After the problem of dressing my little boy, there’s the corresponding problem of arraying myself. I don’t have much trouble keeping my own personal sense of style, but the thought has crossed my mind that, if I’m not careful, I could wake up in a few decades and have no individual style left at all. While I’m sure that an occasional day of yoga pants and tank tops won’t make me a dowdy mom forever and ever, the cumulative effect of a life of baby-centric, super-comfy offerings might just cause a problem one day. Especially since there are so many accessories and baby goods that, while technically for the baby, are actually a part of mom’s ensemble.
Same goes for my house. As much as we’ve tried to keep toys to a minimum, to banish them to one corner (ok, maybe two now), and to limit them to good quality and/or handmade wooden or cloth fare, the toys keep on creeping into our living space. I don’t want any aspect of our life to be dominated by babies or their stuff, at least not more than necessary. Babies and kids are just a normal part of life, according to our philosophy. A joyous, funny, and fun part of life, but normal all the same. I’d like our house and car and wardrobes to maintain some sense of adult decorum, some non-babified quality that maintains our identities as Anna and Josh, even as we go about our business as Mama and Papa.
That being said, there are some accessories that, while necessary*, I have put some thought into so that we are not defined completely by our parenthood.
This one’s a sticky problem. I avoided getting one at all for a long time, preferring to carry Clementine in a sling. That became impossible when my belly got too big for it to be comfortable and Josh started complaining about how heavy she was (he also had a backpack full of books and a laptop, so this was not him being a weenie, but a real concern for us). So, now we have an umbrella stroller that is not all that pretty and a little bit hard to maneuver, but is small, lightweight, easy to fold/unfold, and about as bare-bones as you can get. That pleases me. Once Gil comes, I’ll carry him in a sling and push Clementine in the stroller, but I foresee a time when a double stroller might come in handy. Here’s the problem: I don’t want anything bulky or conspicuous or expensive or crazy complicated. I definitely don’t want one of these:
No SUV strollers either, though I see their practicality since Waco has very few and very cracked sidewalks. Larger, heavy-duty wheels might be more useful in such an environment than the spindly wheels of our umbrella stroller. Hopefully our next home will have better trails available. Basically, I want to feel connected to my children, not feel super noticeable on the street,not drop a lot of cash, and be able to fold/unfold my stroller in less than 30 seconds. Is that too much to ask?
I have heard nothing but good things about these carriers. I understand that lots of women love them. I also understand that they are very comfortable, in a way kind of like the yoga pants of baby carriers. But I do not like them. I think they are ugly. Even the “designer” ones just have some pretty durned unattractive fabric glued to the outside of a bulky looking, utilitarian pouch. Not the look I’m going for. We may end up getting one, just for Josh, since he’s pretty excited about how comfortable he’s heard they are. As it is, we have a sling I made based off of the Mei Tai kind of sling, which worked really well for Clementine when she was a newborn, and I’m hoping to get a Maya sling for when Gilbert is bigger.
I’ve never tried a Moby, but my first encounter with “baby-wearing” was with a woman who had made her own wrap-sling with just yards and yards of the most beautiful batik fabric. She was so adept at wrapping her baby up that I was in awe and swore I would try it some time. So, maybe I’ll try to make myself a Moby one day…
I’ve carried a Vera Bradley diaper bag in Make Me Blush for over a year now, and have loved it. I do have some complaints, though. For one thing, it’s cloth, which doesn’t hold up well to heavy daily use. I also use it as my purse; so on the few occasions when I’m out and about without a child, it seems a little silly to be carrying a large, cloth, floral bag. My dream is to have a leather diaper bag, since leather ages so well, but I haven’t been able to find a real leather one. All the more stylish diaper bags are faux leather, which actually shows wear and tear worse than cloth, so that wouldn’t be a good long term solution. Besides, they’re expensive! Whoa! Lately, I’ve been carrying an old slouchy leather purse from my pre-mama days with a purse organizer insert for Clementine’s needs, but I know that won’t work for long. My purse is stuffed (it’s no longer slouchy) and Clementine doesn’t even have that much stuff! What am I going to do when I have to carry tons of newborn diapering goods around? I really need to find a very large leather tote, one that can hold as much stuff as a diaper bag, that will look good when I’m just using it as a purse, and that will last for several babies through constant use. Again, too much to ask?
When I was pregnant with Clementine, I checked TheBump.com every week religiously for updates on her growth and what to expect and all that. At about 37 weeks or so, the weekly update suggested that it was time for me to get an easy to maintain, shorter haircut. Wha-, what?!?!?! I was a little confused. For one thing, short haircuts, in my experience, require more upkeep in order to look good, so why would getting my hair chopped off make my life easier post-baby? Second, have they never heard of a ponytail? Third, I don’t think that getting a “mom” haircut is good or even necessary. I mean, it’s such a utilitarian thought to say that once you’re a mom, everything has to revolve around your child. And not only that, but everything has to be super easy, with no reference to your personal style or identity. If you like short haircuts, fine, good, go with it. But if you don’t, I don’t believe that being a mom mandates that you get one.
Motherhood shouldn’t be all-encompassing. Motherhood is a vocation and a hard job and maybe even seems overwhelming at times, but it’s normal. There’s no reason to change your look or rearrange your life drastically because you had a child. Besides, I refuse to believe that every aspect of my life, even my life as a mom, has to be geared towards utility with no regard for beauty. Besides, isn’t part of raising a child teaching them about beauty and forming their aesthetic sense?
Basically, I reject the idea that being a mother will overtake my life, my home, my wardrobe in an invasive and utilitarian way. While I take my vocation seriously, I recognize that, if I do my job right, my children will leave me one day and I will be left alone, with my husband and my God, and I will still have to be me. I will still have to focus on more important things like my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, cultivating beauty, living a good life. I say nay to those who say that I must sacrifice my life, and even my style, at the altar of baby needs. I will not take my decorating mandates from Play Skool. My goal is to remain me, yet a mama; to be a good, loving, and conscientious mother, yet not a slave to my children’s whims or the advertising dictates of a consumerist culture. Perhaps I’m saying I want a simple, normal life with my children, but, while simple is good, beautiful is better. For, as Dostoevsky wisely wrote, beauty will save the world.
*Though I wonder how necessary they really are. I’m sure mothers throughout history have had relatively few baby accessories, yet the species has survived alright, I guess.