Have You Let Yourself Go?

Our lives aren’t the same as they were before having kids, so why do we have to expend so much precious energy trying to look like they are?

Have You Let Yourself Go?It used to be that when people described a woman as having “let herself go” after having kids, they meant she wore sweatpants every day, didn’t brush her hair, weighed 300 pounds, and never donned makeup, even for special nights out. Today’s idea of a woman letting herself go means she can’t fit into size 6 jeans six weeks after giving birth, doesn’t wear makeup when she drops her kids off at school at 7 am, has let her hair naturally go gray (gasp!), eats, and doesn’t take boot camp classes at the gym six days a week.

What’s to blame for this change? I don’t have a Pew Research study to back me up, but I’m willing to bet it’s got a lot to do with our society’s obsession with celebrity mommies. Because women who make their living looking good have moved heaven and earth to look exactly the same after becoming a parent as they did before, that somehow means that we moms who don’t get paid to look good should do the same.

But here’s the thing: You’re actually raising your kids. When a celeb mom insists she’s a hands-on parent and offers a declaration that “I even change the baby’s diapers” as proof, that’s pretty much a dead giveaway that she isn’t. Case in point: Imagine your mother going to her weekly bridge game and bragging to her friends about you, “My daughter is a very hands-on mom. She even changes the baby’s diapers.” See what I mean?

Our lives aren’t the same as it was before having kids, so why do we have to expend so much precious energy trying to look like they are? So here’s my heretical suggestion: Instead of making weight loss your New Year’s resolution, resolve to let yourself go! Here are my top tips for getting started:

  • Forego fashion trends. I remember the exact moment I noticed that women were trading in their bootcut jeans for skinnies and tucking them into boots instead of letting them fall over. Oh, no, I thought, that style is terrible for my body type. I can’t believe I have to start dressing like that now. Then I realized: I don’t have to do a darn thing! I liked bootcut jeans and chunky shoes in the ‘90s, and I like them even better now.
  • Go for mom jeans. You’re a mom, so get the jeans to match—and watch your mummy tummy and muffin top problems disappear without stepping foot in a gym. Besides, today’s mom jeans aren’t quite as high and atrocious as their ‘80s counterparts. If you’re ready to take the plunge, try Lee’s Comfort Fit jeans. Feel better starting halfway? Give Lucky Brand Jean’s curvy Sofia line a whirl.
  • Wear sensible shoes. You won’t believe how good it feels. And then it’ll really be appreciated when you whip out those gold stilettos for a date night.
  • Eat. Food tastes good! Why deny yourself such a pleasurable activity? I know, Beyoncé doesn’t do it, but she doesn’t bargain shop or clean her house, either. If you’re a lawyer and take continuing ed classes on how to get out of a DWI charge, should you expect Beyoncé to do the same? No? So why should you have to bargain shop, clean your house, take continuing ed classes and not eat? Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
  • Only go to the gym if you want to. Some people feel good when they work out and actually do it to de-stress. If you’re one of those people, then you go, girl! If you’re not, don’t sweat it. Running after your toddler all day definitely counts as exercise. And scrubbing last night’s marinara sauce off the stovetop requires some major arm muscles.

Ok, I can hear it now: But people feel better when they look good! Looking like a slob makes you feel bad! Maybe, but I think you still can look good even if you forego fashion trends, wear mom jeans, don sensible shoes, eat, and skip the gym. Especially if you do the following:

  • Invest in a good bra. This might be the best piece of advice I’ve dispensed in two years of blogging. I did this recently, and I’d show you before and after photos, but then I’d have to kill you. Go to a real lingerie shop—the kind where they measure you and know what they’re talking about—instead of buying off the rack at a chain store. The one department store that’s as good as a mom-and-pop (well, probably just mom) shop is Nordstrom. It’s worth the splurge!
  • Wear lipstick. This takes about two seconds to apply, but nothing makes a girl (or 40-year-old woman) feel better than a pair of pretty, pouty lips. I keep a natural shade (nature’s blush by L’Oreal) in each of my frequently used bags and just apply it on the go. For a subtle red color, try Clinique’s apple brandy, and for a pretty pink, go for Clinique’s pink goddess. I’m sure you have your own favorite shades. Use them!
  • Wear fun stuff. Got your eye on a diaper bag with a big flashy gold peace sign? How about jeans with a little glitter on the tuchas? Go for it! Wearing fun stuff is, well, fun.
  • Stay healthy. Ok, I know I just came out in favor of eating and skipping the gym if you don’t like going, but of course you’re not going to feel good or be a good role model to your kids if your lifestyle isn’t healthy. But instead of trying to look like a supermodel, why don’t we follow the same advice experts say to give our kids: Focus on healthy choices instead of weight. Go for your annual physical this year and see if you’re weight is in the healthy range. You might be surprised! Chances are good that you can steal your kids’ Halloween candy and still be at a healthy weight. Especially if you regularly join in your kids’ game of tag or dance marathon instead of always sitting on the sidelines.
  • Go all out sometimes. After wearing mom jeans and sensible shoes all week, you’ll really feel good—and appreciated!—when date night rolls around.  

I say all this somewhat in jest, but I mean it, too. Sure, Heidi Klum looked great when she sashayed down the Victoria’s Secret runway eight weeks after giving birth, but that’s because she spent those eight weeks working out instead of bonding with her newborn baby. I’m sorry, but you just can’t have it both ways.

Even if you yell at your kids daily instead of concocting “natural consequences” for their actions, and even if their entire wardrobes consist of hand-me-downs, I’m willing to bet that your kids are going to grow up to be happier and better adjusted than North West. (Would a “hands-on” mom saddle her child with a name like that?)

So this January, resolve to fit in exercise by having your daughter teach you her dance routine when she gets home from class. Cook healthy meals as a rule, but go for sundaes at Friendly’s once in a while. If that’s letting myself go, then sign me up!

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Essex County Real Mom Anna Sandler lives happily ever after with her Jersey-raised husband and three NYC-born children in the land of jug handles and disco fries. She loves baking and crafting with her kids, even if everything they make doesn't turns out Pinterest-perfect. Anna has never met a holiday she doesn't want to celebrate, and enjoys sharing ideas for everyday fun (indoor beach party, anyone?), as well as how to commemorate bigger moments from birthdays to first days of school.

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