self reflection

My Beauty Routine Involves Two Small Children

The trick is to hold the baby with one arm and the mascara with the other. Photo: Photo Illustration by Stevie Remsberg/Photo Getty

The baby has developed an interest in skin care. Confronted with a piece of chalk, he gently rubs it across his forehead. I watched him come across a small bottle of eye drops on my dresser and mime patting the contents onto his perfect smooth cheeks.

My own beauty routine is, by some standards, minimal. Paula’s Choice BHA at night, mostly because my skin is prone to acne and I don’t want it to get too comfortable. And then, in the morning, a tinted moisturizer, some Glossier blush, Boy Brow, and the Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask as under-eye cream, all applied while propping the baby on the bathroom counter.

Our bathroom is just big enough for two people, a tub, and a toilet, which is convenient because while all this is happening every morning, my kindergartner is very enthusiastically brushing his teeth next to me. A big part of my daily beauty routine is keeping him from eating too much toothpaste.

I used to wear mascara, but a year and a half ago my left eye started to hurt, so last week I went to the doctor. He gave me eye drops that drip everywhere when I apply them, so I’m skipping the mascara for a week until I don’t need them anymore.

And I used to have a real eye cream, but I ran out and haven’t had time to buy more. The Jet Lag mask was given to me by the Cut’s beauty editor. It’s basically an eye cream for your entire face anyway, and it seems to do the trick.

Making my older son brush his teeth: top priority. A tinted moisturizer with SPF: next priority. Mysterious searing eyeball pain: for some reason, very low on the list.

After so many mornings of watching me put on makeup, the baby is well-versed in the art of smearing stuff on your face. (An art most babies are pretty good at to begin with.) My bigger kid’s fascination with this ritual peaked around 2.5 or 3, when he would ask to take my Touche Eclat and paint it up and down his arms. I worry, sometimes, that I shouldn’t be showing my kids this part of my life, that they’ll think it’s somehow a required part of womanhood. Daddy doesn’t put colored goo on his face every morning. What if they grow up to be the kind of men who bully the women around them into constant acts of maintenance?

But of course nobody’s bullying me into maintenance, not in any literal way, and yet I’m still doing it despite not really having the time. I’ll skip breakfast before I skip putting on my makeup. It feels, to me, like a thing I have to do as a professional woman. Like if I don’t at least try to make my skin tone even, my eyebrows filled in, and my face slightly more awake-looking, then I’m being sloppy, or worse, lazy.

I work for a feminist website, mind you. This edict isn’t exactly coming from my boss, or my colleagues. It’s fully internal, probably developed during adolescence when I really did struggle with bad skin, and nurtured by the kind of shit girls whisper about other girls who don’t try to take care of themselves. Because as woman, you have to try. And as a mother — can you imagine a mother who didn’t try? So I put the toothpaste on the brush with one hand while smearing products on my face with the other, and if I don’t mix them up and the baby doesn’t fall in the sink, I consider it a good day.

My Beauty Routine Involves Small Children