“Real Clothes” – Dressing The Part

(Many thanks to Jennifer Scott at The Daily Connoisseur for being so articulate about the subject of “looking presentable always.”)

If you work outside the home, dressing well comes naturally because it is socially expected.  If you’re a professional parent, wearing real clothes can get brushed aside because “no one’s going to see me.”

Except your family, y’know, the most important people in your life that you decided to dedicate your career to serving.

Just those people.

dressing the part what you wear matters sahm wardrobe

Why?

It’s a lot more motivating to get up off the couch and get something done if you’re dressed like something important is going on.  Because your tasks are important – homemaking and child-rearing are of utmost importance.  It’s surprising what a mental game our grooming can play.  This is the same reason law firms have business dress requirements, and many schools have uniforms.

I feel that there is another parallel we can draw from the business world – “Dress for the job you want.”  Now, we have chosen to be home, so this is the job we want.  But what do we want FROM our job?  To be taken seriously by our children, spouse, peers, community?  To “have it all together?” To be tidy?  These causes are all helped by DRESSING like someone who commands respect, has it together, is tidy – rather than someone who just roused themselves from slumber to put out proverbial fires.

Dressing presentably always also helps eliminate decision fatigue and the need to change throughout the day. My pajamas are presentable, so it’s okay if my teenager needs something after I’m ready for bed.  My clothes I choose in the morning are nice enough to wear to run errands, to school events, even to dinner out at the last minute.  (It actually occurred a few weeks ago where we were out for a family walk, and a friend drove by in her car and invited us to dinner in half an hour.  Threw a diaper on the youngest, and out we went – no need to “spruce up.”)  I only need to choose one outfit each day, and I don’t have to take anything into account other than the temperature.

How?

Dressing the part becomes much easier if you simplify your wardrobe.  This is where capsule wardrobes come in.  (This topic has been done lots of justice by lots of other bloggers, so I’m not rehashing the entire thing.) But pay attention to what’s in your mom capsule – PAJAMAS ARE NOT CLOTHES.  If you wouldn’t wear them to the office, why are they in your work environment at home?  My mom capsule wardrobe is lots of washable, comfortable fabrics, but consists of dresses or tunics and leggings.  Personal preference – if you’re a pants girl, more power to you!  (BUT REAL PANTS.  NOT YOGA PANTS.)

Check the blogosphere, YouTube, and Pinterest for ideas about mom capsule wardrobes.  Sit and think about what kinds of clothes you like best, and how those might become part of a “real clothes” wardrobe.  (If you love yoga pants best, think about leggings and tunics.  If you love raiding your husband’s closet, think dolman sleeves or trapeze tops and dresses.)

You may need a serious declutter of your closet for any of this to be plausible.  I suggest the Kon Mari method (as found in the book The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo) so that you can purge out all the ratty, sloppy clothes and keep only things that work for you and are lovely.

FAQs

“Don’t you get messy?”  Why yes, yes I do.  Then I wash my clothes.  If you’re talking about serious mess, I do wear aprons while cooking.  If I’m bleaching or painting, I have a coverall (like a mechanic would have) that I put on over my clothes.

“But don’t you want to be comfortable?” Of course.  I don’t buy things I find uncomfortable!  Comfort is about cut and fabric, not item of clothing.

“Why bother?  Nobody sees you all day.” My children (who learn best by example) and my spouse see me.
And let me tell you, random people show up at my door.  Once I was down with a back injury and my mother-in-law offered to come help around the house.  She (surprise!) brought a friend of hers that I had never met in my life.  Thank goodness I was wearing real clothes!  It was embarrassing enough that a woman I’d just met was scrubbing my pots and pans.
Another time my best friend dropped her children off with no notice, because of a medical emergency.  Glad I had gotten dressed that day.
And beyond folks ringing my door bell, I never have to change or think twice about running to the store, the post office, my kid’s school, etc.  Always prepared.  I don’t even usually have to change for social events in the evening.

 

The outfit shots incorporated into the image for this post are authentic.  I never stage an outfit for my OOTD pictures on Instagram, obviously, since I’m wearing slippers in many of them!  That’s what I actually wear, to all the regular events of my life.  (Sometimes I wear something fancier to church, but that’s about it!)

