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To Bra or not to Bra: With Sons, That Is The Question

To Bra or not to Bra: With Sons, That Is The Question

By Mir Kamin

Today’s question is a great big issue disguised in a short little question.

E writes:

I have 2 boys, 11 and 14. My husband doesn’t want me to be braless around them in my home any more. I am not large and I am wearing covering clothing (nothing revealing). I don’t think I need to wear a bra in my home under a total covering shirt. Sigh. I never leave the house without a bra and when my kids’ friends are over, I wear one. My mom said to wear one all the time and my husband is correct: rein them in or wear 2 shirts. What do you think?

I think I read this question fully through three times while doing my best Britney impression, is what I think.

Listen, different cultures have different body and modesty norms, and even within relatively homogenous cultures, different people feel different ways about certain things. Plenty of places in Europe have nude beaches and everyone there thinks it’s perfectly normal. On the other end of the spectrum, even here in the U.S.—land of the booty shorts—there are various religions and cultures which view an exposed knee or neck as aggressively sexual and/or inappropriate. Here in America we are also quite adept in the art of valuing youth and foisting a separate set of norms on older women. My point is: There’s a lot of variance in what’s accepted as “okay,” and this is (mostly) neither good nor bad. It simply is.

I have no idea if you belong to a culture wherein bralessness is seen as somehow inappropriate, but I am going to assume you don’t for the purposes of this response, because you’re asking the question, which indicates to me that you’re just a “regular” (whatever that is!) person trying to figure out what’s up with your husband and mom’s response, here.

Please allow me ramble a bit on a few different thoughts.

First: there was a time when a woman in public without a corset would’ve been seen as scandalous. Over time we have scaled back on what our society deems to be “necessary” undergarments for women. While I would agree that if there’s a norm here, it’s that most women wear bras, plenty of women never do. Have you ever seen a sign that says, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Bra, No Service?” You haven’t, because we no longer police people’s undergarments (thank goodness). Even assuming that the bra-wearers are in the majority, most women do not wear bras under pajamas or sleep in them, and most women with children do periodically move around the comfort of their private homes in their pajamas without worrying about scarring their impressionable children. You’re not talking about walking around shirtless; you’re talking about removing an uncomfortable undergarment while all of your should-stay-covered bits stay covered. Your husband’s and mother’s attitudes are baffling me, here, on this score alone.

Second: Our culture is second to none when it comes to oversexualizing breasts. I mean, show me a news outlet without a recent story about someone freaking out over a woman breastfeeding a baby where they might be seen and I will show you a bridge I have for sale. I have known many children and teenagers. I have raised two children who are now teenagers. I feel confident in telling you that as long as you are covered, the chances of your sons even noticing that you are not wearing a bra are somewhere between slim and none. Do you know why? Because even the most libido-fueled walking testosterone factories do not want to think about their mothers in that way. I promise. If anything, I find those cautioning you here to be the ones who maybe need to do some soul-searching about their sexualization of women in general and you in particular.

Third: I really believe in home being a sanctuary, personally. Sometimes I wear my pajamas all day long at home, even though I obviously wouldn’t wear them out in public. I wear old clothes and sometimes I let my hair do whatever it wants to do and sometimes I eat over the sink without a plate. My point is that I think it’s worth exploring whether your home is a place where certain behaviors are okay because it’s home/family, even if they’re not ideal for public consumption. If the conclusion is that yes, home is different from other places—more laid back, etc.—then feeling that children in the home mean you can no longer relax without a bra there seems counterintuitive to me.

Fourth: A great way to teach our children to be ashamed of their bodies and to oversexualize the opposite sex is to be ashamed of our bodies and act like the opposite sex should be shielded from them lest they become contaminated or something. Again, I’m not necessarily advocating parading around your house naked (although, again, in some cultures that’s the norm!), but refusing to ever be braless in their presence or habitually wearing two shirts lest your boys figure out that you have nipples is only going to result in men who believe breasts are both mystical and shameful. If you going braless is no big deal, your kids won’t think it’s a big deal, either. (I’ll caution here, though, that if your husband still thinks it’s a big deal, the kids will pick up on that.)

Fifth: No two co-parents are going to agree on everything. Negotiations along the way are par for the course. This is a unique situation, I guess, but I am troubled by the fact that your coparent is essentially policing your wardrobe in the name of “correct” parenting. I am not convinced that anything you choose to wear inside your house which would not get you arrested for indecency outside the house is up for debate. Again, I know there are cultural issues that can come into play, here, but from where I sit, this sounds an awful lot like body-shaming dressed up as a parenting concern.

