A story about trying to dress myself as a mother

Now, I have jeggings. L told me about them. We were at a music class with our babies, and maybe 30 other babies. It was an unusually crowded music class. B and I got there late and when we opened the door to the cacophony and I set B down on the floor he reached back up to me with what seemed like a look of mild horror. Maybe one day he’ll discuss it in therapy.

 The man hosting the music class — teaching it? I’m not sure we learned — is a very skilled musician. But I’m not sure that he likes kids. To me there was not a lot of joy in his eyes as he sang his original compositions about Brooklyn and dumped tambourines on the floor for the babies to wrestle over. 

But maybe I’m projecting, because I’m not a baby person myself. I’m also not a musician, not since high school orchestra, but if I was inspired to pick up my cello again it wouldn’t be in a room full of under-twos. Back in the summer when we took B to see my mother she remarked, You’re not really a baby person are you? and I cheerfully said: Nope!

I love my own kid, in fact I think he is the most interesting person in the world. And I love L’s son and my friends’ other kids, the babies in my mom support group, B’s other baby friends. But babies as a genre? No, they’re not for me.

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Clothing is something I’ve long cared about, however. I used to think about it a lot more than I used to think about babies. People who know me might find this surprising because I wouldn’t say I am a woman of outstanding style. I suppose there was a phase in my late-is twenties where I dressed with a bolder hand, took more risks, but most of my life my interest in fashion has been around how I could use it to seem…normal?

Or to achieve success, as if wearing the right kind of thing could propel me into being the right kind of person. I think a lot of people believe in this. Sometimes it works. I can think of a number of times when wearing a dress or a pair of trainers that felt right for an occasion meant that I entered a space with more confidence than usual, and left with what I wanted to get.

Some of these times I was dressing to impress other people. But most of them I am pretty sure I was dressing to impress myself, so that I could look in the mirror and think: Yes, normal.  Sometimes this has let me justify spending more time and more money on an outfit or an item than someone else might think worthwhile, which is maybe why I don’t often share the details of this particular preoccupation.

Now, I’m preoccupied with the question of how to dress like a normal mother. Not just for the obvious reasons of changes to my body — yes, it’s different postpartum, but I’d already stopped wearing the dresses that looked good when I was 27. It’s more that I’m not sure how to dress for this occasion, for this season, for this constant sitting on the floor. Sometimes at baby-centric gatherings I am conscious that I am the only adult sitting in the sofa, and I wonder if people look at me and think: Jean is not really a baby person.

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But I was sitting on the floor in that music class in a decade-old sweater and leggings with the other babies and parents and the tambourines and the possibly disaffected musician. I looked at my feet and thought, Well done to me for wearing a pair of matching socks! L pointed at another mother with a lovely outfit and smooth blonde hair and said, Why does she look good, why is there always a mother who looks really put together? and I said, Ugh I know! and we shook our heads for a moment and then L said, I got these really great jeggings from Madewell and I said, Amazing, that is exactly what I need for my life as a mother! and then I went home and ordered some and now, I have jeggings. They’re black and perfectly OK and they acquired a smear of oatmeal on the knee on Saturday morning and still wore them for the rest of the weekend.

I could tell you that’s something I never would have done before. But I feel like that statement vaguely implies that there might have been jeggings and oatmeal in my previous life, just not worn for three days, and it’s more foreign than that. If I was a more important person on the internet I guess this could be sponsored content? But I’m not. So it’s just a story about trying to dress myself as a mother, a person who I’m still getting to know.

JHE

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