We’ve all seen the fashionable mom. She’s the one who consistently looks put-together (with accessories!), even when wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. Her clothing fits like it was custom made just for her, and she’s always rocking a completely gorgeous handbag. Though she’s a mother to two kids, her hair is always freshly washed and her makeup crisp. Many of us would have fit this description before having babies. Then, just as you are warned, your priorities shift once the little ones arrive and you find zero time to spend on yourself. Most days you’re happy if your hair is combed and teeth brushed before noon. Curling your eyelashes and adding a cute boho braid to your hairdo are low on your to-do list.
As you venture out to grocery shop (or as I like to call it, “grab as much food as you can before your toddler throws herself onto the ground in a full tantrum because the shopping cart you chose was not the ‘right’ one”), you glance over and see the fashionable mom. In the midst of your speed shopping, you take 10 seconds to observe her on-trend outfit and fresh blowout. Naturally you feel disdain that she has that much time in her day and assume she must not spend enough quality time with her children. How could she? You barely have time to shop for these groceries let alone spend an hour in the bathroom primping. As naturally as you felt disdain toward her appearance, you can easily make assumptions about her life and judge her.
For the sake of mothers everywhere, don’t judge the fashionable mom. Before becoming a mom, I prided myself on looking put-together on a daily basis. I had an array of shoes and handbags that complemented every outfit. Co-workers even gave me cute nicknames like “Bootsie” due to my vast boot collection.
After my eldest daughter was born, my priorities and ability to spend time and money on myself all shifted. I wasn’t necessarily upset by this shift. It was new and exciting. The amount of love I felt for my baby girl completely trumped any feelings I had toward shopping for those perfect fall boots. There was absolutely no comparison. My passion for style and design felt miniscule compared to my new life as a mom. “Being fashionable” wasn’t the main component of who I was anymore. . . but it was still a part of me. And as my daughter started growing up, I began to miss it. That part had steered me toward design school and a hobby of designing and sewing cocktail dresses for myself. It’s the part that eventually led me down the career path to create a business around function and style. That was a part of my life and my personality that seemed to be disappearing, and it made me sad. It wasn’t until my daughter was around a year old that I began to wonder if my childhood adoration of fashion had to disappear completely. Why couldn’t I be a mom AND spend time on myself? I decided to give it a shot, since I felt I had nothing to lose other than maybe a quarter of an hour on a Tuesday. And you know what? It felt amazing! Not just because I liked the way I looked, or that I took out a pair of shoes and a handbag that I hadn’t seen in a year. (On a fun side note, next time you’re preparing for the day dressing yourself, take a minute to spritz your wrist with some perfume you haven’t worn in a while on your wrist. It’s a major trip down memory lane! I happened to mist myself in a scent I hadn’t worn since I first met my husband. It was incredible to have wonderful memories of our first year together come rushing back.)
It felt amazing because those 20 minutes I spent on myself brought me back to a time before I was trying to live up to my vision of an “ideal” self-sacrificing mom 24/7. Being a mother is an amazing thing. It has led me to new passions and a deepening of both my character and my relationships. But being a mom and feeling like myself made all the difference. Giving up who you are for your children won’t make you or them any happier. Setting an example by living authentically, on the other hand, pays dividends.
My little experiment has led me to the conclusion that there is no such thing as an “ordinary mom.” Every single mom (and dad!) is unique and special. Your passions and hobbies mold who you are as a person and make you anything but ordinary. I encourage every mom to take a moment and think about her life before babies. Did you love to hike? Maybe you had a knack for creating watercolor artwork. Whatever it was, don’t let becoming a parent keep you from being you. Everyone will benefit when you lean in to your own authentic passions. So don’t judge the fashionable mom. She’s simply finding a way to intermix her former life with her new life as a mom. Maybe that means she gets a weekly pedicure or spends an hour blowing out her hair on Mondays. No matter what it is, it’s something that makes her feel good about herself and brings her back to an era when she took time for herself. All parents need to spend a little more time on themselves, because parenthood isn’t about changing who you are.
Next time you see a fashionable mom, stop and smile—because you know there is another mom out there taking a little time for herself, and it’s okay for you to do the same.