When I signed on for motherhood, I expected a litany of new challenges; I just didn’t expect my wardrobe to be at the top of the list. Yes, as silly (and vain) as it sounds, for these nine months of Sam’s life, dressing myself has been nothing short of traumatic.
Please don’t get the wrong idea. I am not a slave to fashion by any stretch. In fact, I pride myself on not getting sucked into materialism, either by my clothes or anything else I own. After all, as one of my favorite Bible passages says, the Heavenly Father already knows what I need, so I shouldn’t worry about what I’ll eat or what I’ll wear (Matt. 6:25). It’s a really lovely, warm and fuzzy thought…when you have a full tummy and are comfortably outfitted. But when you are either starving or staring at a closetful of clothes that you’d love to wear but, darn it, they just don’t fit, this aphorism becomes kinda mocking .
So what’s a new mom with nothing to wear to do?
In the beginning of Sam’s life when I could only fit into maternity clothes, I felt depressed, but unwilling to invest in new duds. Later, when I got so depressed I decided to go shopping, I became frustrated both at the challenge of clothes shopping with a baby, and also thinking about the money I was wasting because I planned to fit into my old clothes again (it was just taking much longer than I thought).
I also began taking stock of my wardrobe and having somewhat of an identity crisis. I looked at the rack of teaching clothes–slacks, blouses, and skirts that didn’t fit–and wondered if it was time to just throw those out and usher in a new wardrobe. After all, I wasn’t teaching anymore, and I wasn’t sure when I would again. And what if, by that time, these clothes just didn’t “fit” me anymore–as in, didn’t fit my personality and style as an older woman?
As I’ve descended the scale over nine months to within ten pounds of my goal, I’ve figured out that my clothing dilemma is not vain or materialistic. My need to fit into my old clothes, and my hand-wringing over whether or not to throw out the old and usher in the new is about figuring out who I am, now that I’m a mother.
But some have told me not to worry about getting to my original size. It’s okay if I don’t, they say, because “I’m a mom now.”
For me, who has always been a sporty girl, likes to exercise, and is health conscious, I wonder if motherhood means I can no longer be fit or healthy? Is it to give up the joy of exercise and feeling good and being a healthy weight?
For awhile, as I struggled to find time and energy to exercise, and as the weight lingered and lingered, I thought so.
Some have told me not to worry about fitting into my old clothes again; just get new ones, because “I am a mom now.”
Does this mean I pitch, along with my slacks and blouses and skirts, the professional identity that helped me grow up so much and that I’m so proud of? During my first teaching years, when I felt small and unsure of myself and my authority, I found strength in dressing the part of organized, got-it-together teacher. Maybe my classroom discipline was a mess, but at least I dressed the part. Looking good helped me feel good.
But does becoming a mom mean I should drop all expectations of looking put-together and just flash my “mom” card? Is motherhood a license to be frumpy until my kids leave the nest?
I felt like this is the message I received from at least a few older mothers. Mothers who, by the way, had a little junk in the trunk or, sorry ladies, looked kinda frumpy.
I think some women confuse motherhood and self-sacrifice with sacrificing their own health and/or their looks. It is virtuous, to them, to give all time to their families, and as little time and thought as possible to their looks–including their body as well as what covers it. Once you become a mother, it is selfish to take time to exercise and shop for well-fitting, flattering clothes.
But this is a terrible mistake. I think rooted below a frumpy and/or flabby exterior, are issues of low self-esteem, or perhaps an undeveloped identity that wants to hide behind the identity of a child.
One reason I waited for eight years to have Sam, besides the fact that I was emotionally unstable and emotionally unable to imagine having kids for most of my twenties, was I wanted to have a clear sense of who I was before bringing a child into the world. I’d seen numerous mothers relinquish the work of developing their own personalities, skills, and minds to the task of mothering. Their lives became their children. Without children, I’m not sure they’d know who they were.
I didn’t want to be one of those women.
I am a person, separate from Sam. And much as I love our growing attachment, it’s important for me to remember the parts of myself that existed before Sam, and that go on when he’s not in the room.
Losing weight and deciding on a post-baby wardrobe have not just been vain endeavors. They have been important steps to remembering who I am and who I was before Sam.
So what is the current state of my wardrobe?
Thankfully, I’d swim in maternity clothes at this point. Thankfully, most of my old shirts fit again. Regrettably, most of my jeans don’t. But for now, I am loving the reinstatement of my (mostly) daily workouts and our daily strolls, and to celebrate feeling comfortable in my own stretched-out skin, I have bought more stretchy pants–that is, I’ve invested in new workout clothes. I will make a determination on my teaching and church clothes when I can again fit into all of them, but for this season of life, I am getting skinny again, and I enjoy my “sporty,” not “frumpy,” clothes.
Now, I proudly wear spandex not of necessity, but of choice. I am embracing my new identity as “Sporty Mom.” This is an identity that combines my past and present lives, and anytime the best of those two worlds combine is a beautiful thing. As long as my hair doesn’t get three-days-greasy and I can slap on a little eyeliner, I can rock sneakers and ponytails.
A post-baby wardrobe, then, might not, for all women, be about getting back to their original size, depending on their values and lifestyles (either sporty or sedentary). Whether or not all moms care about blasting those last ten pounds, I think we owe it to ourselves to take stock of our wardrobes and, when needed, make updates. We are playing the biggest, most important role of our lives as we enter motherhood, and when mama looks and feels good, everyone feels good.
So there you go, new moms. If you’re stressing over clothes you can no longer wear, stop it! If the decision to keep or to cut those clothes is too traumatic now, put them aside until you are in a position (and at a weight) to decide what to do with them. And until then, take this argument to the bank (or to your hubbies), use it to buy a new wardrobe for the new you (Goodwill counts), and feel great about yourself, no matter what the scale says.