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How the Makeup Counter Saved Me

Photograph by Jay Miranda

I bought a tin of Marcona almonds, which are fried in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, priced at $8 for four ounces of nuts. That same week, I treated myself to a manicure and overpriced pressed juice.

I regret nothing.

These are minor indulgences, which remind me of my former life, back before I became a mom. More importantly, I've chosen to keep them as part of my life now, toddler and all.

It wasn't always this way.

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When I held my daughter for the first time, I wanted so desperately to be a good mother—the kind she deserved—and I took that to mean that I had to devote my life to my baby to the exclusion of my own care. To do otherwise would be selfish, and good moms weren't selfish.

I came around to the idea that being a good mom wasn't about doing everything yourself, and that it's OK to reach out for help.

So, I tended to each newborn cry and relished each baby giggle. Even as my sense of self started to fade away, I firmly believed I was doing my motherly duty. My pajama-clad, oily-haired, baby-wearing haze lasted nearly a year. Toward the end, I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

This sounds like something out of a Lauren Weisberger novel, but I was saved by a woman at the Chanel makeup counter. I had a special occasion coming up, and I realized I needed foundation. I told the girl it had been so long since I'd worn makeup, because I'd just had a baby (really, a 10-month-old). She pulled out her brushes and patted a sparkly shadow on my eyelids, swept blush on the apples of my cheeks and swished some color onto my lips.

I looked at myself in the mirror and instantly perked up.

I was also depriving my child from the benefit of a mother with a full life of her own.

There was a lot more than makeup missing from my life. Slowly, I started getting out of the house more. I'd kiss my baby and husband goodbye, grab a book and head to a nearby coffee shop for one or two chapters. I came around to the idea that being a good mom wasn't about doing everything yourself, and that it's OK to reach out for help. This evolved into something more meaningful than manicures. I ended up dipping my toe back into an industry from my pre-mom life and started a freelance consulting practice from my home.

I also started writing again, which felt like coming to a feast after a long fast.

"You cannot serve from an empty vessel."

I read this quote by Eleanor Brownn the other day and it perfectly sums up why moms need to be vigilant about their own self-care. I'd drained my vessel, but I wasn't only depriving myself. I was also depriving my child from the benefit of a mother with a full life of her own.

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There are many ways to care for ourselves. Some might find happiness in a pedicure, a fresh haircut or a nap. Others might need time to go on a hike, meditate or pray. Self-care isn't selfish—it's a vital replenishing that allows you to continue giving to your family.

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Image by Jay Miranda

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