March 7, 2011

The Mom Uniform


A few months ago, I read how a friend of mine had overheard a disturbing conversation while at her daughter's piano recital.  A newly married woman was asking the woman next to her if the transition from couple to parenthood was a difficult one.  The "sage" went on and on about how dreadful motherhood was and that children basically drain your life of all energy, light and cuteness.  My friend heroically came to the defense of good mother's everywhere when she turned around and said that motherhood is exactly what you make of it.

As I read that, I thought about how sad it is that women think those types of things about their families.  But then as I was thinking about it more, I felt even more sorry for the women like that poor newlywed, who had, up until that point, probably been looking forward to the idea of starting her own little family and being a mom just like us.  Then it occurred to me that we can possibly give the same false impression of motherhood to complete strangers without even opening our mouths.

I don't know about you ladies, but I am why people think being a mom isn't a glamorous job.  You can tell I'm coming from a mile away by my black yoga pants, t-shirt with booger stains, haphazard pony-tail and flip flops.  Chances are, that even if I did shower, I certainly didn't put on any make-up.  Who has the time for that sort of thing?  Not a homeschooling mom of four!  Besides, I'm not even leaving the house.

Well about a month ago, I decided that I wasn't going to make people think (including myself), just by looking at me, that motherhood was anything other then the absolute best job in the world.

And it started with blow drying my hair one morning (Who am I kidding, it started months ago when I noticed that one of my good friends was always dressed up).  Anyway, I was so amazed at how much better my hair looked, that I put on some make-up and all of a sudden, my "uniform" looked a LOT better!  Then I got some hair clips and when my hair would get in the way, I'd put it in a french twist (it's JUST long enough for that). Then the next day I squeezed into a pair of jeans.  The next week I wore **gasp** a skirt!

And so, over the few weeks that followed I had completely changed my "uniform" and my paradigm.  I'd like to share a few things that I picked up along the way.
  • First and foremost.  There are some days when it just isn't going to happen.  If I wake up to a vomiting child, on come the yoga pants.  And on deep cleaning day, all bets are off.
  • For me, it's easier to shower at night before bed.  I wake up with crazy bed head, but I just wet it over the tub, blow dry it and I'm ready to go.  No trying to wake up early to shower or wondering IF I can shower or wondering which child is coloring on the stucco on the house exterior while I shower (by the way, anyone know how to get crayon off stucco?)
  • Along the same lines, on some days, showers are a luxury.  If you don't get a chance to shower, get dressed anyway.  No one else can tell that you aren't squeaky clean and you can slick your semi-greasy hair back into a sleek ponytail without using any hair product :)  I like to keep a bottle of body spray around for just these occasions.
  • Make-up - if you wear make up, it doesn't take much.  You don't need to do the whole song and dance of the mask you used to wear in your wild and crazy high school days.  Slap on some blush, powder if you want and mascara if you need it (like I do).  Don't mess with foundations or anything else liquid.  They are too hard to work with, they take too much time and your skin really rebels if you don't wash it off at the end of the day.
  • If you have a bad hair day every day for a week, try a new style.  You don't necessarily need to cut it or do anything drastic.  For me, blow drying alone did the trick for a long time.  Now that it's longer, I just need to flip it a little at the bottom.  Hardly takes any more time at all but makes a difference.
  • Snot and spit up stains are actually harder to see if you wear nicer clothes (aka anything that can't also pass as pajamas).
  • Husbands might not notice exactly what it is that is different about you, but they will appreciate it... A lot.
  • Wear clothes that fit.  Don't look at the size.  You will be more likely to break out of the yoga pants if your jeans don't cut you in half every time you bend down.  And shirts in general look much better if you can't see rolls on the belly (please tell me I'm not the only one with rolls).  There is no shame in having to wear a larger size if doing so makes you look awesome!
  • Flip flops look better with a skirt then with yoga pants.
  • With the exception of maybe scrubbing the bathroom, anything you can do in "the uniform" can also be done while looking nice.  I've cooked, cleaned, done homeschool, done laundry and grocery shopped in everything from a skirt to pin-striped slacks.  The only difference between that and the yoga pants is that I feel prettier.
  • It's a LOT easier to be a be supermom-ish (while keeping our priorities straight of course) if we dress the part.
Now I have another confession.  I am not one who has ever been able to sacrifice fashion for function.  I know this isn't always practical, but I like to have a beautiful home and I was finally able to come to the realization that if it is good enough for my house, it is good enough for me.  My goal is to be an attentive, hard working, educated, cheerful, Christ-centered, optimistic, well-rounded, from-scratch kind of mom.  But I also want to be feminine, and beautiful.  So for me, the easiest way to make that happen without adding to my current wardrobe is to wear skirts.

