Because I'm the Mom

How mothering pervades all relationships in life.

Mom's Midlife Makeover: What I Learned from My 6th Grader

Can my daughter's middle school posse turn Mom from 'Awkward' to 'Awesome'?

Mom's Midlife Makeover: Best Midlife Lessons Come from Middle School Girls!

Life Coach: How my 6th grade daughter's love (and brutal fashion advice) taught me to take care of my too-busy-to-care self

Hey midlife moms: Would you let your middle school daughter give you a life makeover? I did.

"Mom, why do you keep wanting to make a big deal out of it? This is stuff grown women do every day. Every. Single. Day. It's not a huge deal. They put on foundation and some lipstick or whatever. They spend time fixing their hair. They choose clothes that look nice on them. This is what being a grown woman is."

Like so many hardworking, midlife mothers, taking care of myself is very low on my list of priorities. I know, I know. They tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you place it on your children on the airplane. But really, what mom do you know who would actually do that - even if it is the sanest thing to do?

Having a recent birthday, I decided to try to get my post-divorce, midlife self together. And, of course, when you must force yourself to think about hair, fashion, foundation (??) and the like, who you gonna call? A team of brutally honest middle school girls!

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Since my daughter (mercifully) runs with a group of girls who tolerate their embarrassing mothers, I gathered her posse of lovelies and – against all advice from every friend, colleague, co-worker and family member I asked – gave the group an assignment:

Emergency Maternal Midlife Mom Makeover

This assignment sparked a series of hugely embarrassing (for me) posts from the front. To get up to speed on our adventures, read:

Seeking a Midlife Love Life? Best Dating Coach - Middle School Girls!

When you need a midlife dating makeover, 6th grade girls give the (brutally) best advice

Best Tip for Midlife Divorce and Dating Makeover? Attitude Adjustment

A team of middle school girls gives one midlife mom a lesson in Girl World self-esteem

Middle School Daughter Gives Midlife Mom a Beauty Makeover from the Inside Out…Field trip to the mall: Best tips to middle-age 'awesome'

Midlife Makeover Mashup: Frumpy Mom meets Fashionista daughter

Now it makes total sense to me why, as far back as I can remember (which means since the moment she was born) my daughter has loved playing dress up with me. She'd come barreling home from pre-school, kindergarten bellowing reminders: "The school sock-hop is Friday night! Parents HAVE TO DRESS UP, TOO!" Or, "It's the school valentine's dance! Moms HAVE TO DRESS UP!"

Now I understand why every year, every single year since she was born (actually, including the year she rode within me as a built-in part of my costume), she sighs with disappointment that I am, yet again, what she calls, "wearing the same old ninja cat costume."

"No yoga pants, Mom. No yoga anything."

I just wear my usual black yoga ensemble and then add a cat-eared headband and use black eyeliner to draw on sloppy whiskers. In the meantime, my girl spends weeks gathering the coolest, most innovative costumes, layering new identities on with the care and attention of a Swiss watchmaker. Every detail, every color, every accessory just right.

Midlife Makeover Lesson: It's about self-care

It wasn't about the fashion, the hair, the makeup, no, it wasn't even about the dreaded yoga pants. It was me, sitting in that makeup chair, learning the basics of how to apply foundation, me trying on all the cool clothes and mixing and matching in astonishingly 'on-trend' styles; it was about me tossing my 4,539 pony tail holders and taking a few minutes to look at external self and asking, how might I treat this version of me with a little more respect, a little more pride of ownership?

It clicked for me when she compared how differently I treat my running and my running wardrobe. She noted that I make certain to make time for exercise almost every day. I don't let anything get in the way. "You always put that first, Mom. Even over me sometimes," she noted.

Midlife Lessons: Self-care and self-compassion

And it's true. I have excellent running shoes that I update regularly, despite insane cost. I have several outfits for running outdoors in all seasons. It's a priority. I spend time, effort, money and energy because it's an essential part of my identity, my health and a way I take care of myself.

Why couldn't I put one-tenth the amount of energy and care into my overall external upkeep as I do my internal upkeep?

Good question. Great question, in fact.

"How'd you get so smart?"

Next up: One mom's final life-makeover lessons.

Read more tales from Life After Divorce Diaries:

Seeking a Midlife Love Life? Best Dating Coach - Middle School Girls!

When you need a midlife dating makeover, 6th grade girls give the (brutally) best advice

Best Tip for Midlife Divorce and Dating Makeover? Attitude Adjustment

A team of middle school girls gives one midlife mom a lesson in Girl World self-esteem

Middle School Daughter Gives Midlife Mom a Beauty Makeover from the Inside Out…Field trip to the mall: Best tips to middle-age 'awesome'

Dating Over 40: Midlife Dating…How Bad Can it Really Be?

Getting a Divorce? Expert Says Ask Your Children How to Parent

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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