To Work or Not To Work – Another Story

Deb posted the story of her working motherhood in this post recently, and I wanted to share mine, as well.

It’s quite opposite!  All mommas and all families are so very different.  And these two stories, which have unfolded in an intertwined way (we are besties in real life, if you didn’t know) puts me in awe of how our plans are not God’s plans.  I would never have pegged us for the kinds of moms we are today, had you asked me before we had children!

working mom or sahm

(Why a pie?  That’s a little later in the story!)

I never, ever, intended to be a stay-at-home mom.

In my early adulthood, I wasn’t even certain I wanted to have children at all!  But once I settled on a career path (education) I definitely decided that I was never “quitting my job” to “stay home and clean.”

Straight out of college (that would be 1 1/2 years into marriage) I got a teaching job.  I – surprise!- was pregnant with our first child during my second year of teaching.

I love teaching.  Teaching while pregnant wasn’t that difficult (I even directed a musical that first nauseating trimester!) and I had every intention of returning to work.  I took a 6 week maternity leave during which my (also a teacher) husband substitute taught for me, but I was itching to get back in that classroom.  My husband stayed home with our son, and off I went (breastpump in hand – what a drag!)  I had a student teacher in my classroom that year, and she’d play with the baby sometimes while I worked after school.  I found myself nursing a baby while meeting with colleagues in my classroom.  We played baby shuffle (husband dropped off baby after school, rushed to a job running a teen center after school hours, I returned baby in the evenings to direct music in church, attend extracurricular practices, etc.)

I was a working momma for two years.  I occasionally had to cancel a practice or bow out of an activity for a sick child, but it was definitely manageable.  I always scooted home for dinner and bedtime, often returning to my classroom after my son was sleeping to finish grading papers, preparing centers, writing up progress reports, or rearranging desks.  My students and colleagues loved my son and he enjoyed hanging around school.

Then the climate of my school shifted – administration changed, faculty began to turn over, some difficult families came through my classroom.  I began to feel burned out, like I was giving 120% to my job and getting little but Mom Guilt in return.

I actually had a second baby in order to quit my job with a clean conscience.

To be fair, we wanted another child and the spacing was ideal, anyway.

That spring, I realized that rather than trying to impart knowledge and life skills to 25 kids I hadn’t parented until the age of 13, I wanted desperately to be home with mine and parent them from the get-go.  I wanted to hang out laundry, and babywear, and make pie, and teach babies German, and read aloud, and go on walks.  I suddenly had a very clear vision of what I imagined my life to be like, and that job in that moment was not it.

So I directed one last musical while severely nauseated, wrapped up one last round of graduations and Algebra placement tests, packed up my classroom, and went home.

 

And it was a learning curve, don’t get me wrong.  I am by no means a born stay-at-home-mom – I’m scatterbrained, and sarcastic, and a night owl, and not patient, and massively disorganized, and prefer the company of adults or solitude.  I spent a few months drowning in my new role and having no idea how to manage homemaking or two small children or how to be a living person and not just a soggy mess.

But I’m also fiercely stubborn.  I was determined to make a success of this stay-at-home-mom gig.  I made schedules.  I made lists.  I planned activities.  I walked every day.  I drank a lot of coffee, and said a lot of prayers, and tried to learn patience and humility and self-denial.  I’m still learning all of those things every day.

But I’ve never regretted going on hiatus from teaching.  I fully intend to go back, when my youngest child is in kindergarten.  I still love the job ( I even substitute and help coach drama at my husband’s school, because I do miss the atmosphere and the big kids!) but I have learned to love being a professional mother.  I’ve learned to see it as a real vocation, with skill to be gained and talents to be applied.

 

I was not born a stay-at-home mom.  I’m not probably a typical one, either.  I don’t homeschool, I don’t iron, I don’t exercise, I don’t sell anything, I don’t manage sports teams, I don’t have “girls’ nights” or “Mommy and Me” mornings. But this is where our family ended up, and we are happy.  My husband is happily teaching full time, and I am working every day to make our home run smoothly and simply, getting my self-fulfillment from lots of coffee and blogging and YouTube, and spending these years with my goofy little boys.