Here are a few tips on skirts.
  • They are easy to make.  Take it from me.  I had never successfully sewn anything but a patchwork quilt in my life until last night, when I finished my first skirt (with nothing but another skirt to pattern it after.  And it's a beauty!
  • the sizing is different (you will fit into a size six skirt long before a size six pair of pants).
  • They are great in the Summer, much cooler than shorts.
  • For me, an inch or two below the knee down to mid-calf is best.  Long enough to be modest, short enough not to get in the way.
  • I like the straight style skirts because they don't go flying when the wind is going.
  • Though I also like the A-line and flare styles because they twirl when I turn around and make me feel like a princess.  And you are never too old to feel like a princess.
  • I don't wear them when it's cold.
  • some fun legging can make a great accessory and keep you warm
  • It IS possible to wear a skirt and still look frumpy instead of feminine.  I try to avoid that at all costs.  I save frumpy for days when the family is sick and for when I work-out.
  • Stay away from clingy fabrics like jersey cotton.  They are fun and beautiful and comfortable, but I am always having to pull it back down because of static (great science lesson though).
  • Plain old 100% cotton is perfect in my opinion.
  • Experiment with colors and patterns to fit your personality and add variety.  
  • Denim can be great if you get the right cut and style.
  • Denim can also be a nightmare (frumpy not feminine).
  • Be practical.  We are mom's.  We bend over, crawl around, run, walk, scrub reach and a plethora of other acrobatics that other people wouldn't dream of.  I don't wear anything that can in any way impede my work as a mother (like heels or tight anything).  But you would be surprised to know what you can do in a skirt.
  • I already mentioned how flip flops look better with skirts.  So do t-shirts.
  • When you wear skirts nearly every day the term "Sunday Best" takes on an entirely new meaning.
It isn't always easy to do, but I always feel better when I make the effort.

Now please don't misunderstand me.  I am NOT saying that we need to spend hours on making ourselves beautiful so that we can gain acceptance or praise from the outside world.  Even with all of this, I seriously doubt I spend more then 20 minutes getting ready in the morning (and even that is all just a little here, a little there, whenever I have time).

In fact, I am reminded of a talk that Susan W. Tanner gave in the October 2005 General Conference when she said "We would keep the outside of our bodily temples looking clean and beautiful to reflect the sacred and holy nature of what is inside, just as the Church does with its temples.  We should dress and act in ways that reflect the sacred spirit inside us."

I also don't believe that we should spend a lot of time maintaining our appearance throughout the day.  As Sister Tanner's wise mother told her, "You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others."

Do the simple things to make yourself beautiful.  Then "forget yourself and go to work".


I feel like motherhood is the path through which all of my dreams are fulfilled.  Being a wife and mother is the only way that I can manage to become the woman that I have always wanted to be.  Without my family, I would turn into a selfish, power-hungry and bitter woman.  I know because when neglect my duties for too long, that is exactly what happens to me.

Motherhood is indeed a Partnership with God.  How many of us have said "I wouldn't trade it for anything" or "this is what I was meant to do" or "I wouldn't want to do anything else".  If that is the case then we need to purposely separate ourselves from the mother's who think that children are life and joy sucking parasites.  We aren't like them.  We shouldn't look like them.

Women of God can never be like women of the world.  The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender.  There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind.  There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.  We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith.  we have enough greed; we need more goodness.   We have enough vanity; we need more virtue.  we have enough popularity; we need more purity. ~Margaret D. Nadald

Vanity is a sin, but treating your body like the temple it is and letting your outward appearance reflect the joy and purpose you feel is not.

