A Few Good Moms: Can you handle the truth about your post-kids appearance?

Having your appearance take a hit when you start raising a family is a pretty universal mom experience.
Having your appearance take a hit when you start raising a family is a pretty universal mom experience. Getty Images

The mom secures a worn scrunchie around her limp ponytail while balancing a diaper bag on one shoulder and a snotty toddler on the other. As she passes a storefront window she glances at her reflection and is startled at the crazy-looking woman staring back at her.

You want the truth about how you look post-kids? I think you can handle it.

When you become a mom, your priorities change. Superficial things have to take a back seat and sometimes, looking chic and well put-together is an absolute impossibility. If you can’t go number one on the toilet without getting interrupted five times it is unlikely you are going to be able to blow out your hair, do full makeup, and get outfitted in some sophisticated gear before heading out the door.

Of course, it would be incorrect to say that fashionable moms don’t exist. In fact, they are everywhere: stylish moms can be found on the big screen, on the small screen, in the White House, and all over the Queen City.

Even so, having your appearance take a hit when you start raising a family is a pretty universal mom experience – the postpartum window is not really conducive to a polished package. (And by “postpartum window” I mean the stretch of time after giving birth until they go to college. I am not here to judge if you have traded in maternity wear for eerily similar workout gear and continue to bemoan that stubborn “baby weight” while getting into the middle school carpool line. I feel you, ladies.)

When conjuring up images of the disheveled mom, nothing captures the essence of “mommy fashion” more than mommy jeans, as featured on an SNL faux-commercial with the tagline “I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom.” You get what we’re dealing with here: clothes designed for comfort and utility. Because you never know when you will need to scale a floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelf to retrieve an enterprising toddler climber, or have to hose down the high chair after a brutal baby-food spinach and spaghetti feeding, or find yourself blocking a pee spray eruption on the changing table . . . all after not sleeping for a few days.

The subsequent look is fairly fierce.

I remember a time pre-marriage and kids when I would spend some number of hours showering, applying make-up, fixing my hair, selecting clothes, and getting dressed before going out. Once I had a baby, I had to really focus to remember to bathe. Unsurprisingly, with a toddler/baby combo things did not improve at all. Eventually choices had to be made between showering and exercising, or between sleeping and grooming. Often basic needs trumped everything else.

Of course, this is not an acceptable long-term strategy for a grown person in the world. Sooner or later you have to figure out a way to take care of the little people in your life without completely forgetting to take care of yourself.

But wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could just cut the unkempt mom a break, and consider her occasionally less than attractive appearance something akin to a Mommy Uniform? No one gets worked up when surgeons wear scrubs or mail carriers truck around in their snazzy shorts. When we spot a policeperson or a UPS driver or a flight attendant in their outfits we don’t critique their look as too blue, or too dull, or too retro – you know they are just doing their jobs and the clothes are part of the gig.

Because it’s not that the bedraggled mom doesn’t care anymore . . . it’s just that she cares more about other things. If you are focused on your family, the way you look may not be first on your list . . . but the truth is, this unselfish shift in perspective is a genuinely stunning benefit of parenthood.

Want to get a better handle on post-kids appearance? Check out Tracy Curtis’ rant against that mommy uniform staple- yoga pants, be inspired by Charlotte mom Charla Muller’s journey to pretty, and check out that hilarious and heartbreaking SNL mommy jean commercial.