Kids often like to flip through the cards on my ID badge, which dangles from my neck into their grasp during their physical exams. Flipping through, they see first my main ID picture, taken very recently, and next an older photo from my first week of residency. The latter photo, now seven years old, shows a version of myself that feels like yesterday. I had just flown home from a Caribbean cruise, my skin sun-kissed and hair golden in its highlights. I was relaxed, well-rested, and healthy.
“Is this you?’ the kids often ask in bewilderment. Then I flip quickly between the two saying “yes, pre- and post-kids, pre- and post-residency.” This always gets a laugh from the parents.
I know there are women who have two children and seem not to age a bit. I thought after my first that I was mostly unchanged, but by my second, I realized how old I have become. After wrestling around on the floor with my children, my knees creak when I stand. I have wrinkles on my forehead from all the times I have raised my eyebrows in surprise, which with a preschool-aged son happens more and more these days. I surrendered both the expense and time needed for getting my hair highlighted to let it be natural, and the natural color seemed to change with each pregnancy.
Being a physician seemed to compound these effects. Time was even more precious, stress more acute, and habits unhealthy. The end result becoming that I didn’t love the ID picture on the front of my badge anymore. So as the kids gaped in amazement at my younger self, I did too, and wondered where she went.
While getting my hair cut recently, the stylist looked at me as I hurried in and out of her chair on my way from a meeting to school pick-up. “Honey,” she said grasping my shoulders, “you deserve something for you.” Of course she was right. It wasn’t about making myself look younger, because I know I’ll never look like the girl on the old ID badge again, but rather investing in myself now so that I am confident in who I am. So I’ve allowed myself some indulgences, like coloring my hair or painting my nails.
However, even if I primp and pamper myself, I am still a 30-something working mother of two. There are pieces of my children that I carry with me always now, parts of me that are forever changed from their being. But as I hold them in my arms and they run their hands through my hair and glide their fingers over the contours of my aging face, I see how beautiful I am in their eyes and love every imperfection that makes me their mother.