Courtney is an overly scheduled, overly stressed, overly sleep deprived and overly blessed homeschooling mom.  She has been married to the greatest (and best looking) man for nine years and has loved every minute of it (almost).  She has two girls, ages eight and six, and two boys ages three years and nine months.  She is in her second year of homeschooling and has decided there is no way she is going back.  Courtney knows it is selfish of her, but she feels that her children are entirely too much fun for someone else to enjoy their company all day long while she can't.  Courtney apologizes if this post is long winded and rambling.  She tends to feel very passionately about things and has a hard time ever shutting up.  You can find more of her and her musings over at My Ordinary, Every Day, Happily Ever After.

27 comments - Add a comment below -:

Tristan said...

I loved this post, you said it so well! I made the transition to nearly all skirts and dresses during my pregnancy last year (they were the only comfortable things to wear!). Now that baby is here I still find myself wearing mostly skirts because I just feel prettier. The princess effect (a skirt that twirls a little bit makes you feel like a princess) is something that gives me a boost at random moments in my day. And taking time to actually look in the mirror before my husband comes home to fix my hair has done great things for my marriage. I still don't use makeup 98% of the time, but smelly lotion is great!

Evenspor said...

Great article. So much to think about. Thanks.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Well said. I've been wearing skirts also. It is so interesting to me that there is huge trend of woman wearing skirts again. I appreciate your thoughts. : )

Mindy said...

Hooray, Courtney! I just smiled the entire time I read this article. I've also recently grown tired of "the uniform" and have had a blast redefining my Mommy Fashion Statements. Haven't gone the skirt route yet but I am definitely intrigued. I'll be steppin' in up soon (especially if skirts go with flip-flops and t-shirts!). Thanks for this perspective today! :)

O'Neil Family said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been going through the same transition lately--but I'm right at the beginning. It's hard because I was never a make-up wearer or hair-doer in high school. I didn't try any of that until college, so I'm still not that great at it, but I think it's really important to try. And of course, at 31 there is quite a bit more "trying" involved than there was at 21. But it's worth it. I could say more, but I think you pretty much said it all. Thanks.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

I started potty-training Autumn on Monday...and the first thing I did to prepare for the MESSES that would ensue was to PUT ON A SKIRT AND LOOK CUTE. It made the poop much more bearable!!

Dana ♥ said...

Wonderful Post Courtney! We are beautiful daughters of God and we should always wear that "uniform" :) I've found skirts work wonders as well. Thanks!

JRoberts said...

I would love to wear skirts everyday...but alas, we are pretty cold in the winter so pants it is. BUT, wearing a cute pair of pants makes me happy too. Your body doesn't have to look gross in sloppy jogging pants, you can wear cute clotes! :) (can hardly wait for sandal weather too...not a big fan of flip flops...but sandals...bring it on! :D)

100% loved this post. Thank you!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

I have made sure to do this because of all my daughters. I want them to know I take my job as wife/mother seriously! So I dress the part making sure to look nice. They learn from that cue and also dress nicely even when most days we never see anyone but each other (living out on an isolated farm does that). Wonderful post Courtney!

Heather B said...

What a great post and a wonderful reminder!

Lindsey the Muse-r said...

Loved this! I have been feeling the itch to wear skirts during the week because I love feeling like a princess on Sundays:) I think I'll get into it now! But I'm all thumbs when it comes to sewing and can't seem to find any cute, budget-friendly skirts to buy...what's a mom to do?!

Jessica said...

This is a great post. As a homeschooling mother I have found it very easy to remain in pj's all day. My husband works a swing shift so it doesn't help that he doesn't get home until after the kids and I are in bed, (why dress up when he doesn't even see me?). But, I have been trying lately to make an effort to get dressed in actual clothes ever day. Seriously, just cleaning up a bit does wonders for how I feel during the day! Also, I have worn the same denim skirt for years every Sunday and it has been the only skirt I have, until recently. I love skirts and am going to try wearing them more often! Thanks!

Tristan said...

JRoberts - It's been below zero part of the winter here and I've still done skirts, I just add socks. Of course, I'm not outside for long periods of time either...

