It might be a stretch to compare a stint in rehab, a DUI, or a shoplifting conviction to the transition into motherhood. But stay with me for a sec. When I saw a recent New York Times  story about the slew of starlets trying to retouch their bad girl images by appearing on the covers of glossy fashion magazines, I had a Well Mom fantasy.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if a new mom, when she finally comes up for air after months of sleep deprivation and shell shock, could announce to the world that she’s back and better than ever?
Forget jail time. Having a baby is probably one of the most life transforming events a person can weather. It takes a toll on us physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think it might help to smooth the big transition to motherhood if more people acknowledged that number one: there is a pretty major transition, and number two: that, with time, you do finally start to feel more comfortable in your new skin and confident to reintroduce yourself to the world. In essence, for the mom of young children to be able say to everyone out there, “Hey, I’ve been through something momentous. But I am ready to re-engage.”
These days we all expect that every celebrity mom will be given her due once she has shed the baby weight and the fog of new parenthood. Think Trista Sutter. I’m sure we are just days away from J. Lo’s coming out. And we all know she’ll look amazing and fresh thanks to a corps of nannies, trainers, nutritionists, and stylists. For a diva, the debut after baby (or rehab) is all about telling the world that she is healthy, relaxed, and ready for that close-up. But wouldn’t it be great if every newish mom could make her own declaration of victory and be treated to a comeback worthy of J. Lo … or even Nicole Richie or Tori Spelling, for that matter?
What I am saying is that, even if you aren’t a star and don’t have a publicist on retainer, there is no reason not to set a goal for the time you will be ready to face the world. The comeback doesn’t have to be on the cover of Vogue. Maybe it is as simple as envisioning what things will be like when you go to your first cocktail party (sans nursing bra and comfortable shoes), or attend a reunion with friends or run a 10K (sans baby). The point is to feel great about where you are in your new reality and to want to share it. For working moms, this is a great exercise because most women return to their jobs before they’ve had a chance to fully absorb how their lives have changed. And, frankly, who has time for reflection when you are just trying to keep up with all of that pumping and struggling to make it out of the office before your childcare deadline?
Stay-at-home moms who’ve taken a break from the world of work could also really benefit from visualizing a coming out party of sorts in which they reconnect with former colleagues and friends, too. Motherhood can do a number on your head in the sense that you forget who you used to be and all that you’ve accomplished as an individual. I don’t think those achievements should take a back seat. In fact, I think that reminding ourselves of who we were before baby is essential to feeling whole.
In my case, my reintroduction to my old life has evolved over the last six months as I returned to the studios and newsrooms that seemed to define my entire life not too long ago. And now, as a mom of two-year-old twins, that era really is a lifetime ago. But boy did it feel good to run into old colleagues recently and to know that they haven’t forgotten me or my skills. My favorite part was bumping into some old friends who didn’t even recognize me. That felt great. It really reinforced to me how much I’ve grown on this motherhood journey.
So here’s to the comeback—and it doesn’t involve an extreme makeover. It really is a matter of mindset and loving the new you.
The Well Mom Guide to Staging Your Comeback
1. Visualize It.
Today, you may be struggling with dark circles, stretch marks, and remembering where you put your keys (again). But planning your postpartum re-entry to the land of the living is something you should not take lightly. It will happen. So think about how you want it to be. Who will you see? What will you wear? Get psyched.
2. Don’t Rush.
As wonderful as it would be to unveil the amazing post-baby you right away, take your time and recognize that the time it takes to transition into your new role is different for every woman and every family. You’ll know when you are ready to get back into the swing of things.
3. Own the New You.
You are not the woman you were before you spent those hours laboring in the delivery room, so stop apologizing for the mommy brain and instead embrace the new strength and inner calm you’re cultivating now that you are a new mom. You aren’t just a new and improved version of the old you—you’ve been tested.