Friday, December 27, 2013

moms who look good

Harriet had her final gymnastics class last Tuesday. Gymnastics class is always a gamble. Some days she loves it - rolling and running and bending and bouncing like a champ. Other days, she scowls at her teacher, buries her face in my lap and walks as slowly as possible down the tumble track while the other kids patiently wait their turn to run and jump. Tuesday was a good day and I was thrilled to end on a happy note. I have to admit I'm a little glad it's over and excited to start a new activity, although I'll really miss seeing Harriet in her absolutely adorable leotard and leg warmers. It's easily my favorite part of gymnastics. But my least favorite part? Those full-length wall mirrors. One quick glance to the side and I startle at the sight of a frumpy, stained-shirt woman...who is me.

As we were walking out of gymnastics class the other day, in strode a woman with three children. She...was...gorgeous - tall and fit, dressed in an equestrian-themed outfit, complete with boots, skinny jeans and the most lovely half-up hairstyle. Her makeup was simple but flawless. I couldn't stop staring. I wanted to go up to her and ask a simple but very important question - how?!?!

Because I don't get it. Honestly, I don't. When I see a mom looking lovely, especially a mom who has a child in tow, I am stunned. Every time. Because every single day, I look like this:

Yep, I just took that picture right now. So as you can see, it's not a great look. And today I'm even wearing makeup! Which I never do. So imagine this photo...but worse. Also, to get the full effect, imagine my pants. They're my husband's sweats. And they're brown. And I rolled them up about five inches. Okay, they are:

So that's me...every day. I look like this at home, at the grocery store, at the library, at playdates. I've even gone to church this way...more than once. I think that over time, one just gets used to seeing herself this way, and then it doesn't seem so bad. Until you run into Kate Middleton at gymnastics class...and she has two more kids than you do.

That's kind of a wakeup call.

But that's the thing! How does she do it? I simply don't have enough time! I'll sit Harriet down in front of Clifford and I'll go take a shower (without shaving my legs), sort of do my hair (usually a ponytail), and make a half-way attempt at my makeup. I routinely do my eye shadow while walking around the house, without the assistance of a mirror, so you can imagine how that goes. No nail polish. No eyebrow tweezing. No eye liner. No hair product. And this is my "going out look."

Typing all of this makes me realize how sad it really is.

I used to look better. I used to take the time and put in more effort. I used to shave my legs. I used to get my hair highlighted. But let's be real...even then, I never looked like those women I'm referring to. The ones who look flawless in a sweatshirt and jeans. The ones who can actually make messy hair look gorgeous. I can't blame it all on motherhood because some of goofy-looking stuff happened beforehand.

I'm the boy in the middle row.

When this is where you start, one would think that you could only go up from there. Au contraire.

When I was younger, I would always picture myself a few years in the future, and I always looked stunning. I would literally envision myself from my feet all the way up to my head - perfect pedicure, legs tan and toned, etc. But high school came, then college, then engagement, and marriage (a bright spot, I'll admit), and I never accomplished the look I thought I'd eventually embody. And then came pregnancy - all hope of that look was lost. About three weeks after finding out I was pregnant with Harriet, I had already stooped to this level:

And that's when I decided to grow out my hair. Things went downhill quickly from there.

Honestly, what is my hair even doing?

So now I'm realizing that perhaps this should have been a post about the challenges of growing out very short hair.

And while we're on the topic of hair, let me just take a moment to speak on behalf of those of us who faced adolescence in the dead zone between "it's-the-eighties-and-everyone's-hair-is-atrocious-so-it's-fine" and the invention of flat irons. Ladies, how did we do it? Not only did we have to brave insurmountable frizz on a daily basis but we also got our braces in high school (not elementary school when they're still cool), AND there really was no such thing as cute comfy clothes. But, we made it. Now, I have two CHI flat irons...which I never use.

We often talk about women who have "let themselves go." It sounds like a quiet thing that takes place over time, a peaceful decision one makes. But let me assure you - the letting go of oneself is not a gentle process. Myself is going, whether I like it or not. I never gave it permission. It just turned its back and started for the door. I tried for a while to hold onto it. I dug in my heels. But alas...