Lindsey the Muse-R - I can't sew either. I finally found that Catos had tons of long skirts and they clearance them to $10.00 so I checked the rack every few weeks and picked up my size if I found one. I have 4 from there now, which is plenty for the week. Find a more expensive store if you must and watch for them to clearance items. I know we have a C.J. Banks locally that costs tons (think $30-$40 per skirt or top), but they clearance things every week (I think mine does it on Tuesdays) and my mom checks on markdown day every week when she's needing something. My mom works in an office so she HAS to have dressy clothes on every day, this makes it affordable. Clearance prices can run as low as $9.99 there too.

The other idea is find someone in your ward to sew for you! Beg, barter, and plead if necessary...hehe.

Tristan said...

Oh, here is the Cato store locator to see if there is one near you. Another place here that might be near you is Fashion Bug/Fashion Bug Plus. They're expensive but do good clearance and sales I think....

Oh, and Cato offers plus size (which I need), but also has regular and even a small selection of girls 7-16, so I was able to find a long, modest dress for my 9 year old there recently, and they have long skirts for her size too. ;)

Tristan said...

Opps, here is the link for cato:
http://www.catofashions.com/locator.cfm

Courtney Wilson said...

I found some great one's at maurices.com

also, downeastbasics, themodbod, modbeclothing all have skirts that are ok priced on clearance.

I have a list of modest clothing stores on the sidebar of my blog

www.ordinaryhappilyeverafter.com

Kimberly said...

LOVE this post-we can be a light to others just by looking nice. If we look like we love being mothers that right there is missionary work, and it's so powerful for daughters to know their mom loves her 'job'.

Mama Rachel said...

Love, love LOVE this post! Way to go, Courtney!

I've been wearing mostly skirts or dresses for 4 years now, and it's monumentally changed the way I feel about myself, and it's had a HUGE effect on how others treat me. (Plus, my husband thinks I'm cuter than ever! ;-D)

Thanks so much for sharing your wonderfully articulated words on this important subject. :-)

Deila said...

I loved this, what a great reminder. It is so easy to overlook ourselves when we are the mom and teacher!

Princess Muhmah said...

I l.o.v.e. this post! Thank you for sharing!

Lytle Momma said...

Love the post...I could not agree more...we feel happier when we feel pretty and not frumpy, and a happy mom is important!!!
And it honestly doesn't take any more time to throw on a skirt or a nice shirt with our jeans than to throw on the pajama or sweats look.
Have a fabulous week & enjoy your kiddos! :0)

JRoberts said...

Tristan...I live in Alberta, and it gets pretty darn cold here...right now it is -17 C and that is a WARM day so far this winter! :)

We spend lots of time outside so I don't think a skirt (as much as I would LOVE to wear one) would work. I wear skirts and socks (with tall boots) to church with my long underwear. :) We also have invested in the long garment...

I have since invested in dress pants in wool. These make me feel a bit more dressed up, but still keep me warm and not frozen as we go about our outside activities. Because we all know sweatpants under a nice pretty skirt...well, it is just not attractive! :)

Wish it was warmer, but alas, it is not. :)

Courtney Wilson said...

Ooooh, I bet those wool pants are fabulous!

Andrea said...

This post was very depressing because I absolutely agree with it, and I am currently at 3 weeks postpartum after baby #5 (Lady Harriet--she's a darling) and the only thing that I can force onto my body is a pair of ratty Target yoga capris.

Sigh.

Cute? Just. not. feeling. it.

Courtney Wilson said...

I think we can all agree that all bets are off postpartum ( didn't get out of my yoga pants for eight months) :) Morning sickness too I think.

Congrats on the new one!

treen said...

I'm the other way around - I'm a jeans girl all the way. But my anti-frump-mom measures have been to get rid of the ratty shirts and only get cute ones with embellished necklines and that fit properly, and to get better sandals that just basic flip-flops. And I always have my toenails painted - that's one of my personal things that makes me feel more feminine.

Holly said...

I just came across this post today and wanted to chime in with how much I enjoyed it. I don't personally feel a need to wear a dress or skirt all the time, but I agree that it can help us feel more feminine. I absolutely think we can make an effort to look presentable, feminine and modest and we don't have to break the bank to do it!