Things That Make Me Feel Good about Myself.

By: Jen Shoop

Mini’s new, intense level of activity mixed with a super busy schedule, a first birthday party, a visit from parents-in-law, and a couple of days where the nanny couldn’t come — well, it’s left me a bit frazzled and frayed.  My friend Hitha recently shared that she’s been using this self-care checklist to center herself, and, as I looked down the list, I realized I could probably afford to spend a little extra time in the self-grooming/self-maintenance space.  I’ve never been particularly good about committing to meditation or journaling (<<well, what is this blog though??  So maybe I am?), but the checklist led me to think about things that make me feel good about myself, and to try to prioritize those things on a daily basis.  Here they are, in no meaningful order:

+When I’ve washed my face, applied my basic skincare and makeup regimen, gotten dressed, fed and dressed mini, and made the bed before Mr. Magpie leaves for work at 8:30, as I did in the snap above (wearing an old J. Crew blouse similar to this one, or this sleeveless onethis headband; and this lip treatment in the petal color).  I can’t quite put my finger on why this matters, but I suppose it feels like those chores are the preamble to the day, and if I haven’t completed them all by the time Mr. Magpie heads out to the Subway, it feels like I’m getting a late start on things.

+When I exercise.  Oh man.  To be completely truthful, I haven’t exercised — regularly — since well before I was pregnant with mini, which is now almost two full years ago.  I’ve run in fits and spurts, but then I had a weird muscular issue that made me nervous about jogging and I tend to prioritize getting a manicure or reading over exercising when I had a bit of free time to myself anyway.  When I was down in Florida, my mother took me to a pilates mat class, and I was hooked.  My body was stiff and sore the next day, but in that “hurts so good” kind of way.  I recently tested out and then signed up for an unlimited pass to a pilates studio two blocks from my apartment, and I now go to class twice a week.  It is everything. I love the way my body feels afterward — somehow both limber and taut — but the indulgence of an hour of phone-free, baby-free, dog-free, interruption-free time focused on myself feels borderline decadent, in the best possible way.  One of you wrote asking for workout clothes recs, and I’ll share that I now have my eye on this long-sleeved tee, these heathered leggings in the space gray alpine ice white color, these in the quartz blue, this sports bra, and this long-sleeved tee, too.  (I usually layer a long-sleeved tee in a slightly oversized fit over a tank and sports bra — I like the line of trim legs sticking out from underneath a boxy tee.)  I also like the boxy look so many sweatshirts have right now — this is cool, I’ve had my eye on this for a year, and — if I were really cool — I’d get one of these super-coveted sweatshirts.

+When I’m asked to weigh in on something fashion or lifestyle-related by a reader or by, ya know, NYMag (!! << scroll down to item #6!)  I don’t take it lightly that y’all trust my recommendations.

+When I tick off every single item on my to-do list for the day and still have time to spare so I can get ahead on writing, or organizing mini’s meals, or — hey! — reading by myself.  I use this day planner and jot down all of the to-dos for each day as my week progresses, which truly run the gamut, especially with all of my household management tasks.  To give you a sample from today: confirm AMEX refund from wine shop; call Top Digital to reschedule appointment; make eye doctor appointment; plan meals for week and place Instacart order; laundry; mail rent; call Greg; schedule committee meeting for Foundation; finish two blog posts; Pilates class.

