because it helped wake me up). I washed my hair every other day (because non-oily hair genes meant I could get away with it). I shaved my legs every day (because I was young and stupid).
I used to laugh—and those of you out there who don’t have kids or can’t remember what it’s like having young kids are laughing, I’m sure—at the fabled women who simply COULD NOT manage to take a shower every day. What was wrong with these humans? They floated around my periphery like some sort of desert mirage shimmering in the space between fiction and reality. I passed these women in their baseball caps pulled low over greasy ponytails, their unwashed, exhausted faces, and I paid them exactly zero attention. Nada. Zilch. I was too scrubbed and fresh and wearing clean underwear to notice, let alone to care.
Then I had kids.
And it was as if the heavens opened up and God himself laughed in my face.
Something about living, breathing creatures depending on you for EVERY thing EVERY moment of EVERY day makes the previously simple task of taking a shower on the regular feel like trying to scale Mount Everest without any survival gear: basically impossible.
When I had a newborn, I distinctly remember being unreasonably terrified to set her down in her bouncy seat for five minutes while I showered. What if she spit up and choked on it in the three seconds it would take for me to whip back the shower curtain and reach down to her? What if Child Protective Services burst through the door at that exact moment and deemed me an unfit mother for taking my eyes off my baby for 30 seconds? Dear Lord, what if she CRIED?!
Then, of course, toddlers came into my life, and they deemed my showering to be some sort of personal affront on their very existence. My two-year-old would stand on the bath mat and scream in terror, quite certain the water falling from the shower head was death-inducing acid melting his mother into a puddle of nothingness while he stood by, hopelessly too short to scale the edge of the tub and save her.
Now that some of my kids have gotten older, it should be easier, right? After all, they’re capable of watching a half-hour TV show, playing in the basement together for a few minutes without drawing blood, even getting their own snacks on rare occasions. But now that their basic needs are more readily met without me, their NEEDS are sucking up all of my “should be used for showering” time. There’s school to get ready for. Groceries that won’t buy themselves. Floors that need near-constant cleaning. And the laundry—don’t even get me started on the mounds of socks and t-shirts I’m buried underneath. It’s horrifying.
I walk by my shower multiple times in a day, and nine times out of 10, I sigh and keep on walking, too busy or unmotivated to do what used to come second nature.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I never shower—it’s just that it happens way (way, way) less often, or at much odder hours, than it did before I had kids. I know what it’s like to walk around Target in two-day-old mascara and hair that’s been dry shampooed more times than there are days in the week. I know what it’s like to simply survive, to constantly put everyone else and their needs ahead of my own, day in and day out.
I get it now, the life those women I used to ignore were living. It’s a life of sacrifice, even at the cost of a few uninterrupted minutes becoming human again under a warm stream of rejuvenating water.
And you know what? I’m OK with it. Because as I go about my days now—perpetually unshowered, mothering my children, loving my husband, caring for a happy and noisy and full home—I know this season of life is incredibly precious and so very fleeting.
So for now, I’ll smile at the put-together women scurrying past my cartful of chicken nuggets and crying babies. I’ll admire the moms who can keep it all together and still manage a daily shower (how do you do it?!). And I’ll straighten the brim of my old baseball cap slung over a greasy ponytail—and smile.
The shower will be ready and waiting, whenever it is I get there.