There’s no such thing as a stay-at-home mom. This shit is work. There are deadlines, dreaded projects (mostly involving poop, glitter, or both), and demanding bosses who just keep piling on the workload. I’m not being facetious with the deadline thing, either. Ever deliver lunch thirty seconds late to 10-month-old? There’s definitely deadlines.
And there’s a dress code.
At least for me, there is more than one.
On top of a writing career staged out of a tiny corner in my living room, I’m an age-gap parent and full-time caregiver for all three of my spawn. My eldest is nearly twelve and my two youngest are nearly one. I also have a part-time job a few evenings a week hosting pub trivia. My identity as a parent bleeds out in three different directions and there is a unique wardrobe for each.
My work as a mom requires different uniforms.
My daytime hours are spent caring for and raising my one-year-old twins. You probably already have that image in your head. Pretty standard fare for the “stay-at-home” mom.
(Good gods, I hate that term.) Think basic white girl with a lot less sleep and more bodily fluids, most of them not her own, as an accessory. Leggings slide on under over-sized tunic shirts, most of them still technically maternity wear that never left the closet. Mismatched socks go on and my hair is pulled out of my face in any way it will hold; messy buns and haywire headband situations. This is my Momma uniform.
These clothes are the pinnacle of comfort. It doesn’t matter how they look or fit. This is function over form. I’ve got work to do and my uniform is a tool. The corner of every shirt is stained and smeared with a rainbow of drooled food and sticky somethings. Milky mouths have wiped themselves across the shoulders and knees of my momma uniform. Every hem has been stretched to its max by hands grabbing for support or attention.
My once perky breasts are smashed into a sports bra because the girls no longer have a role to play here. We stopped breastfeeding ages ago and they just need to stay where I put them.In this uniform, the belly pooch from carrying twins doesn’t matter. My kids don’t care when my shirt rides up and my tiger stripes show. Tiny fingers trace across my purple-red marks of pregnancy and weight battles as we play on the floor. Tearstained, snotty faces have dampened the unidentifiable animal print, oozing out the frustrations of learning how to be. My cellulite ripples underneath lycra sheaths and my kids don’t care. I try not to.
By the late afternoon, my role shifts and my preteen returns home from middle school. Out comes my Mom uniform.
These are comfortable but suitable for public consumption, at least according to my fashion-conscious eldest daughter. The leggings stay, stray clumps of food I hadn’t noticed scraped away with a fingernail. Rags loosely disguised as shirts are switched for something a little better fitting and a lot less stained. The new uniform probably features tiny flowers or some sort of stitching detail to draw the eye away from the less desirable bits of my figure. My hair is brushed and put right back up, but neater this time.
From here I’m approved to go outdoors and further than my property line. We do errands and grocery shopping in this wardrobe. I make arrangments and playdates and team meetings and supply runs for science projects in these clothes. A new uniform for new bits of my mom’s job description. This outfit meets with teachers, coaches, and other parents; people who understand the uniform. They are probably dressed in some similar way. Presentable but lacking much effort or motivation. It is so prevalent we developed a name for it, athleisure.
Occasionally, I’ll catch a side-eye from one of the Pinterest mommies in her Jimmy Choos. My Chuck Taylors may not be high fashion but I have to chase toddlers. Good luck with that in spike heels. I do not need your mom-guilt. I have enough of my own, thanks.
Finally, there is my Mother wardrobe. This is the level of outfits that I go to work in, hosting pub trivia or meeting with clients.Leggings are swapped for cleaner, thicker leggings, sometimes with patterns and prints. Because I’m still self-employed and you cannot take my leggings away from me.
Occasionally a nice, fitted pair of jeans enters the mix. Of course, they have the steel bands of fat squishing control top magic woven into them. My thighs look like my 1-year-old daughter’s otherwise, with rolls and folds that stop being cute once you hit puberty.
Mom tops are swapped for mother blouses and feature bold colors, matched with a necklace. Button-down shirts and scooped necklines, shirts that show off my armful of tattoos deploy, highlighting the best parts of a body that has produced three children. I don padded, pushing, poking bras that make my boobs look like they used to. If I’m feeling particularly interesting that day, I’ll put on a maxi dress with a pair of shorts on underneath, because chafing is a bitch. I feel like an adult in these clothes, if three years behind the fashion curve.
I wear these to work, leaving my kids behind in the care of the rest of my family. No longer immediately responsible for their needs and social calendars, I become a mother of three; writer, comedienne, and doer of things. I encounter hundreds of people who see my mother clothes not as a uniform, rather just clothes. Nothing particularly noteworthy from the outside looking in.This uniform, despite being the fanciest, speaks the quietest. It makes no mention that my mind is only half in this outfit, the other half wondering how bedtime is going back at home. It fails to indicate my personal battle of the bulge or the half a pound victory I won last week. I’m almost down to my pre-pregnancy level of obesity.
No hint is dropped about how much I love my other grungy, ill-fitted, tacky, image-be-damned uniforms.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my eldest daughter just left for school and I’m still in my pajamas. My favorite uniform is waiting.