+When I make dinner for Mr. Magpie and myself.  Mr. Magpie does the lion’s share of the cooking — I’d say he cooks two or three times a week, we order out once a week, and then I cook once a week (we almost always cook enough to have leftovers a second night unless it’s something like fish that’s better eaten on the first night).  He’s far better in the kitchen than I am, and I trust he’s not secretly harboring angst about it because he seems to genuinely enjoy it.   (It’s also logistically easier when he cooks, as I always bathe and put mini to sleep, and it’s so convenient to be parallel-tracking dinner while that’s going on!)  It’s funny how a baby can change even your preferences on recipe styles — I now vastly prefer recipes that involve multiple stages of cooking that I can spread out over a day, so I can handle the mise en place while mini is playing quietly in her crib or her activity center for a stretch of 20-30 minutes, and then can handle the hands-on part in the afternoon and leave it to simmer for a few hours so that it’s ready to go once I’ve bathed and put mini to sleep.  Recently, I’ve made chicken enchiladas (<<not going to link the recipe because I thought it was unimpressive given the amount of work it took!  I was basically cooking all day and it was just so-so); bolognese from our go-to pasta book; and a delicious Latin braised beef recipe from this cookbook, which I paired with saffron rice from the same book.  I love the experience of casually cooking throughout the day, and then having it all come together easily around 7:30 or 8 in the evening.  I feel so accomplished!

+When I get into bed at 8:30 or 9 and read for an hour.

+When I make mini her meals ahead of time rather than leaning on easy standbys like pasta, fish sticks, quesadillas, peanut butter toast, etc.

+When I say prayers and intentions with mini just before bed.  We do this every single night, and it always makes the entire day feel anchored in and dotted through with faith.

+When Mr. Magpie thanks me for what I’ve been up to at home.  I’ve never taken stock in the “love languages” framework — or any of those pseudo-psychological frameworks, to be fair, Myers-Briggs included! — but I do so dearly value verbal acknowledgment, and the fact that he knows this about me and indulges it means the world to me.  I’ve been emailing with one of my lovely Magpies recently, and she had the following oh-so-true words to say about being a stay-at-home mom: “I admittedly have a bit of a hang up with the (real or imagined) look of “so, what do you DO all day?”  I would never think to ask that question in that way of someone with a traditional job, and yet, I often feel as though I have to account for my time, regardless of how boring that accounting can be!”  I related so fully, so deeply to her sentiment; it explained me.  It made me realize why I appreciate Mr. Magpie’s acknowledgment, which makes me feel seen, legitimized, absolved of any of the self-questioning and guilt I feel if I take time a little pocket of time to myself during the day, while mini is preoccupied and Tilly is quiet.  Why this self-reproach, when I used to routinely check personal email during the day at work, or steal away for a lunch date with Mr. Magpie midday, or take a few minutes to scan Instagram during a slow afternoon?

+When I blow-dry and/or curl my hair.  I hate how frequently I pull my hair back in a bun, or spritz texturizing spray over my waves to make it “look intentional”; no matter how much I love the products I’m using, I know the truth: I’ve half-assed my hair.  For that matter — when I get a blowout.  I haven’t had one in ages, and it’s my absolute favorite luxury.

+When I use a peel (<<the best the best the best) or scrub (<<the best the best the best) before bed.

+When I take Tilly for a long walk through Central Park, preferably while tuning into a podcast, or reminiscing over nostalgic songs, or listening to nothing at all.  I’ve listened to dozens of podcasts from the What It Takes series, but I’m now planning to tune into this series called The History Chicks, after my mother in law raved about it.  Any other podcast recommendations?

+When I have a fresh manicure.

+When I update my beauty regimen.  I shared some recent discoveries here, but I also just picked up this hair mask (also available in a small size here) as my hair is feeling very drab and dry, and basically have Tata Harper’s entire line in my Sephora shopping cart at the moment.  (I especially want this and this!)

+When I get a soy milk latte in the middle of the afternoon.

+When I drink a lot of water.  I’m usually so bad about drinking water and always look on enviously slash roll my eyes when models and Gwyneth Paltrow types talk about how they drink 23 liters of water a day.  How though??  I have tried all kinds of mnemonics and tricks — having a carafe of water by my side all day, pouring a fresh glass of water with every meal, etc, etc — but cannot seem to get myself to guzzle as much water as I should.  UNTIL.  The blogger Liz of Sequins + Stripes recently shared a trick that has actually worked for me: she tells herself to drink a full glass of water before indulging in anything — so, before she has a glass of wine, or an afternoon coffee, or a cupcake, or a snack.  It’s a lot easier for me to remember to drink a glass of water (and quickly!) when the promise of a reward is right around the corner.

