Stephanie

1. If you wear makeup, why do you wear makeup and how often do you wear makeup?

I only started wearing make up on a daily basis when I was 34 on my return to work after my first baby. It helped me “feel” like I was ready to take on a day acting like an adult and dealing with other adults. An escape from the jeans and hoodie mum version of me.

At that stage I hadn’t started wearing foundation or anything like that – I have only just discovered/needed that this year as I have way more flaws to hide following the birth of my second child – dark skin spots, bags under my eyes, wrinkles! – but again I generally only wear make up to work or to go out (which I don’t do much of these days).

2. What made you want to participate in this portrait series?

I want to draw a line under the old me and start coming to terms with who I am now. I desperately miss the person I once was. The me who had no need for foundation or mascara! I’ve become a little invisible since having kids. Post natal depression has played a part and in the midst of it I seem to have lost who I really am and the feeling of confidence I used to have about myself. So while I love the concept of the project and the shared experiences it has created among the women taking part who all look amazing – I am doing it for me. It’s a reality check – to remind me who I am now – flaws and all.

3. Is being completely makeup free something that makes you feel in any way uncomfortable?

No – I am fine being make up free. I was make up free for a good 30 years really. Not wearing it just makes the impact of children – thinning eyebrows, fewer eyelashes, bags under the eyes, dark skin spots, exhaustion – and general aging more apparent to others. People ask me if I am tired when I don’t wear make-up. I should just have a sign on my head that says “the impact of kids = permanently tired since July 2012”. So make up obviously helps avoid the questioning!

4. Are there specific factors (positive or negative) that have influenced how you feel about how you look?

Recently yes. I had the most horrific pregnancy and birth with my second child. I am grateful to have a happy healthy baby girl, but it’s hard when you have been through such a difficult time. A year later my body has still not quite recovered. I have had physio and lost all the baby weight but the trail of devastation this gorgeous baby girl has left behind – stretch marks are the least of my worries – loose skin covering severely separated stomach muscles that make me look and feel pregnant. I measured 46 weeks pregnant by the time I went into labour with my daughter – I am 5ft 2! It wasn’t a pretty sight then but is even more offensive now. The damage will never been undone and all I can do is wear oversized clothes and start saving for tummy tuck surgery so I can feel normal again.

5. If there was one piece of advice for the future you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t focus on milestones. It’s the bits in between the milestones that really make your life different from everyone else’s. Too much pressure is put on people to achieve the next step – graduate, new job, first flat, marry, new house, kids – that you miss the stuff in between and take it for granted. Like a sandwich – two bits of bread are no good without the filling. Oh and make the most of the body you have – don’t take it for granted in your twenties – take care of it, it won’t be like that forever!

6. When have you felt most empowered in your life?

Truth is I don’t know – I can’t specify a particular time or event. The birth of my first child was pretty empowering but it’s no different from all the other women who do it!

7. Is there a woman fictional or real that you admire? Why?

I’m surrounded by admirable women in my family but I am a big country music fan so if I had to name someone it would be the Dixie Chicks – country music’s version of girl power. They speak their mind. They worked hard to get noticed and to succeed in their industry. They are immensely talented. They challenge the norm and don’t worry about those who might not agree with them – they make no apologies. They represent strong modern women who juggle family life and work and make their living doing what they love.

8. What quality do you most admire in yourself?

My openness and honesty – although others don’t always appreciate it. Those who know me well, know I can’t hide my feelings and don’t think I should have to. Those who don’t know me so well sometimes find my honesty hard to swallow.

9. Is there an achievement you are particularly proud of? Why?

Yes – still getting ID’d at the supermarket at the age of 37.  

10. In daily life what are the pressures you feel most exposed to specifically as a woman?

Mostly the fact that no matter how much help you have with your family and your life – grandparents, husband, childcare establishments – it all still ends with you. You still feel under pressure to do your bit as the mum. There’s no such thing as having it all – something has to give. With my first child I hid at work a lot, in denial of the responsibility I had waiting at home, hoping everyone else would have it covered for me, which they did, while I focused on my career. I missed out on so much with my son because of this and when I was put at risk of redundancy by my company, I realised that they didn’t have as much invested in me as I had in them. When my job was secured I tried harder to take on and face up to my responsibilities at home. And while I appreciate all the help my family gives us, I know I need to do my part for my kids and my husband or I will regret it later. After all they are the sandwich filler to my life!!