An evening bath has a magical, intangible quality to me in motherhood. My mother and sisters would agree. My sisters and I grew up seeing our mother’s daily routine include an evening bath. In high school I was a shower girl, and I never really understood why our mom always took a bath. (High schoolers can be ridiculously judgmental over trivial things.) She said she didn’t like showers because of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Maybe. Or maybe she needed to say, “I need a bath to wash away all the stress that has been put on me with two teenagers and an elementary kid. You are a handful and I need to forget about all of it for 10-30 minutes. Alone.”
In my younger years, I enjoyed the occasional bath but only if I was extra cold in the wintertime or I wanted to use a fancy bath product, not at all a necessity.
Within this time I saw my older sister Amy step into motherhood and take on this nightly bath ritual. Before kids, she was the same as me; baths were nice, but not everything. I don’t think we talked too much about why she started taking a bath every night after she became a mom, but if we did I wouldn’t have understood, not really.
The routine of a bath for me started when I was pregnant with my first child. I avoided baths and hot, hot water in my first trimester, but then my belly started growing and my back started aching. During my first pregnancy I had the tub of all tubs at this time, a claw-foot tub. A perfect one. Not too wide, not too deep, and the ideal reclining angle in the back where my head would rest perfectly on the curved edge. I was told getting in the water would help relieve my back pain, but I didn’t have a pool I could access. So I would fill up my perfect tub and feel the weight of my belly float away. And so the ritual began.
The first two or three months after Nora, my first kid, was born, there was no routine for me. Same for when Wesley, the second kid, was born. Everything was interrupted. Babies will always have this sixth sense for needing you the moment you step into the bathroom. For mamas with newborns, setting aside time for anything is impossible. But then, my kids (and so will yours) figured out this thing we call routine. With or without routine, though, after having kids, my person – mind, body, and spirit – calls out for a bath. I still just need a bath.
So why have I come to care so much about taking a bath? For me, I need to wash the day away. I have some days that seem mostly good. There are days that feel all bad and the only redemption in them is that they are over. Most days, however, are a mix of good and bad. Regardless of how the day has gone, I am done at the end of it. If I showed patience with my kids all day, I do not have an infinite amount of it. My patience depletes drastically with each minute that passes before they are in bed. I want to hang on to the good day; I want to end it on a good note, but even holding onto a thread of patience wears on me. It makes me feel tired and emotional in my inner being. So even if my husband sees us having a great day, I want to walk away from it before I snap and undo all of its goodness.
I have had a few occasions when I need to walk away completely when my husband gets home. Out of the house, into my car, and somewhere else. Honestly, most days are not that bad at all, but I still want to have a place for a small retreat. And one that doesn’t require spending money or interacting with other people. I crave time to be alone with my thoughts or a book but without the guilt that there is something more productive to be done. When I’m in the bathtub I’m still kind of productive…good hygiene and all that. But that evening bath that happens after my kids are in bed is more to me than that. I get a quiet time alone, and I come out of a bath with a better perspective on my life. You may scoff, but for me it is so true.
Your “bath” may be actually be a shower or your couch or your car or the streets you run or a solo trip to the grocery store. From this mother, let me encourage you to find a simple thing that can be a part of your daily routine, and retreat, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. My mom would tell you the same thing, too. We are better mothers for it.