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The Surprising Way Motherhood Has Made Me Sexier

Photograph by Twenty20

If you were to ask me to get on a scale right now—which I know you never would because you value your life way too highly—the number that appeared on it would likely be around what it was five years ago at this time, which is when I was eight months pregnant with my younger daughter.

Would I like to lose weight? Always. (And I have, and I do, and then the number on the scale inevitably goes back to where it was.) My weight has been a lifelong struggle, and one I can't imagine I'll ever triumph over permanently, even if at times I accept that it is more than others. Yet despite having no baby on board to justify how I look, in some ways, I've never felt sexier.

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Last month I ordered a new side table to go next to the couch in our living room. Because I'm old (apparently), these are the kind of things that titillate me, so I obsessively checked the tracking on it and celebrated loudly when the large box arrived on our doorstep late the other night.

"You're not going to make me put this together tonight, are you?" my husband asked wearily, looking at the clock, which read 10 p.m. He's old, too (apparently).

I sighed. "No, I guess not."

In all the good ways, motherhood has meant shifting from fitting into the right jeans to fitting into the right life. I'm where I'm supposed to be and I'm owning it.

He said he'd do it the next day. So I stared at the box for the better part of that next day, each glimpse giving me some hope that it might have put itself together when I wasn't looking. I could have waited until my husband came home. But then I decided to get it done myself. With little grace and decorum, I ripped open the box, waded through approximately 900 tons of Styrofoam and cardboard, got on the floor and did it.

My daughters came downstairs at one point to watch, as if the sight of me with a wrench was way more entertaining than the Shopkins they'd abandoned in their room. They actually applauded when I finished. My husband was also surprised, not to mention a little worried that his job as chief-fixer-and-builder-of-small-and-medium-tasks-that-even-he-can't-totally-screw-up was in jeopardy.

As my family admired the side table for what might have seemed to an outsider as an absurdly long time (we're all kind of old, apparently), I found myself standing a little taller. Showing my daughters that it isn't just Daddy who does physical labor—and also that not every task has to be accompanied by deep sighs and an abundance of four-letter words—gives me a different kind of confidence. Likewise, showing my husband that he and I don't always have to rely on traditional gender roles broadened the depth and width of my smile.

I'm easily an entirely different person since becoming a mom for the first time nearly eight years ago. Whereas I was tenacious in some aspects of life before creating life, having children and a family morphed me into someone who often finds herself needing to fake it until she makes it. When my world became about more than just me, I was forced to do away with the emotional crutches that once felt more innate than artificial.

I don't always (or ever) feel like getting out of bed, but children need to be fed, work needs to be done and care needs to be shown. I hardly do everything well all the time, although there are times when I do them more than well. It's in those moments, when I'm not just getting by, but actually killing it—Volunteered in class? Check! Made and not microwaved dinner for everyone? Check! Got my work done ahead of schedule? Check! Listened to both my kids and my husband? Check! Found some time for myself, and not just to pee? Check!—that I feel like Gisele Bündchen, just minus the bank account, that body and Tom Brady.

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In all the good ways, motherhood has meant shifting from fitting into the right jeans to fitting into the right life. I'm where I'm supposed to be and I'm owning it. My reflection in the mirror sometimes makes me curse, but if I can compliment myself, too, then I win. Being the wife I feel my husband deserves, and the person I want my daughters to become is always the goal, even if I fall short of it sometimes. On the days when I don't allow those shortcomings to get me down, though, watch out.

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