For me, the bottom line is that going braless in the home is neither lewd nor unusual, yet two family members are projecting their own antiquated notions of appropriateness onto you. Unless your mother is raising your kids (assuming she’s not!), her opinion on this matter is irrelevant. Your husband, however, cannot just be dismissed. Much more important than his opinion on your wardrobe is why he’s taking issue with this, what fears this edict is covering, and how you move together in a united way to both raise your boys into healthy men and make sure that you’re both comfortable with yourselves and your parenting choices. This isn’t about your bras or lack thereof. This is about body positivity, gender roles, sexuality, and shame. Start talking now to get to the real root of this issue, so that you can teach your boys the lessons you want them to learn instead of the byproducts of your husband’s and/or your hang-ups. Good luck!

Readers! Don’t forget that you can submit your own burning questions to alphamomteens [at] gmail [dot] com!

Photo source: Depositphotos/yanmingzhang


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About the Author

Mir Kamin

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now ...

Mir Kamin began writing about her life online over a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she’s become one of those people who talks to her dogs in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she’s continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she’s bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.

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  • Myriam

    September 21, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I’d add that your sons are most likely “not turned on” by their mom’s breasts, even if you’re not wearing a bra… Your husband might be, but this is a very different relationship! Does he notice if his mom wears one?

  • Vickie

    September 21, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I am home a lot. I am in comfy clothes a lot. And I wear a sports bra all the time. Really comfy kind. Even sleep in it. It is more comfortable, for me, for sleeping than braless. I do all this mostly because it really helps prevent sagging. (Like I wish my mother had told me never to go braless.)

    Added benefit is I am more comfortable with kids’ friends in and out and answering the door.

    And we are a naked kind of family too. Like if I am in the tub, kids will stick their heads in door to ask me something. So we are not overly modest. But I am still pro bra.

    So the kind of bra you wear might be a compromise in this situation. Big difference between a bra you would wear to an office or event, and a stretchy/comfy bra.

    And they do make cami’s and other sports wear and pj’s with built in bras. So that layer might be an option, especially if you are small busted.

    • Mir

      September 21, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      I have to bring up two issues, here. First of all, wearing a bra regularly may actually increase breast sagging, so let’s please not perpetuate the myth that wearing a bra counteracts sag. It does not. It holds your breasts up while you are wearing it and that is all.

      Second, you are more comfortable in a bra. Wonderful! I think you should wear one, then! But I am unsure why a good compromise in this situation is that the OP wear something she doesn’t want to wear, simply because she has been informed that her breast are somehow inappropriate. If she wants to find a comfy “house bra,” I think that’s obviously up to her either way. But I saw this more as a question about whether it is inappropriate/wrong to be braless around your sons, to which I still say “Hell no.”

      • Vickie

        September 21, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        Honestly, I had tube socks with sand type of breasts. And had them redone. No implants, just lift and excess skin removed. Really happy. Not taking any chances with the new ones. 🙂

        • irishredhead

          September 22, 2017 at 4:27 am

          That’s probably more to do with pregnancy and (possibly) breastfeeding that not wearing a bra.

  • irishredhead

    September 22, 2017 at 4:26 am

    If you don’t want to wear a bra, don’t. It’s your home too, so why do you have to be less comfortable to accommodate your husbands irrational fear?
    Boobs are nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Nena

    September 23, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    This used to be a dilemma for me too. I know how comfortable and freeing it is to go braless. When my son was growing up, I didn’t wear a bra when at home. Then, I chose to go braless only when I sleep and when I’m alone in the house. My son became a teenager, that’s what happened. I don’t know, maybe because of how I was brought up? Or maybe because when I was braless he stared at my breasts when he talked to me? Now, I don’t care anymore. I’m back to my braless freedom at home. I was too lazy to wear a bra whenever he gets home from school. We both got used to it. Happy ending.

  • Liz Miller

    September 27, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    My son is 15. I go braless around him when I’m in my jammies. And since the advent of the HOT FLASHES FROM LITERALLY HELL, I occasionally go outside without a bra on, as long as the top I’m wearing provides some support (princess seams, they are your friend). And I am anywhere from a G cup to an I cup depending on the bra manufacturer.

    Not only does my son not even notice, neither does my husband.

    Wear only what YOU want.

    On that front, does your husband wear a dance belt or jock strap when he’s in the house with you? If he can’t stand your bits jiggling, his shouldn’t be jiggling either!

  • mememe123

    December 8, 2017 at 9:11 am

    I think you should wear a sports bra or something around sons. I do and I have daughters. It’s not about “body positivism” its about modesty and decency. My husband walks around in his underwear all the time. All three of my girls and my granddaughter (and me) have asked him to wear pants, but he refuses. They really don’t want to see him in his underwear. We have to be sure to tell him when a friend is over so he doesn’t come out without pants. Hell , I don’t even want to see it all the time.