I get it. I do. Stretchy pants (be they yoga pants, leggings, sweatpants, whatever) paired with a t-shirt (in any combination of oversized, stained, ratty, or otherwise), and a messy ponytail, it’s a sloppy look. I know. No one who’s wearing it thinks “I make this stained, ripped tshirt look good” but our lives do not revolve around being attractive. There’s a lot more to a woman than whether she meets the standards of beauty of the people who see her, an impossible, and ever-changing target if ever there was one. The thing is, motherhood is a job, and like many other jobs it comes with a uniform. The lived reality of motherhood necessitates a less-than-polished look.
It starts in the very early days of motherhood: stretchy pants and baggier shirts help transition in and out of maternity clothes, making accommodations for all the shape shifting we do. For those of us who have felt uncomfortable with some of the new shapes of our bodies, the baggier, stretchier clothes provide a refuge.
Motherhood requires giving up a part of ourselves. For me it was a sacrifice I gave freely, understanding this phase to be fleeting and one with beautiful moments to cherish along the way. I didn’t need the added stress of worrying about my clothes. It was easy in the beginning because I was so focused on this new little life that needed me completely; my life had a purpose that a pretty dress would never fill. Giving up cute clothes was a choice I made without a moment’s hesitation.
With a newborn your sense of “appropriate to wear in public” goes out the window. Haven’t showered in days? True, but you are out of milk and eggs so off to the store you go. Baby just spat up on your shoulder? Pat yourself dry and buckle that baby in his seat — he’s going to spit up on you in the store anyway so why dirty two shirts?
The Mom Uniform allowed me to do my job. I could roll around on the floor with the kids, run, play, and move however I wanted without worrying about my pants splitting. I could wear the baby in a carrier, hold a squirmy toddler, do messy craft projects, and whatever else struck my fancy without worrying about wrinkling or staining my blouse. The Mom Uniform wasn’t just a default setting because I had given up on my appearance, it was necessary for me to fully execute my job. What had started out of necessity with my infant was well-entrenched come toddlerhood and the preschool years.
Like everything else in life, there is a balance. Please use your Mom Uniform in moderation. I freely admit I have lost my footing a time or two. In the days before athleisure was a thing, my uniform consisted of whatever was comfortable and I wouldn’t mind if it got ruined. The Mom Uniform was decidedly less cute a dozen years ago than now, but allowed me to do my job. Unfortunately since motherhood is a 24/7 job, I didn’t know when to take off the uniform. Eventually my sloppy look and my misshapen body were too much for my self esteem and I began to feel I was nothing more than a dowdy old hag. Don’t do that. It is nice to have something pretty to wear when your little one is less likely to ruin your ensemble.
The tipping point for me came one day when my kids and I were at the craft store. I looked terrible, like cat lady on the Simpsons terrible. And wouldn’t you know it that was the one day in my 8 years in Los Angeles when I bumped into a friend from high school who was making her way (successfully) as an actress. She was effortlessly stunning and I could not have looked worse if I actually tried. We had a nice chat, she was kind in addition to glamourous. However I will never forget the feeling I had. I had become too lazy, I had taken it too far, and I knew it. I was thoroughly embarrassed and disgusted with myself. Instead of using the uniform to be better at my job, I used it because I had given up on myself.
A disheveled look or a tidy look can impact the way you see yourself and the way others treat you, so don’t let your Mom Uniform be the only thing in your closet [that fits.] But don’t let anyone tell you that you can never wear comfortable clothes. The measure of a woman is not her attractiveness to other people. Neither let yourself become an object to others nor objectify yourself. (I highly recommend Beauty Redefined for more on this topic!) Just remember that even though motherhood is 24/7 it’s okay to take off your uniform every once in a while. You’re a great mother, but you are other things as well. Above all, be kind to yourself.