My Worst Habit: Staring In the Mirror

What would I think of a mom who looks herself in the mirror more often than she looks into her kid’s eyes?

Hana Medvesek
Human Parts

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Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash

Would I judge a mom who looks herself in the mirror more often than she looks into her kid’s eyes? Would you? Well, that mom is me — at least on some days. I realised that one evening as I put my 4 year-old daughter to sleep. Often my next destination is the bathroom, to pee or brush my teeth.

Many times I end up lingering in front of the mirror. Other times, when I am at home all day, I catch my glimpse in the walk-by mirror and keep looking for a while for no apparent reason. There are so many of these “mirror moments,” I feel. Or is that many? Maybe it’s normal?

‘Do you think I look in the mirror often?’ I asked my husband hesitatingly.

“You do…” he hesitated. “I thought that’s just how you are.” Is that really just how I am?

I needed to get to the bottom of this. So I decided to count the times I look in the mirror, with a habit tracker app, for 7 days. The result was between 18–25 look “sessions” a day. One session equals multiple looks in a limited span of time.

Counting the number of mirror looks in a day in my habit tracker. The day with only 4 recorded looks was the kids birthday where I ended up being too busy to count.

Sometimes it was just a quick look in the elevator. Other times it was a minute spent looking while I was brushing teeth. Maybe it was just me reshaping my hair — from one type of a bun to another, both of which actually look the same to everyone else but me.

What am I looking for? Both looking, and now thinking about all of the looks, made me uncomfortable. Something feels wrong about it and yet I can’t tell what it is. I could compare the feeling to scrolling on my phone.

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

There’s some visual input. I see my pimples, my hair, my nose changing shape as I try to make a slight duck face. And then there’s a bunch of voices in the back of my head mumbling something about my looks and worth. But I am not sure if that’s what I really think about myself or just some background noise.

Honestly, most often I look in the mirror for the answers to…

Am I being me?
Am I beautiful?
Am I still more young than old?

If the answer is yes to at least two, then everything is still okay. I am still not losing it. I am still in the game. What game? I don’t know but every look helps me collect points. Those points serve a very closed reward system in a reality only I know about. A membership program for my own vanity.

Slowly I become aware that my presence in those moments is of a cheap quality. Even as I look away, it stays that way for a while. It’s like the opposite of regaining my own presence. The opposite of a reset.

When my kid falls asleep I often get an urge to wake her up again and spend more time with her. Of course, I don’t do that. But then I wonder in silence: Was a there a moment in the past day, where she had surprised me by looking me in the eyes? A moment where I initiated a long eye contact with her? How many times did I even see her eyes?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

I begin to realise how empty my day was — empty of connection. Even if we played together. Even if she laughed (almost) all day. Even if we spent a lot of time next to each other. Because it is only when I look into her eyes, that I step into another reality. And the realness of that reality is almost blinding. It’s everything that looking in the mirror is not.

Instead of one soul looking for itself, it is two souls meeting in space and time. It is an instant reset of what it feels like to be present.

Photo by Benjamin Wong on Unsplash

It’s freezing as I grab her bare hand with my glove. She prefers not to wear gloves at all. We are walking past all the Christmas lights to the bus station. The traffic is chaotic today. The bus is half an hour late. We will be late to her favorite kids’ book reading in the public library. But she is not complaining, in fact, she is amused by all of the commotion.

My brain is planning how to escape this. My fingers are freezing in the gloves. My butt is an ice tray as I sit on the metal bench, with her on my lap, facing away from me.

“Hey,” I whisper in her ear.

She turns around and looks me in the eyes.

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