+When I have a glass of wine with Mr. Magpie at the end of the day.  Sometimes we’re so thrilled with ourselves for having gotten through a long day with our sweet but very busy one-year-old daughter and sweet but very busy two-year-old puppy that we will high-five one another, hug, and then immediately pour ourselves tall glasses of wine as we mull over the day’s happenings.

+When I catch up with my siblings via Facetime or the phone.

What makes you feel good about yourself?


A few purchases that would make me feel pretty good, too…

+These adorable oversized-bow slides in the most darling cabana stripe.

+This sweet, breezy striped dress, which I somehow missed in my vertical-striped-dress roundup.  (Bonus: it’s around $100!)

+This flattering dress, which has sold out several times, is now re-stocked in white.

+PSA: these are the best oven mitts.  Ever.  They are so  much better than those flimsy Williams-Sonoma ones we used forever — you can actually hold a hot-from-the-oven pan with these badboys without feeling a thing for several consecutive minutes.  But they’re still pliable — I’ve used a few with silicon trim and they feel too stiff; you almost can’t bend them.  These are perfection.

+I recently mentioned that Mr. Magpie and I have about one piece of tupperware to our name.  I have been sticking to my bowls-and-saran-wrap solution thanks to being so short on space, but have heard wonderful things about this brand and may be losing my resolve.

+A reader raved about these eye tints; the lilac color is in my cart right now!

+I had a bunch of people email me asking me about mini’s one-year birthday hat — here it is!

+I am keen on trying some Charlotte Tillbury products in the coming months.   (Any enthusiasts?)  I especially want to try this and this.

P.S.  The best things for your home and kitchen.

P.P.S.  My favorite beauty products of all time.

P.P.P.S.  What’s your song?

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31 thoughts on “Things That Make Me Feel Good about Myself.

  1. SUCH a good post — and you look beautiful in the snap above!

    So many of your items are ones that make me feel good, too. It is so important to remember to make space for self-care. For me, it can be as simple as calling my mom on a weekday to have a laugh together during my lunch break, or going to yoga — like you, I recently started exercising regularly after a period of inactivity (aside from regular walks) and it has been so nice to move!

    On that note, thanks, too, for the workout clothes recs! I ended up buying a Tech Sweat legging + crop set from Outdoor Voices and am LOVING the fabric — it’s like buttah. I still love their classic leggings (which I have in 4 color combos, meep!) but Tech Sweat is my new fave.

    1. Love!!! I need to check out the Tech Sweat situation! Having chic new workout gear makes self-care that much easier to make time for…

  2. You look so lovely! I’m very into the headband. And intrigued by the eye tint especially after reading the comments about it. Re: your blouse…do you ever struggle to keep your clothes nice when caring for mini all day? I feel like I always end up messy after feeding and crawling around, etc. You look so nice but I feel like I could only last an hour or so in a nice top 😉

    1. Thank you!! So sweet to say. I kind of just roll with it when it comes to looking tidy — I iron almost everything before I wear it, and then start looking a little muffled by mid-afternoon, but smeh — it’s life. The one thing I cannot abide, though, is anything that can’t be tossed in the laundry. I am over dry cleaning. I don’t have the time or patience anymore, and I need the peace of mind that comes with being able to throw on some stain remover and toss it in the laundry!

  3. Ahh, Jen, I was just eyeing that Madewell number last night and trying to decide if I could pull this off for much longer? Sometimes I look at this stuff and think I’m too old for this, or that it’s not “mother of two” appropriate.

    An aside… don’t know what’s up with Facebook’s algorithms lately, but I’m not seeing your posts at the top of my feed every morning like I used to. I loved starting my day reading them in bed while I hit snooze and now they’re buried.

    1. I hear you, Jen — and in general, when I have a question about whether something is age appropriate, I’ll say, “Smeh, better to skip it.” HOWEVER. I feel like this dress is just the kind of thing that very chic Marlien Rentmeester would wear, and I believe she’s in her 40s:

      I could see her pulling it off, so why can’t we?

