Even at an early age, I enjoyed clothes and I have spent the majority of my adult life - not to mention my personal spending money =) - collecting an array of tops, skirts, pants, etc. that make me feel good about myself. I love the shopping process when you get to consider the color, the material, the style, but most importantly, the fit. I have - through lots of trial and error - found just the right types of clothes that compliment my body type and through this hobby I have developed a sense of confidence. This is an important aspect of my life because it not only reflects my self-identity, but has allowed me to build that self-confidence. I have struggled with my self-image for many years and success in this area helps soften the sharp edges of self-criticism. Having children has challenged this aspect of my life, however. We all know that having babies changes our bodies ... a lot actually. And I was not naive to this fact. However, once again as I am learning what it means to be a SAHM, I find myself shocked at the potency of this reality.
After having two kids I find myself starting back at square one - as if my experience with this topic was nonexistent! Not only do I have to experiment with how to hide the unpleasant left overs of being pregnant, but I have to redefine my self-image as I struggle to discover the practical side of dressing like a SAHM. The challenge now in addressing this arduous task is to find an image that can handle constant washing because of spit-up or pudding hands or whatever sticky mess might come my way, doesn’t droop in front or rise in the back exposing me as I wrestle a child and somehow meets all these requirements along with actually qualifying as cute. This challenge has proven to be much more difficult than I ever could have imagined as I entered this adventure in motherhood.
I used to wonder why the “Mommy look” stereotype even existed. If they - SAHM- would just take the fifteen minutes to put themselves together, we - women- could break this stereotype I always naively thought to myself. “I will never dress like that when I have kids...don’t they care anymore? Did they ever? Are they really out in public like that?” I would think critically to myself. I am embarrassed that even though those thoughts never verbally manifested themselves, they actually crossed my mind. I thought I would somehow magically be immune to the universal reality of the SAHM situation when that became a part of my life. I get it now...I understand as I have found myself passing up the cute high heels or boots or the perfect, stylish shoe bought specifically for that one rockin’ outfit for the more functional flat because I know there is no way I can carry two kids - one or both screaming - in those heeled boots without breaking my ankle. I understand now that while that flowy, nylon, cream top screams sophistication, in reality wearing it would be ridiculous because in the first five minutes of putting it on, the delicate fabric would be torn, stained and be a reminder of an idiotic decision for the rest of the evening. Instead the more practical, cotton top that can deflect the grape juice splatter, practical, but not as sophisticated or flattering would be the most ideal decision. Ohh... these are choices I told myself that I would never make. But, here I am falling into what I once thought was a dreadful stereotype.
So this becomes quite the dilemma. But is it really even a dilemma? Would I really give up welcoming little arms extended to give me a sticky hug accompanied by a chocolatey kiss and an “I wuv you, momma!” ? Or miss the opportunity to nurse, burp and snuggle my infant along with the remains typical of caring for a spit-uppy baby? Or even lament the fact that two pregnancies later my reflection is slightly larger than it used to be all so I can wear what I used to before my little blessings were born? The answer to that is no...no way...not even close. So even though I struggle with finding clothes that hide my tummy and make me feel radiant as a women like I used to before kids, the trade-off I know, while occasionally painful at times, which will only exist for a fleeting moment in my life, is totally worth it. It really won’t be too long before those sticky fingers and kisses - dangerous to silk- are just a part of the sweet memory of when my kids were small. And if it means I have to give up a certain self-image for that, well, I will make that choice willingly. I will welcome the altered self-image that now includes stretchy cotton along with those precious, sticky fingers for now and know that the time will come again when the self-image I worked so hard to create and all the tops that hang unworn in my closet will emerge again. But for now, I will just enjoy making all those precious, sticky memories.