So here's where I go back to that head-to-toe fantasy. Someday, I'll have the time and the money to get pampered at the salon, to actually wear the outfits I pin on Pinterest, to try new things with my makeup, to work out regularly. Someday, I'll be tanned and toned and perfectly put together. And I'll sit down around the coffee table with my grown children to look at old photos, and they will say, "Mom, look how pretty you were!" And inside, I will remember that the greatest years of my life had nothing to do with what I was wearing or even whether it was clean.

I'll look into the tired eyes of that puffy young woman in the photos...and I'll feel so proud of her.


  1. Oh my goodness-- your middle school-ish pics...DYING!! I think I had those same huge platform sandals. You're right- we had a very tough era, style-wise. It's a miracle we escaped semi-unscathed. I haven't had super-short hair like you did, but even growing out a chin-length bob is just MISERABLE. It felt like it took forrreeeevvvver to get my hair to be 'long' and even though I still sometimes covet trendy short haircuts, I just remember how terrible it will be when I want it long enough for a ponytail again and that keeps me in check. Anyways, just focus on how much more difficult that Perfect Mom's laundry is...she probably has to spend hours handwashing and ironing and that is DUMB. Rock on with your sweats!

  2. I love this post! Every awkward picture is better than the next. But seriously, who cares what you wear? The effort you put into being an awesome mom is more important right now, in my opinion. And also, you're pregnant with twins, so do what makes you comfortable.

    Just curious. Were you a Pirate? I was a Crimson.

  3. LOL, oh Em, I think most Moms can totally identify with this post. I will say that I remember when I stayed home full time with Stella I was letting myself "go" more and more-- no showering, wearing outfits very similar to the ones pictured above, etc... and I started to feel pretty badly about myself, in such tiny increments that i didn't even realize it was happening. Now even when I'm staying home, I make an effort to shower (at least every other day), and put on a pair of WELL fitting yoga pants and bra and a more fitted shirt instead of a baggy sweatshirt, and it literally changes my outlook on the day. If I feel more put together (even in yoga pants!) my outlook on everything is better. Baby steps. We don't need to look like movie stars, but I do think it's important to take 15 minutes every day to shower, put on clothes that make us feel good about ourselves (even if they're comfy lounge clothes!), and swipe on that mascara -- not b/c of how it will make you look, but b/c of how it will make you feel to have spent at least a few minutes taking care of yourself each day!

    Ps - really good to hear from you. We need more updates please!!! :)

  4. Your so stink in' cute. Always glad to see a post from you. BTW…you're beautiful. And we all have the same 24 hour in a day…we just make different choices on how spend it. When you're reading to Harriet, that lady's doing her makeup. When you're on a pay date, she's shopping for equestrian themed outfits. Unless of course, she's rich and has a personal assistant, hair stylist and make up artist on staff…in which case….I hate her! :)

  5. you always end posts so well. so sentimental. i love that.
    but HOLD ON. those sandals with the huge honking platform. I HAD THEM TOO. doc martens i think? who knowssssss. and i just found them!!! before quickly donating them i did think about keeping them for a hot second or two. oh awkward years. they definitely exist for us all!
    and you my dear. i think are STUNNING.
    and when you came over after Harriets gymnastics i was so jealous of how put together you looked with the messy mom style! your cardi and all. do not worry. the way you looked at the kate middleton mom is the way I've looked at you. twice :)

  6. That lady in the Kate Middleton get-up probably gets up at five to insure she looks that way. You are gorgeous, and I bet she doesn't have the hilarious middle school pics that you do, which is worth five pairs of hot boots.

  7. I love this post so much! Becoming pregnant is what has done it for me... I've officially let myself go. Either that or all the trips to the bathroom to get sick just makes you not really care about your appearance ;)

  8. Haha! This is awesome! Middle school was so rough for me, I'm fairly sure I actually burned all the photos. I'm my mom is holding on to any, she is wise enough not to let me know! I know Harriet is so thankful for you and she thinks you're beautiful no matter what you wear! And your bump is precious! Glad to hear from you Em! Hope you and those babes are doing well!

