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5 Easy Ways to Break Out of Your Mom Rut

A mom's journey to rediscover her pre-motherhood self

Published on: May 29, 2019

mom looking in the mirror

Nearly eight years in as a stay-at-home mom, I walk by the mirror and I don’t recognize that haggard (and graying) person in the reflection. It’s the years of chronic sleep deprivation and putting my own needs last. I’ve forgotten who I am.

Life with small children is full. You spend your days taking care of everyone else, leaving zero time for yourself.

What does it take to get out of the mom rut? Unfortunately — you knew this was coming — time and money. But mostly money. Here’s a breakdown of my mommy midlife crisis:

1. Wear clothes that actually fit

As a stay-at-home parent, my uniform is down to a steady rotation of four identical pairs of Costco pants and four identical Old Navy long-sleeve tees. Efficient, yes. Stylish, no.

This is not any kind of revelation, but clothes should actually fit and flatter you. Not the body you had before baby, not the one you hope to have again someday.

I signed up for a personal styling session at Nordstrom (free to book online). I was a little nervous when I met my stylist — she was wearing a lot of animal print — but she actually nailed my style really quickly. I threw plenty of curveballs at her: Machine-wash and dry only. No skinny jeans. Flowy, but not baggy. And she’d trot back to the dressing room with the exact thing I described.

I left with the most expensive jeans and blouse I’ve ever purchased, but, hey, everybody, I’m wearing pants with a button! (And now I know what to look for, I’ll be keeping my eye on sales at Nordstrom Rack.)

Damage: $184.97

JiaYing trying on clothes at Nordstrom with a little help from her kids.

2. Trade in the nursing bras

Let’s talk about the girls. Thanks to nursing and gravity, they’re … different. Those nursing bras are so comfortable, but with the kids now at school, I was well overdue for an upgrade.

At Victoria’s Secret, I bought two very expensive and hideously uncomfortable bras. They went to the back of my closet and I went back to the gray and ratty nursing bras. 

I tried again, back at trusty Nordy’s. The sales clerk was super nice — the fitting wasn’t weird at all — and got me fitted for a new bra. It was the most expensive bra I’ve ever bought in my life (this is a trend at Nordstrom's), but it was so non-pinching I even fell asleep in it.

Damage: $68.26

JoaYing Hair cut
JiaYing with a new haircut

3. Get a real haircut

The kids get a haircut once a month, hubs gets a haircut every week. Me? Once every six months.

Twice a year, I visit a salon in the International District. The lady doesn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Korean. “Trim?” she asks and I nod. I have more hair than everyone else in my family combined, and I spend the least time and money on it. 

I treated myself to a haircut at the chichi neighborhood salon where the stylist and I shared a common language and we could actually discuss what to do with my coiffure.

Damage: $55 (purchased through school auction)

4. Get your makeup done

I wanted to look like me, but better. Here is where Nordstrom has let me down. I made a free appointment with a beauty stylist, and I should have known better when she asked me if I wanted bronzer. The problem was that being of Chinese descent, my features didn’t look like hers. I realized she was trying to draw eyelid creases on me! At the end of our session, I looked like a clown.

Through a parent group, I connected with Kelly Taylor, a NARS cosmetics consultant and Seattle mom. Taylor bounces around different Sephora stores in the region and we met up at University Village. She started off by assuring me she doesn’t work on commission, so no pressure to buy.

“You’re a mom, so 5 to 10 minutes, right?” Taylor gets the lack-of-time thing — she has a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old.

As she worked her magic, she gave me great makeup tips: The eye shadow stick is a mom’s best friend; the eyeliner would be great for a date night, but a little too much for preschool pickup. My favorite purchase was the multi-tasking NARS brand tinted moisturizer: hydration, sunscreen and foundation all in one.

Taylor is a NARS consultant, but she picked out products from all over the store, matching the colors perfectly to my skin. The effect was amazing.

To find the right makeup artist to help you, Taylor says to try and go with a personal recommendation from a friend. If you do find yourself at the department store makeup counter, look for a salesperson whose personal look you love.

Damage: $172.86

JiaYing with makeup by Kelly Taylor

5. Do something for yourself

Remember when you had hobbies? Ha. Now is not the time to pick up a time-intensive activity, but carving out a little bit of time for yourself is good for your mental health, therefore good for the entire family’s well-being. Right?

Go work out at a fitness studio that will take your kids. Join a book club only because you love the other people in the group. Ditch your kids for an hour or two at free drop-off child care. Get a mani/pedi. Really, really commit to a date night. Sign up for a cooking class. Host a clothing swap with friends who dress better than you.

These are all things that are low commitment, but may help you reclaim your sanity as an adult so you can go back and be a better mom.

The total cost of my midlife crisis: $481.09. I’m not the kind of person to throw that much money at superficial things, because, um, true beauty lies within.

In my brain, I’m trying to justify it as making up for years of deferred maintenance. Over eight years, that breaks down to a bargain $60 annual investment in myself. 

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