 

And I rarely make pie.  (Pie makes me frustrated!) But I COULD if I wanted to!

working mom or stay-at-home mom

 

 

Tired SAHM? The Physical Task of Mothering

Nobody tells you that mothering (especially full-time, professional mothering) is such a physical job.  That “tired stay-at-home mom” is redundant.

If you try to list physically tasking jobs, likely to make the list are vocations like construction work, power-lifting, professional housekeeping, high-rise window-washing, nursing.  I can’t claim to have any personal experience with any of those careers, and I certainly don’t downplay any of them.

It was just a surprise to me.

And I’m not just talking about the physical aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and those first “lost weeks” postpartum.  Of course those are a Herculean physical strain, but I think those are decently well-recognized.

I’m talking about the long term.  The sleep deprivation doesn’t stop, it just changes.  After you teach your child to sleep through the night, you start sacrificing sleep to things like housekeeping, hobbies, tea with yourself, and worrying.
Instead of enjoying your soft pillows at 9:30, you lie awake until midnight thinking about things like taking bread of out the freezer for tomorrow, whether your toddler’s room is warm enough, if your husband’s alarm clock is set properly, how your ill friend is feeling, what errands you need to run tomorrow, the new parenting theory you are planning to try.

Once you’re up for the day, the cooking and cleaning begins.  These are physical tasks in their nature, but please add to that effort a 20 pound toddler on your hip or in a carrier.
There is walking the dog and/or running errands.  Which sounds easy, but actually requires pushing a stroller/cart (maybe a double or triple) with somewhere between 20 and 80 pounds of child in it, and holding back an overly-enthusiastic pooch who wants to follow every pedestrian home.

The bending.  The stooping.  The heavy lifting and repetative motions and chasing and hoisting and bending into cribs.
The Legos.
Then the wrestling of a kicking screaming toddler to a timeout, or a bathroom, or an unwanted nap.  The holding and pacing and singing with the ever-growing baby, which may take up to an hour before he falls asleep.
You are a human jungle gym.  A toddler falling down will use a tiny portion of your arm or leg skin as a handle.  A baby wanting a kiss will slam his forehead into your teeth.  Someone learning about body parts will jam a jagged fingernail into your eye, nose, ear, or belly button.

All of that physical exertion and damage is separate from nursing a baby for weeks, months, or years.  If you choose to do that, you are quite literally sitting without moving for up to an hour at a time, 8 or more times a day.
You can bet your child will only sleep held in that position, some days, or will only nurse in certain ways that leave you with neck cricks and sleeping legs.  There might also be pumping, which is just as (if not more) uncomfortable, but without the perk of baby snuggles.  And if your baby happens to sleep extra long, you don’t!  You set yourself an alarm and get up to pump.  Or risk mastitis.  Y’know.

(This in no way is meant to discount the role of fathering.  Here is my sweet husband, falling-down exhausted with each of our infants.  Incidentally, two of my favorite photos of all time.)

I hope the cute factor of the photos to accompany this post help drive home my true objective:

Mothering will wreck you.  Hopefully, this is temporary.  (I haven’t yet come out the other side, so I can’t promise anything!) Your metabolism, hormones, physical appearance, eye bags, sleep, joints… these may never be the same.

But honestly, what better to give yourself for?  What more awesome task can there be, than to relinquish selfishness of your physical body in order to serve your family?  At the end of the day, you may be completely depleted, but all of that energy and effort went into your kids.  You’ve poured from what the Lord has given you into others.

Tiny, snuggly, adorable others.

It’s worth it.

Let Go of Mom Guilt: Put Yourself on Your Schedule

Among the HUGE list of “Things I Was Clueless About When I Became a Professional Mom” was the entire concept of planning.

But that’s a topic for another day.

This is just about planning YOURSELF.
Yes, that’s a thing.
Yes, it’s a thing you need to do.
Yes, it will actually improve your parenting.

Whether you’re an on-paper planning aficionado, or all your vague scheduling is in your head, think about it.  Where are YOU on the schedule?  When do you partake in your hobbies, or personal growth activities, or real, intentional leisure time?