  9. Ha, we have no kids yet and I always walk around with crazy hair, no makeup and in my pj's!!! I know it's definitely how Colby prefers me! You are still gorgeous to your hubs and your sweet Harriet. I love seeing pictures of that bump!

  10. I think you look great without makeup or being all done up. But I know where you're coming from. I work as a nanny and all of the moms at the playgroups make me feel super insecure and frumpy. I am pretty basic and plain jane, but sadly don't pull it off nearly as well as you. I look scary! Ha!

    Side note: I think you're from Minnesota. You mentioned an up north city (Duluth maybe) in another post I read, and then I see Brooklyn Park on your softball jerseys. I live in the cities as well! We are in Woodbury currently, but trying to inch closer to the west metro. I nanny mostly in Mpls. Anyway, super small world. Hope you don't think it's weird that I mentioned this. :) Did you go to CRM for your IUIs? We've done 5 with them.

  11. I love this post too. I think it speaks to all of us. I think that it speaks to the fact that we put ourselves second (or 3rd or 4th...), and so there is no time to perfect the hair or the outfit. I have definitely noticed a difference in myself. Yesterday my husband had to stop me from walking out with breast milk stains on my shirt. I think maybe it's about accepting the new normal, but also maybe finding a few small ways to pamper ourselves, if possible.

  12. I LOVED this post. I laughed my ass off, while also nodding solemnly. In San Francisco, those kinds of well-put-together moms are all over the place. Meanwhile my very long hair is in a pony that hasn't been brushed since I last washed it four days ago. I don't know how those women do it. Even when I go back to work in a month, I won't have make up on and I'll probably still be wearing yoga pants and UGGS (we don't have a very strict dress code at my school). So yeah, I feel you. I also have a parade of horrible pictures from middle school, high school and college I could post, proving just how many fashion faux pas I've made. Oh the regret!

    Thanks for posting this. Truly.

  13. I thought you always looked pretty darn good when you were pregnant with Harriet, though I could tell that sometimes you didn't think so. I'm sure the same is true this time. We're always our harshest critics. It's true that you're spending time with Harriet and that Kate Middleton might be missing out on those valuable moments due to shopping and doing her makeup. It's all about priorities, and I think yours are in the right place. Also, those middle school pictures made me cringe while remembering my own middle and high school days. I pray those frizzy, poofy haired pictures of me never hit the web. (And here you had the courage to put them out there yourself! Kudos!)

  14. Oh Em! We would have been BFF soulmates as children/teens. I see so much of myself in those pictures. I too have often wondered what we did when there were no flatirons and the only hair products at our disposal were 1) Gel and 2) Mousse, neither of which did any favors to my naturally curly/frizzy hair in Southeast Texas. We are all our own worst critics. Raising babies who are confident and happy has got to the be the highest calling and hardest job out there. Who cares if it's done in rolled up sweats? Consider them your power-mommy pants and get that job done. :) Love, love, loved this post!

  15. Oh my goodness, I was laughing out loud at this post! Because I always pictured myself eventually looking glamorous and it never happened. Even at the peek of my fitness, I never was hot and never knew how to make myself look stunning. Still don't.

    I have let things slip a bit lately. I usually shower, do my hair and makeup, and wear grown-up clothes (jeans, sweaters) every day but this holiday season has kicked my butt and I'm just a sloppy mess. I feel so bad for my husband. I'm lucky in that he loves my hair in the easiest clip in the world - but I don't feel good when I wear it that way. Sigh.

    Thank you for the laughs, thank you for the reality, thank you for YOU! I've missed seeing you in my reader!

  16. I think you look absolutely adorable regardless of what you wear. So keep doing what keeps you happy!!! So good to hear an update. I hope you and your family had a fantastic holiday!! xoxo

  17. Well, this post really hit me where I live... which is still in maternity leggings 11 months later. I even cut my hair shorter thinking that would disable me from doing The Slapdash Bun but now I just use a sequence of bobby pins. If I put half the effort into grooming and dressing myself that I do for the boys I might look like a presentable human being. But then I might want to leave my house and interact with other adults... it's a slippery slope! I do feel better when I actually put in some effort, so I am not sure why I don't do this every day. Thanks for getting me thinking about it again.