      That is SO annoying about FB! I wonder how I can override that…

  4. This Pyrex set from Amazon is the best purchase I have made in a while. I’m not sure if that’s sad, lol, but it truly has made all the difference for health (and sanity) when it comes to storing food! Plus they nest inside each other so they’re easy to store!

    1. Ooh! Can you share a link? It’s funny how our definition of exciting purchases has changed with time…I’m sure you’re now well into the “very excited about new baby gear” phase, too.

    2. I’d actually try the snap lid version before Pyrex. We got the Pyrex set about a year and a half ago, and most of the lids are now cracked. It is super handy, and I feel a lot better about storing/reheating my food in glass and using less plastic wrap, but now I need to buy a new set of lids. Ugh.

  5. i hope you love the eye tints. They are sheer but buildable — and easy to throw on. Follower her instructions on the colors for your skin/eye color and your eyes will pop.

    1. OK! Thanks — maybe I’ll reconsider my initial gut decision then! YAY! Love trying new cosmetics!

  6. ahh! I hope you like the eye tints. they are very natural but buildable. I have red and the peach, which work well w/ my blue eyes. Follow her advice on which colors compliment your skin/eyes.

  7. It wasn’t until Rho turned 1 that I started a solid morning routine. I’d wake up 30 minutes before him, throw on some workout clothes, fill out the 5 Minute Journal and meditate. After feeding him milk, we’d hit the West Side Highway or the High Line and go for a long walk. Once we got home, I’d whip up scrambled eggs and toast for the two of us and eat. By that point, my nanny arrived and I got ready and got out the door.
    The first year of Rho’s life? Forget it. I felt like I was constantly taking care of someone else, playing catch up, and that I never stopped for a second.
    You’re doing great. Your family is so lucky to have you be their matriarch – today and everyday.

    1. Hitha – thank you so much for this gracious note. You’ve made my day and helped me make a little more space for myself, too 🙂

  8. Girl, you look fiiiiyyyaaaahhhh. Also one of the things, so cheesy but I’m not buttering you up, is reading here daily!
    And I’ve started doing a facial once a month- heaven.

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you! So sweet to say that. I love having you guys here, too, of course 🙂

      Once-a-month facials sound divine. Somehow having a baby has left me looking ashen and tired if I’m not diligent about upkeep.

  9. I. Love. Podcasts. I like to listen to them when I’m taking downtime after class and scrolling through Instagram or something so I don’t feel guilty/feel like I’m totally wasting my time. My tastes range from NPR’s game show Ask Me Another (which is hilarious! Tons of witty plays on words that are fun to try and figure out on your own) to true-crime podcasts like Up and Vanished (a friend got me hooked on this one – creepy, weird and utterly fascinating) or more serious/existential ones like On Being with Krista Tippett (she has the most soothing voice!)

    1. CLAIRE! I just downloaded the “best of” from all three of these. Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  10. I can certainly relate to self care taking a backseat, particularly with the arrival 6 weeks ago of my baby! Is it sad that putting on “real clothes” and even taking a shower feels like self care these days?!! This is such a good reminder to still take care of myself, even in little ways, when life and taking care of other people can take priority. And to drink more water!

    I also completely agree about the manicure. For me I always feel a little more put together when I have a fresh manicure and pedicure!

    1. GIRL, YES! I know — during those first few months, just taking a shower was a major accomplishment. A necessary one, but a major one nonetheless! xoxo

  11. Love, love this post and the time you took to reflect on these! I honestly haven’t given much thought to “things that make me feel good about myself” and after reading this, it seems like an exercise (should I call it that??) that everyone should do.

    Re: podcasts, definitely check out How I Built This if you haven’t already! Seems v. up your alley and is my current favorite 🙂

    1. Ooh, thanks for the rec! Just downloaded the one with the founder of Jeni’s ice creams as a starter episode for today’s walk 🙂 Thanks!!

      You’ll have to let me know what you come up with on the “things that make me feel good about myself” track…!

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