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Answer by Julie Anne Exter, mom of three under 4:
The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is hell yes. Here’s why:
You’re getting less sleep. Sleep helps your body and mind repair themselves after the wear and tear of a busy day. Mothers, who have the most punishing 24-hour schedule ever, perhaps second only to service members in active war zones, get far fewer opportunities to rest for any significant amount of time. I think sleep deprivation is the single thing that’s aged me most in the last three and a half years since my first son was born. When I don’t sleep—in other words, always—I feel sluggish, confused, achy, and, well, for lack of a better word, old.
You may not be getting optimum nutrition. Unless you have a live-in staff or are very ambitious in ways that I personally am not, you may be making some sacrifices in your eating habits that allow for no-fuss food acquisition and preparation as opposed to eating super high-quality food. When you eat good food, you just feel better, more energetic, and healthier overall. I also find myself making stupid eating choices like skipping breakfast in the morning, because I’m running around getting three kids ready to be in various places and making sure they eat. So pretty much the only thing fueling me half the time is high-octane coffee—remember how we discussed the no-sleep thing? No bueno. Sure enough, you realize you’re starting to look sort of like a methhead.
You may not be getting enough exercise. Ha—I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. A regular exercise routine is so far outside the realm of possibility in my life right now that it’s laughable. Everyone knows that good, youthful, Nike-commercial things happen to you if you exercise on the regular. Rest assured that none of those good things are happening to me for the moment.
You have fewer opportunities for self-care. Remember how doing things you like that are just for you makes you radiate positive, youthful energy? Know how getting regular massages and facials—or, hell, regular showers—and having carefree, relaxing times curling up with a book, or having a nice, uninterrupted conversation with a friend makes you feel great? Those things just don’t happen as much when you’re a mom. It’s not that they never, ever happen. It’s just that they’re rarer, and therefore have less of a healing effect on you when they do happen.
So yeah, in summary, I’m old now. Oh, well.