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A few years ago, I gave birth to my second son and made the decision — this time, for real — to embrace motherhood with the fondness of someone who knows they’re never, ever, ever doing this again. I quit my wonderful job and made the lonesome transition to become a stay-at-home mom. At the same time, I also unconsciously gave up one of my most indulgent guilty pleasures: going to a fancy-schmancy spa to get my much-loved facial every month.
The spa was my happy place. Just like many women love getting their nails done or working out regularly, I had found self-care in the form of a lovely British aesthetician who steamed, extracted, and kneaded my spirit (and face, of course!) into a state of lush, dewy well-being. But then, with a newborn at home and no more second income flowing in, I felt guilty about indulging in what suddenly felt like a frivolous pilgrimage every month. It was much easier to justify buying overpriced baby items that promised to change parenthood forever (I’m looking at you, $200 Moses Basket).
However, after some time — and once the elevated endorphins of having Baby No. 2 started to settle in — the ravages of newborn schedules began leaving sediments of neglect in me.
Then one afternoon, as the baby napped and I contemplated whether I too could catch a quick snooze or not, the idea came to me. I was a closeted-product junkie already, and knew that I could whip together an excellent facial without much prep work.
Thus, my meditative ritual of giving myself at-home facials was born. My DIY spa day, if you will.
At the time, it brought some mindfulness to the much-neglected task of caring for myself. As I began to regularly take out this bit of time for myself, I noticed my energy felt replenished and cared for. For so many years, I had enjoyed driving to my local spa, getting into a fluffy robe, and sitting around in a luxurious lounge, sipping cucumber water and listening to melancholic soundtracks. But now, the act of doing my own facials became meaningful too, as a ritual formed where everything else in my life drifted away and I chose to focus on me. When time allows (which I admit, is rare) I’ll put together a playlist to bliss out to — think The Waifs, Shivaree, or Lauryn Hill.
It’s been a few years and the baby is now a chatty toddler who goes to Montessori. But I have faithfully maintained my bi-weekly facial ritual throughout; and have perfected the art of doing so at home.
This is what my own personal bliss has become …
Allow me to explain:
First, I start by prepping my bathroom. I set my playlist to a meditative channel on Pandora and then I add some lavender essential oils to my aromatherapy diffuser and light a bunch of candles. Next, I’ll pull out my old, trusty Conair face steamer and while it’s heating up, I double cleanse with a simple, mild cleanser like Cetaphil. (Here’s a cheat-sheet on how to double cleanse, in case you’re unfamiliar.)
Then comes the exfoliation stage, where I use the absolute rock-star that is Shiseido’s IBUKI. I’ve tried doing this step with an exfoliating brush as well, so if you’ve got one lying around, feel free to use it. And since I’m all about the olfactory experience, I’ll also spray on some Yonka toner.
Next, I grab a stool or chair and sit down at the counter and steam my face for a good 10 minutes. Honestly, I love this part of the facial most: It is pure bliss. I get to open up my sinuses and pores while trying to clear my mind and soak up the sweet sounds of silence (well, if the kids are out of the house). Once done, I’ll spray some more toner on my face and pat it down with a cotton pad.
Next, I’ll use a face mask to draw out any lingering dirt and impurities. Since much of my teenage years (and then some) were fraught with the occasional cystic acne outbreak, I rely on a solid clay mask; but you can also grab my beloved Love Lettuce mask or the Body Shop’s Tea Tree Mask.
Okay, we’re almost done and it hasn’t even been half-an-hour yet!
At this point, I’ll wrap things up with a thick face cream if I’m staying home the rest of the day. My love for Yonka face creams knows no bounds, but if you have an affinity for organic products, Tata Harper’s Complex is the way to go.
And there you have it — my simple, yet glorious version of “me time.” It may not sound like much, but let me tell you, every time I manage to carve out enough time to do one (and truly relax) it fills me with a sense of indulgence and pride. As a visibly fatigued mom of two young boys, I’m often told to “take it easy” or find time to go and enjoy the life outside of my bubble. But let’s be real: As any mother of young children knows, the daily tasks can become grinding and oftentimes, it seems nearly impossible to escape with limited time, money, or energy around. Thirty uninterrupted minutes of focusing on yourself may seem hard to come by, but whenever you can steal it, it’s worth it.
I’ve learned that the key to it all is to allow yourself to quiet your harried mind as best you can; to be still and just breathe. In simply finding a ritual that makes me happy, my small act of self-care has become exponentially restorative and meditative.
Maybe for you, going to your “happy place” isn’t trapping yourself in your bathroom for a DIY facial. Maybe it’s knitting while sitting in the school carpool lane or sipping your favorite Japanese tea by yourself every day. But whatever it is, find it — and let yourself go there whenever you can. Allow yourself to have those little moments to mindfully accumulate joy and make them a priority.
Because when there’s so much work to be done and children to be raised and lines to be held, it can all catch up with you far too soon. But a moment alone in your “happy place” can remind you how worthwhile it all is.