How a Stay-at-Home Mom Got Her Groove Back
By Jennifer Jeanne Patterson for YourTango
Recently, my friend Catharine told me about a book based on the blog Formerly Hot—a phrase, I thought, that aptly described me. Well, maybe "Hot" is a stretch. But after three kids and seven years of marriage, I'd come to categorize myself as "Formerly Good Enough."
It wasn't that I'd passed 40 like the Formerly Hot author; it was that my tricks for attraction, like half shirts, no longer sat right on my newly pillowy midriff. My ability to be sexy was supplanted by my desire for help, and a lot of it: bedtimes, night wakings, feedings and fits. I missed that raw chemistry that once had existed between my husband, Matt, and me.
Your chemistry is part of what pulls your desire for one another through those effects that aging has on your body: the wrinkles, the grays, the slight bulge of post-baby fat. But Matt and I knew too much of each other now. We brought so much into our shared moments—our hopes, our fears, our resentments and a slew of what ifs—that we'd lost the ability to get lost in a moment, become over-swept by euphoria, allow some primal urge to bring our bodies together. I couldn't separate how I felt about Matt's parenting from how I felt about him. And some days, I felt as though he saw an unfinished to-do list before he saw me.
Then, one day, a friend gave me a picture that she'd taken before I'd had a chance to really wake up. In it, I'm standing up, eating out of a bowl. My uncombed hair is parted down the middle and I'm wearing an old sweatshirt that had belonged to my mother. I look awful. So horrible, in fact, that I put the photo straight into my garbage. And stomped it down.
What my friend had given me was a snapshot of my life. I realized what bothered me wasn't the physical aspects of my appearance: the unwashed hair, the shapeless sweatshirt, the inability to sit down for a full meal while raising three children. Those are parts of yourself you show when living together. Unfortunately.
I wasn't the person I had been before having children, neither physically nor mentally. I lacked energy, fire, focus and direction. I was worn down and run out. And I didn't know how to feel alive again in the most human of ways.
It's tricky to reinvent yourself while in a relationship; you can only hope your marriage is strong enough to sustain it. First, I had to free myself to realize that it was OK to put myself first sometimes, that I had a right to a life too. "Can you watch the kids tonight?" I'd ask Matt, slipping on earrings, off for a night out with girlfriends. Soon I started dressing better during oppressive Minnesota winters, thinking more, and feeling engaged mentally even when I wasn't. As my peer group stretched, I got support, ears to listen, voices that identified—I didn't depend solely on Matt for validation or appreciation. And through that, I found my voice.
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It's all too easy to find yourself in a rut by the time you reach 40. But reinventing yourself isn't as difficult as you'd think.Full House Images/Getty Images
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