In a recent unscientific poll of my mom friends (i.e. a group text punctuated with multiple yawning emoticons), it was found that 86 percent of us owned a pair of Lululemon Studio Pants. You know the ones: Silky yet durable, wide waistband, deep pockets, flattering rear view, bungee corded ankles. With a price tag approaching $120, you’d think they’d make mac 'n' cheese and suck the snot out of your baby’s nose for you, but nope, they’re just pants.
Specifically, they fall into the category of athleisure wear, the game-changing fashion trend of people sporting athletic apparel in non-athletic settings. (See: Woman at Starbucks in her CALIA By Carrie Underwood sports bra-tank hybrid and mom reaching out of her car window at the drive-through ATM, the long sleeves of her thermal Athleta half-zip running top punctuated with thumbholes.) Moms, it seems, love these pants more than their firstborn.
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And can you blame us? The water-repellent finish means spilled vanilla milk beads right up. The pockets are perfect for stashing a phone, keys, fruit snacks and $5 in emergency Ice Cream Man money. The wide waistband prevents muffin top and has just enough give to be easily slipped below the belly when baby No. 2 starts incubating. And Lululemon offers free alterations, so you kind of feel like you’re wearing couture.
But here’s what many moms don’t like: The term athleisure.
The definition of leisure is free time. Synonyms include relaxation, freedom, ease, holiday, spare time, breathing space and rest. I literally don’t even know what any of those words mean. I’m a working, married mom with two small children. I get legit excited when a friend offers me an apricot La Croix at a playdate. My day starts at the dirty buttcrack of dawn and ends with me sitting on a couch, staring into a glass of wine while a Melissa & Doug animal puzzle inexplicably moos at me. There is no spare time. There is no leisure. Mooooo.
It’s a comfortable yet necessary uniform that lets us keep all of our plates spinning without splitting the seams of our pants.
“Athleisure connotes ‘ladies who lunch,’ and mothers are so much more than that,” says Elisette Carlson, a mom of two boys in Southern California and founder of SMACK! Media marketing and PR firm. “More like ‘ath-we’re busting our ass, didn't have time to shower or blow dry our hair because we went from the gym to making lunches to driving kids to school to get to work’ wear.”
So please, don’t call our outfits athleisure. To do so is to insinuate that we’re dashing off to hot yoga at 8 a.m., followed by iced chai lattes with the girls at 11 and a no chip mani at noon. As my now-21-month-old used to say after I’d spend hours carefully selecting organic, locally-grown carrots, steaming them in filtered water, pureeing them with a pat of grass-fed butter and lovingly dusting them with a sprinkle of cinnamon: “No.” It’s a comfortable yet necessary uniform that lets us keep all of our plates spinning without splitting the seams of our pants.
And with that said, let’s proceed to my top eight reasons to stop judging moms who live in their yoga pants (and other athletic wear):
1. During the initial postpartum period, we frequently wear the same thing to bed as we do during the day, and because sleeping in jeans sucks, we go the athleisure wear route.
In the immediate months following our daughter’s birth, I often wore the same thing during the day that I did overnight. There, I said it. I wore my pajamas all day long and sometimes back to bed. Except they weren’t pajamas, per se; they were yoga pants and a T-shirt or sweatshirt, layered over a nursing bra. Getting up every two-and-a-half hours around the clock is painful. The least you can do it be kind to yourself and wear something comfy.
The perpetual give makes lunging to catch your newborn before he rolls off the couch that much easier.
2. Leggings and yoga pants are the perfect post-delivery get-up.
The soft waistband is forgiving and, if you had a C-section, it won't irritate your healing skin. Plus, the perpetual give makes lunging to catch your newborn before he rolls off the couch that much easier.
3. Zip-up hoodies are perfect for nursing.
4. It’s easier to catch a runaway toddler in sneakers than wedges.
5. Our bodies are shifting so much between pregnancy/postpartum/nursing/etc. that we don't want to invest in actual clothes.
This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on our bodies. I worked out intensely throughout both of my pregnancies and was fortunate that my body bounced back quickly, but I still had zero interest in slipping on a pair of tight jeans, let alone slacks or a pencil skirt and heels. Boobs get big, then bigger, then smaller. Hips grow; feet shift. It often doesn’t make sense to invest in a new wardrobe until after you’ve finished having kids, and souped-up workout gear makes for an affordable placeholder.
6. Many moms are entrepreneurs for whom “athlesiure wear” works quite well.
Don’t assume that mom you see grocery shopping in her Dri-fit shorts is on her way to a daytime "The Young and the Restless" viewing party.
“I run a Marketing and PR agency that focuses on sports, health and fitness, so being active and testing apparel is part of my job,” explains Carlson, who estimates spending about 80 percent of her daylight hours in workout wear. For instance, “one of our clients is a national yoga studio, and I repeatedly take media to classes for ‘sweatworking’ sessions. We also represent a sports bra and an eco-friendly workout apparel company, so if I’m already wearing the gear, I can drop into a workout with short notice all whilst promoting the brands. It’s quite efficient.”
Fortunately, as a writer, I have a career that can be carried out behind the smokescreen of a laptop, so my choice of clothing has more to do with comfort than image. But for moms in all sorts of professions, it’s often preferable to dress in clothing that allows for the constant jockeying that is our lives. (Car seats, toy cleanup, impromptu Hide and Seek, vomit duty.) Businessmen and women usually change out of their suit and tie the second they get home. This is a similar principle.
7. It’s less sad to get milk stains on a Target sports bra than on a $135 Agent Provocateur number.
8. It makes the already-slim chance of us scoring a workout a wee bit less slim.
Before kids, I’d spend two hours at the gym—cardio, strength, chatting with friends while we pretended to stretch, steam room, shower, etc. Now, I’m lucky if I can eek out 25 minutes on our basement elliptical after the kids are in bed but before I cook grown-up dinner. By making Spandex or bamboo our default, we up our odds of being able to sneak away for a mini workout session, even if it’s just banging out a few squats and push-ups while the kids are fighting over the Pamela Pancake Shopkin. And for a mom, “any time you can grab a workout,” Carlson says, “it’s sanity.”