    This reminds me a little of that "The Mom Stays in the Picture" business from last year. Our kids won't look at the pictures and critique our outfits or our hair. They will see how happy we were to be with them in that moment. I hope!

  18. I needed this good laugh as I can so relate! I like to think I spend my time more wisely than all those done-up mamas parading around. As I'm reading to my little ones and spending precious time with them those mama's are too wrapped up in their hour make-up routine. I learned from the best which was my mom to prioritize the few hours in a day. My mom raised 6 children without make-up, without abs of steal, running around with baby spit up proudly on her shoulder, and I know she wouldn't change it for the world because as adults we all appreciate how she put everything into us and not into wasting away time on selfishly tanning, getting a mani and pedi, or always looking perfectly put together. While I can understand some pampering here and there, I've seen and met way too many moms who are too busy worrying about themselves leaving their children in the dark yearning for attention and love. I'll take the sweatpants, ponytail, and well loved kiddo's any day of the week!

  19. I am just catching up and loved this post! Also- POST MORE OFTEN! I miss hearing from you and want to know how things are going with H. and with the twins.

    There is this mum in my neighbourhood who has always freaked me out because no matter where I run into her, she looks PERFECT. Perfect hair, perfect makeup. Even when she is wearing yoga pants she manages to look effortlessly stylish. She made me feel horrible about myself when I got back from the U.K. and ran into her and realized that she looked way fitter and put together than I did...and she had just had a second baby three weeks earlier.

    The thing is- I'm like you. I was never stylish. I was never put together. My littlest sister is someone who always looks effortlessly stylish, and since she's lived with us a few times I now know just how long it takes her to achieve that. And I'm too lazy to even consider it.

    That said, I definitely have to guard against falling into the trap of never prioritizing myself. That's how I ended up with a two and a half year old with me still not having got back into running, even though I ran half marathons before he was born. I am trying to make more of a conscious effort, but it is hard because my skin is so bad right now I feel like I don't even want to go out much.

    I love all your pictures. I could seriously match you on several of them.

  20. Great post, Em! What stands out to me is not the hair or the sweats or the windbreaker/pj pants (you're CAMPING! It's ok to schlump it in the woods! :) ), but your warm and beautiful smile that goes straight through your eyes. You have a whole-face smile. I am typing this in my college sweatshirt and sweatpants and I really have no excuse... ha. And brave you posting those middle school pics! I too was a "boy," having cut my hair in a "Dorothy Hamill Wedge" in 8th grade (newsflash, curly headed girls, this is NOT a look you can pull off). So many bad pictures, including the 8th grade photo I show my own 8th grade students (in hopes I look better now), where I "dressed up" in an aqua henley shirt and lavendar sweatpants that matched the crazy laser background of 1988. Good times. I don't know how the Kate Middleton moms do it, but I think you look beautiful! I'm sure Harriet thinks so, too.

  21. I'm loving these awkward photos! One day, when I am brave like you, I will post my heinous adolescent pictures... not yet though. Seriously, I think that first picture of you in Andrew's sweat pants is adorable, and I could never pull that off in a hundred years. Another great post, my dear.

  22. Omgoodness. I personally think you are absolutely adorable, and especially so now! "I'm the boy in the middle row." Sigh. Yeah, I went through that stage too. My freshman year of high school, my nick name was Afro. Want to talk about frizz? I got a perm. I already had kind of curly hair, but I super duper wanted ringlets. That's not what I got. I got an Afro. Seriously. My hair didn't fit in my school picture. Not even exaggerating! Today, my hair is in a constant state of frizz and in a messy ponytail/bun. I also am always wearing sweats. I'm right here with you, only I happen to think YOU are adorable!

  23. I literally wonder this constantly! When I try to look decent (for family photos, date night, girls night out, etc-which is rare) it takes me at least an hour for everything & my son stands at the gate & yells for me!! I can not do it everyday! That's an hour I'm missing with my child! So as you said, I won't remember how good I looked at Walmart, I'll remember all the fun my son & I had during my days home with him. Thank you, thank you! Glad I am not the only one!!


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