Hint: “whenever I can fit it in” is the wrong answer.

That’s how I operated for over a year of full-time at-home parenting.  In practice, it turned out that I did hobbies/personal growth/intentional leisure exactly zero times per week.  Really, almost zero times per year!  Not okay.

The result was a very grumpy, lackluster momma.  One who felt irritation rise at the very first whine of the morning, who felt guilt and exhaustion every time she spotted the half-finished novel on her bedside table.  (The novel I promised myself I would finish before moving, and didn’t finish until months afterward.)  I was a mom who didn’t even feel at leisure on vacation – I would bring along a hobby and it never made it out of the suitcase.  Ugh.

Enter 2017.  This year began with a little Parents’ Getaway (something I always said I’d never need or participate in.)  The epitome of scheduled leisure.  I planned this little vacation to intentionally include nothing but scheduled leisure – the dead of winter in Wisconsin, in the middle of farm country, in a tiny vacation home with nothing but two bags: one of face masks, board games, and novels and the other of groceries.
And this spurred an entire lifestyle change.  (No exaggeration!)  I realized that the only thing preventing me from reading, relaxing, etc was that I didn’t treat it as important.  That if I didn’t create pockets of time for my own adult brain, I was going to lose my patience/sanity/creativity/intellectual prowess during my years as a professional parent.  And that prospect was NOT ACCEPTABLE.

So here’s what I did:  I took out my planner (because I’m old fashioned!) and quite literally penned myself in, every day.  In the first slot of my planner, every day, I schedule a cup of tea and either blog writing or professional development reading.  In the very last slot, every day, I schedule fiction reading, movie nights with my husband, nail painting/face masking, etc.  The last weekend of each month, I spend my early morning at the local coffee shop (read: my literal happy place) setting goals for the next month. I actually think about this at the start of every week and pen. it. in. with equal weight as my cleaning schedule and meal plan.

And a lot of the time, I actually do it!  I don’t fall asleep on the couch at 8:30 thinking of all the wonderful things I could do, but feeling like I should do housekeeping instead.  I don’t drag myself out of bed to the sound of little boys pounding on bedroom walls.  I’m actually pumped to get up early each day for my “me time” and I can dive right into a relaxing activity as soon as the kids are tucked in at night.

It’s given me the “permission” to nurture myself, in addition to looking after the hearts of my family.

And a peaceful mom runs a peaceful home.

What’s a hobby or leisure activity you claim to love but never have time to do?
Make an appointment with yourself!

Loneliness

Professional motherhood is great in a lot of ways.  But goodness, it’s lonely.

It seems nearly impossible to find anyone that is actually in my same season of life.
I meet lots of wonderful middle aged folks.
Lots of wonderful peers who don’t have children.
Lots of mothers with small children who work outside the home.

And maybe this is low self-esteem talking, but none of these people can possibly really want me in their life.
With me comes two messy, loud, funny little boys.
A definite schedule of being in my home during nap time, every day.
The truth that I will fall asleep on the couch by 9 pm (if you’re lucky.)
A 30-year-old who wants to be treated as an equal adult, not like your psuedo-children that you are “helping get a start in life.”
A mom who wants to talk about anything other than her job of raising children, but can’t for the life of her stop talking about them.

People can’t possibly fit all of that into their hearts, can they?

And I’ve met lovely people recently.  People who are very kind and friendly and welcoming (we moved six months ago) and even say things like, “We should get together for coffee/dinner/board games some time!”

I have never actually gotten together with any of these people.
They never actually went the next step of making plans.
Which means the suggestion was just a nicety.

Surely, out here in the wide world of the internet, there are other mothers who feel lonely.  And that is why I’m writing and recording.

Let me assure you, there are more of us!
This is the beauty of the internet.  Though it has its share of mom-shaming and political saturation and “perfect” life comparisons that leave you feeling irritated and down on yourself, it also has community – if you can find it.

Leave a comment.
Watch a video.
Visit the Facebook page and post.
This is your official invitation to join me for coffee!  Right now, today.  You will get a response.   I can relate – so can lots of others.

Let’s stop being lonely.