clothing

Confession: I Have a Mommy Uniform

It has happened. I swore it wouldn’t, but it has. I have a mommy uniform.

When I was expecting my first child, I promised myself I would never wear so-called mom jeans. You know, the kind spoofed on “Saturday Night Live,” with a light wash and high waist. My vow was more of one to stay committed to myself than to fashion, and yet I found my version of mom jeans in the form of workout clothes.

I first started to realize I was in an appearance rut in the spring, when my daughter–now 3-going-on-16 said, “What happened to your real eyes?” when I walked into the kitchen one morning wearing makeup.

I answered that I had applied some eyeliner and mascara and suppressed the urge to say, “Listen here, missy. Before you and your brother arrived on the scene, these were my real eyes. Every day.”

A few days later came this from my husband as I took out the clip holding my ponytail: “Your hair is so nice and long.”

Yeah, well, that’s because I haven’t had time for a trim in months, but more than that, how did he not know my hair was long? Oh, right, because I tie it back every day or else my 1-year-old son turns it into a pull toy.

Then recently my daughter’s preschool teachers asked why I was so dressed up when I dropped her off one morning. Yes, so dressed up in a shirt and jeans. And another mom asked if I really work out every day. (No. Duh.) That’s when I decided to stop ignoring the obvious.

My uniform is workout shorts (or pants, weather-dependent), a sports bra, a tank top (or sweatshirt) and a ponytail–and no makeup unless you count the chipped polish on my toes. What’s more, I hadn’t bought new pieces of said items in about five years.

Granted, most of the time I am in public, it’s to drop my daughter off at camp or school and to teach my Spinning classes, where my wardrobe is actually required. And oh, the ease of the elastic waists, especially since I am not completely back to my pre-baby body. But truth be told, much like the people I watched cry on “What Not to Wear” as they realized looking good correlated with feeling good, I realized I felt pretty darn good on the days I felt put together.

Paging Stacy London: Mama needs an overhaul.

I have decided on a compromise. Some days I will wear something cute like shorts or jeans and a nice-ish top (read: something without a built-in sports bra). Other days I will stick to my uniform, but an updated version of it. I bought a cute, if overpriced, skort from Lululemon, new sports bras at Target, and some stylish tops at Target and Old Navy.

As I have accumulated these items in the past month or so, I have felt better with each wearing. Instead of feeling frumpy and offering explanations for things that weren’t asked about–“Oh, I think my son spit up there without my realizing it”–I feel more like my pre-kids self: more confident, less apologetic, and still comfortable.

The interesting by-product of this change is that I feel like a better mother. I don’t mean some new clothes have given me new levels of patience. I mean that I feel like a better role model and like my daughter feels more connected with me. After all, she might have wondered why I revel in buying adorable ensembles for her and her brother while I ignore myself. (“No one looks at me,” I’d always think. “It’s the kids who matter.”)

At almost 4, she is a full-fledged fashionista who loves to shop and put together outfits. For her, the more bling and pink the better. I’m not quite as girly or flashy, but she gets excited now about what I’m wearing, complimenting a shirt or a pair of shoes. It’s another common denominator in addition to our shared love for reading, traveling, dancing and art. She pulls peep-toe pumps from my closet and suggests I wear them with my Nike running shorts, so I get why she’s overjoyed if I actually wear a dress–her favorite type of clothing. To her, clothes are fun and an extension of her creativity, not to mention how she feels about herself. Just try convincing her she’s not actually a princess.

You could say I have risen to her level of confidence when it comes to dressing, even if I don’t choose to wear a skirt under a crinoline-buttressed Cinderella dress. She appreciates fun clothes and I used to also. Thanks to her and a good look in the mirror, I do again.

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Stephanie KanowitzStephanie Kanowitz is a mother of two who moonlights as a freelance journalist. A Florida native now living in Virginia, she has worked as a copy editor, web editor, and freelance writer and editor since earning a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 2000. In 2006, Stephanie earned a master's in News Media Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. She writes about arts and culture, business, fitness, real estate, and technology, and she's also done several celebrity Q&As. Stephanie also teaches Spinning classes at local gyms. It's the one time a week when she can tell people what to do without them answering back. To see her work, please visit stephaniekanowitz.com.

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