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I'm So Tired of People Policing What Moms Wear

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Photograph by Twenty20

I’m all about fashion. You probably couldn’t tell based on my current wardrobe, which is comprised of stretched-out maternity T-shirts and leggings, but I love reading fashion blogs and making notes for the not-so-distant future when I give birth and my body returns to a more normal shape.

But I'm getting so tired of people policing what moms wear. We don't owe it to the world to look and dress a certain way.

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I have apologized for my appearance on countless occasions. It’s weird how often I find myself bringing attention to the fact that there is spit up on my top or I ran out of time getting my kids dressed and didn’t have time to put on makeup. Even though I know that dressing myself, applying makeup or even working out should all be something I do for myself, for my own enjoyment or well being, I have managed to turn it into something I owe the rest of the world.

I mean, where do I find a “great pair of jeans” now that my body has stretch and deflated from three different pregnancies?

It’s no difficult to see why I feel this way, and likely countless other women do, too. When you live in a world where Playboy bunnies might Snap a picture of your post-workout shower, you start to feel that presenting a pleasing appearance to the world is your responsibility, that you should work hard to hide anything imperfect about your appearance.

I think so many people believe this is true. For instance, we’ve got entire websites like People of Walmart, filled with pictures taken without consent and uploaded by anonymous sources, meant to mock those who don’t fit into a certain definition of “acceptable.”

There are also those who masquerade as helpful, creating long op-eds about how moms should move past certain haircuts or retire certain items in their mommy uniform and adopt a new standard of dress. Underneath the advice is the message that us moms owe it to the people around us to look a certain way, because we should not impose our belly rolls or less-than-perfect wardrobe choices on the rest of the world.

“The suburban mommy needs a new uniform, pronto,” Patricia Marks-Martinovich shares for the Boston Globe. “How did fleece and Lycra become the staples of the suburban mommy uniform? And why is it acceptable to wear leggings outside of the gym, or worse, when you don’t ever go to the gym? When did showering become optional?”

She continues by offering some really basic and not-so revolutionary advice to suburban moms everyone. Buy a good pair of jeans. Stop wearing leggings. Get comfortable in dresses.

While I guess her advice is solid enough, at least as fashion advice, it is out-of-touch advice when it is directed at your average mom.

I mean, where do I find a “great pair of jeans” now that my body has stretch and deflated from three different pregnancies? Is there a specific brand built to allow you to tuck your stomach into your waistband? What's the best method of removing the strawberry jelly my toddler shared with me during our goodbye hug from my new, silk top? Is there a nursing bra that won’t look totally trashy under an off-the-shoulder dress I guess I will now be wearing when I take my girls to swim lessons and load a week's worth of groceries into the trunk of my minivan (because the Boston Globe said so)?

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As a young mom, who is soon to have three children 4-and-under to keep fed, safe and clean, my responsibility is to them. I spend my days making decisions around their care, not what the rest of the world thinks of me, and my wardrobe follows suit. I know it is good for them to spend plenty of time outdoors, so I skip the “really great jeans” and opt for workout leggings and a T-shirt instead. I cook three meals a day and supervise various crafts involving paint, Play-Doh and markers, so I skip the satin top in favor of good, old-fashioned cotton T-shirts, reserving my nice clothes for date night or getting out with friends.

Fashion is fun. I enjoy keeping my Pinterest board up-to-date as much as the next girl, but personal fashion loses its joy when we start imposing our own standards on the people around us. Not everyone cares, not everyone can afford the cost of new clothes, and not everyone has a lifestyle that allows them to look great in the carpool line. So, to the fashion experts of the internet, you can take your advice and shove it in your slim-fit, silk pants.

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