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Moms! Embrace the Frump

Photograph by Getty Images

One morning, I came downstairs with my hair straightened and earrings in my ears. “Mom,” my 2-year-old exclaimed, clasping her hands together, “you wook so pretty!”

Every day my daughter dons her fanciest clothes and at least two necklaces, and she slips on her too-big Minnie Mouse high heels. She declares herself to be “fancy” and “ready for da day.” But for me, her standards for my dress are low. She frequently asks me, “Where your pants, mom?” and I have to explain that sometimes when mommies wake up at 5 in the morning because their unborn children and toddlers are causing her problems, pants aren’t on the priority list.

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I’m a frumpy mom. Despite my efforts to the contrary, I feel most comfortable in skirts and loose tops, flip-flops and no jewelry. And I try. I once even gave up clothes shopping for a year in order to regain control of my wardrobe, and I now only focus on purchasing high-quality basics. I even hired a stylist to get some direction to help my wardrobe be less Target Clearance Rack and a little more I’m-30-and-I’m-a-Grown-Ass-Woman. But in the end, I don’t have the energy to keep up with trends. Buying the right accessories stresses me out and honestly, if I have free time, I’m not going to spend it shopping. I’m going to spend it reading about the Boston Strangler, because I have priorities.

As Hollywood embraces and glamorizes motherhood, the ideal of the “yummy mummy” or the “MILF” increasingly becomes the ideal. Fashion magazines praise stars who have great pregnancy style and manage to walk out of the house without spit-up in their Hermes handbags. Mom blogs often include fashion posts about how to look good despite being pregnant, having cellulite or a 2-year-old wiping her nose on your legs.

I suppose I could spend a lot of money on a fancy pair of comfortable pants, but why do that when I’m just going to pee on them?

But what ever happened to the frump? The comfortable pants and the mom uniform that transitions easily between juice spills and boob leakage? What happened to being real? As I write this, I am 34 weeks pregnant with my second child, and I am planning my hospital bag. When I told my husband what I was packing—two pairs of yoga pants and all the tank tops—he reminded me how many times I peed myself at the hospital. “Better bring some more,” he advised. And he’s right. All too often the realities of motherhood don’t jive with high fashion. And I suppose I could spend a lot of money on a fancy pair of comfortable pants, but why do that when I’m just going to pee on them? Or if I don’t, one of my kids will. It’s not something I want; it’s just something that will happen, and I embrace it.

I sometimes try to dress more trendy but, more often than not, I end up removing my fancy outfit before nap time is over. I can’t be a good person if I’m spending all day in Spanx and wondering if my lace shorts are revealing my granny panties. So, I choose to embrace all of it: the pee, the vomit, the leaky boobs, the belly flab—embrace them all with my fashion that is—at best—colorful, comfortable and frumpy. I don’t apologize. Not to anyone. Not the horrified teen taking my order at Starbucks or the well dressed banker passing me on the sidewalk as I herd my toddler downtown.

I have a friend who is a fashion plate for modern motherhood. But on her off days, when she is in jeans and a hoodie, she feels the need to apologize. “I’m sorry, I look so awful!” she declares while pushing her double stroller into the park. “I just couldn’t today.” Of course, I think she looks wonderful, because she is my friend. She is hilarious and always says nice things, and provides adult conversation about current events and books—a quality not to be underestimated in a friend.

“Don’t worry about it,” I tell her. “You look great.” And I know she doesn’t believe me, but she truly does.

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So, ladies of the world, embrace the frump. In all the things we have to worry about—work/life balance, new wave feminism, that sticky spot on the floor and whether our toddlers will stop punching the neighbor—fashion shouldn’t be one of them. Dress in the way that makes you feel comfortable, and if that means high heels and wrap dresses, do it. And if that means your Mickey Mouse T-shirt and mom jeans, do that, too. Release yourself from the pressure: Stop Googling pictures of Kate Middleton. Instead, Google pictures of Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson. You’ll feel better, I promise.

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