I was reading the brilliant musings of the ladies at Rants from Mommy Land on The Surrender. The Surrender is what happens when a mom gives up entirely on her own personal appearance in favor of making sure her child or children are wearing all the right kinds of clothes in all the right places. I was wallowing in what I thought was a well-deserved well of self-satisfaction because as a working mom, I never surrender. I leave the house on weekday morning, shod, dressed, groomed and ready to show the world my best possible face. I am victorious over the morning routine! I am the mom who always looks put together! I am…wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row. Oh. Dear.
Let me clarify here that I am not wearing the same actual items of clothing that I was wearing yesterday or the day before (though I did wear the same socks two days in a row this week but only because I knew they’d never touched my actual feet since they’re worn over knee-highs to keep my feet warm in the boots I wear for commuting and come off as soon as I get to the office). Instead I am wearing different versions of the same garments. Confused? Let me elaborate. On Tuesday I wore brown pants, a white cami, and a beige v-neck cardigan. Yesterday I wore black pants, a black cami and a grey v-neck cardigan. Today I am wearing camel-colored pants, a white cami, and a black v-neck pullover ( Oh yeah! I’m bustin’ loose and leavin’ the buttons behind, baaaay-bee! Call me a fashion rebel! Woohoo!). You know what all of this adds up to? The Working Mom’s Surrender. I’m going to call it The Uniform. And I’m going to break it down, Mommyland-style.
Hygiene (or the Hair Uniform): I am showered. During the week I shower daily. I shampoo every other day. I do this at night after C. is in bed and I consider this the height of luxury because it’s only recently that we live in a house wherein the bathroom wasn’t directly on the other side of the wall where C’s crib was. Every night, I step into my shower and luxuriate in time alone to take care of me. In a space the size of a phone booth. BTW, how the hell did Superman, with those shoulders of his,m manage to change outfits in a tiny little box? My hips aren’t nearly the size of his shoulders (yet) and I still find maneuvering around my miniature shower stall to be an exercise in personal origami. Shaving my legs requires advanced yoga moves but I do manage to do it. Sometimes. Ok, rarely, at least during the winter. But the point is I do shower. On nights that I emerge with my tresses washed, I slick the whole mess back into a ponytail and sleep on it wet. I tell myself this is a good styling technique because it tames the terror that is my hair. Which is curly and fine. Or perhaps the right word if fluffy and fine. Ok, fine, it’s frizzy. You happy now? I have frizzy hair because fine, curly hair, with no bulk to weigh it down enough to fall in Aniston-like beachy waves is simply fizzy unless there is serious use of devices and products and I just don’t have that kind of time or patience. So the ponytail contains the frizz and leaves is smooth enough that in the morning I can iron out the lumps with a round brush and hair dryer and it looks ok. That is, when it doesn’t look like a Marilyn Quayle-esqe flip. Or when I don’t give up on it completely and pull it up in a clip in a way that I have convinced myself is a stylish fabrication that resembles an elegant French twist. Shut up, this is my hair and if I want to pretend it looks good, I’m allowed. The blow-dryed flip, the clip, and a low-ponytail are the only three hairstyles I ever wear.
Foundation Garments (or the Undie Uniform): I have many pairs of underwear. They are all cotton bikinis. I have many bras. They are all repeats of two different styles. The underwear were purchased for their ability to limit VPL and for the elastic not to squish into my hip flab so deeply as to affect the line of my clothes or leave angry red welts. The bras were all purchased to lift and fluff my sad little post-nursing boobs. The bras do not formally match the underwear but I try not to create migraine inducing combinations like a lipstick-red bra and deep magenta underwear.
Make-up (or the Face Uniform): I love make-up. In my teens I wore white powder, red lipstick, and black eye-liner and thought I looked fab. In fact, I looked like Morticia Addam’s geeky younger cousin but nothing anyone could say would convince me that high drama wasn’t the way to go. In my 20’s I used to pore over magazines for beauty hints that would make my eyes pop, my cheeks flush and my lips pout. I bought a rainbow of eye shadows and lipsticks and wore them with panache. I could go from day to night with a swipe of gloss. I could do the faux-natural “I’m not really wearing make-up” look favored by Saturday morning brunch-goers who didn’t want to look like they were using the morning as an extension of Friday night and attempting to attract guys over bloody marys and waffles. I could do career-girl sharp-but understated make-up that would convince donors to fork over money to the non-profit I worked for (or maybe it was because the potential donors were 70-year-old Rotarians and I was a 25 year-old in a short skirt making a presentation to them, who can say for sure?). I knew my stuff. Now? I still wear make-up every day. I still own a rainbow of colors. What I wear? Muted grey or brown eye shadow, mascara on my top lids only, concealer, concealer and more concealer on the bags under my eyes, and blush. I always say I’m going to wear something on my lips beyond lip balm but I don’t. Not because I don’t want shiny, colored lips but because I don’t want my son walking into school with shiny, colored lip prints on his little face. Especially not if those lip prints were made with plumping gloss that will leave him with a distended, lip-shaped, bulge on his cheek. So instead of wearing lip-gloss, I carry it around in my purse.
Shoes (or the Foot Uniform): I own dozens of pairs of shoes. They are arrayed on a lovely shoe rack on my closet door where I can gaze at them before go to sleep at night. They are gorgeous. Many colors, many heel heights, open toes, closed toes, evening sandals, boots. I love them. But I don’t wear them. I wear either snow boots or clogs in cold weather or flip-flops in warm weather because there’s a fair amount of walking involved in my commute and walking + toddler + heels = broken ankle. When I get to work I change into one of the pairs of shoes I keep in a drawer in my desk. In winter that means either brown or black pumps. There was a time when I carried a pair of shoes with me to work, shoes selected to enhance whatever outfit I was wearing but I stopped doing that when I added the breast-pump to my commuting must-haves and realized that something had to get jettisoned from my purse. Coordinated shoes went the way of the dodo along with a book to read for pleasure and a mirror to check my lip-gloss. I never resumed carrying shoes after weaning because the pump was replaced by a monkey-shaped backpack filled with matchbox cars, board books, and Goldfish crackers.
Clothing (or the Uniform): Pants, cami, sweater. Sometimes it’s pants, turtleneck. No skirts until spring or I learn enough yoga to shave my legs regularly, whichever comes first.
Accessories (or the Jeweled Uniform): Ac-cess-or-i
es? What are those? I have been wearing the same tiny hoop ear-rings since C. was born in January 2008. I wear my wedding set. I’m not sure I’ve even unpacked the rest of my jewelry since we moved. Maybe I should. Maybe adding a necklace would add spice.
The good news about my sartorial sameness is that it’s gone unnoticed by my husband who probably thinks my work outfits (or, outfit, singular, I guess) are a vast improvement over the fleece pajama pants I like to wear around the house during non-office hours. I’m afraid to ask my co-workers if they think I look the same every. single. day. The (young, childless) women are a stylish bunch and actually do things to their hair and wear bracelets and stuff and no doubt they pity me for having sacrificed personal style in the name of Motherhood. Or maybe they are silently cheering me on because they all too vividly remember immediate post-maternity-leave days when I came into work covered in spit-up stains. And unsullied clothes? Are always in fashion.