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What It Really Takes to Be That Put-Together Mom

Photograph by Getty Images

The first year of my son's life, I burned my wrist five times with a curling iron. I wasn't trying to self-harm. Although, that depends entirely on how you see the act of curling your hair.

Before I had children, curling my hair was a slightly cumbersome but essential part of my morning routine: Wake up, work out, shower, curl hair, apply make up, get coffee and head to work. Sometimes I skipped the hair curling, choosing instead a blow dry and a pony tail. But that was my decision entirely, one made based on how late I chose to sleep in that morning. And I could do all of those things and be at work by 8 a.m. if I woke up at 6:45 a.m..

Now I have two young children and doing my hair is an extreme sport in which one or all of us are likely to be maimed or injured. And we have. My son is 2 now and my wrist still bears the scars of my curling iron incidents—all of which were caused by my inattention due to a screaming baby, a head-butting toddler and an exhaustion so deep, I'm still not entirely over it.

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Even a quick flat iron of my hair is a dangerous enterprise. We have a small bathroom and my children have both tried to grab the flat iron cord or the actual iron, sometimes resulting in injury but mostly just tears and frustration.

You are lucky if I'm wearing pants.

Now, in order to get my children to school by 9:30 a.m., I have to wake up at 5:15. I work out (sometimes), grab a quick shower (maybe if my son isn't up by the time I get in from my run), get coffee (occasionally if I can drink it fast enough while getting breakfast for my kids), then my husband relieves me of my duties so I can shower (sometimes). But I never have long before he's out the door and I'm still wrapped in a towel surrounded by kids who want to help me pick out my clothes, put on my make up or splash water all over me. Let's not even talk about what happens if my kid is up before I even have a chance to work out. Those days, you are lucky if I'm wearing pants.

Recently, my friend Emily, who had two children in two years and has always been in my estimation someone who is fit and very stylish, met me for a playdate wearing loungewear and no make up (she still looked great). But at one point during our talk, she demanded, "What do those 'put-together moms' give up to have their hair curled!?"

It's a good question. A friend of mine who works full-time admitted that she has the nanny come early, so she has time to do her hair. A relative has her husband take the kids to school so she has time to get ready. But even then, those women admitted to not putting on eyeliner or skipping the curling iron or rolling into work with wet hair and putting on make up at their desks, because their kids were up all night.

"It's just too much," Emily told me. And she's right. Mom blogs, articles, Instagram feeds and websites all feed into the "hip mom" trend—where moms are instructed on how to look fit and together and do it all while children swarm your feet. It's not hard, they tell us. You just have to buy all these expensive products. Try harder. Get your kids involved.

By the time I have time to shop, all I want to do is drink a lot of whiskey and watch "Justified."

I once read a blog (which I will not link here) that recommended putting on your eyeliner before your kids woke up. Lady, I would be putting on eyeliner before six in the goddamn morning if that were possible. And it's not. The only way putting on foundation is remotely possible is if I turn on some "Octonauts" and hope a rebellion doesn't begin. Sometimes it does and then it's always a question of whether I can put on mascara before someone bleeds.

I can barely handle clothes shopping because by the time I have time to shop, all I want to do is drink a lot of whiskey and watch "Justified." I recently subscribed to StitchFix, which is a huge help, but let's be honest it's a luxury. The clothes are more expensive than the clearance rack at Target or Walmart. I can't afford it every month.

Even a decent face cream for a middle-aged mom of two whose hormones are crazier than that meth head who stalks my local Taco Bell costs enough money that I just wind up using the kids' eczema cream (which is surprisingly excellent at being a face cream, although at $10 a bottle it should be).

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I feel completely ambivalent about the problem. On the one hand, I do enjoy looking like I didn't just crawl out of a Taco Bell at 2 a.m. On the other hand, your mom styling tips can go burn in the deepest recesses of hell.

I used to make fun of moms for their mom jeans and outdated modes of fashion. But now, I get it and I want to celebrate it because those ladies are the true heroes. The women who say, "I'm going to wear these spit-up-stained yoga pants and my unwashed hair and give you the finger"? They deserve to be featured in magazines. And they probably had time for coffee.

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