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Because It’s High Time For a Manifesto

By Amalah

(Not exactly a Q&A today, but…eh. Is my column and I feel like yakking about myself instead.)
I had a dream last night where a woman stopped me on the street and started shrieking and pointing and telling me that I needed to shave my legs.
(I should point out that I was, in fact, wearing pants, which possibly makes the dream even more disturbing, depending on how you look at it.)
I woke up this morning and realized that she was very, very right. Also that I was not wearing pants.
Even though I’ve addressed it before, a lot of moms have asked how to not become That Frumpy Mom. The mom who slobs off around the house in sweatpants and who has to take a moment before greeting her significant other at the end of the day because oh crap, did I remember to brush my teeth today?
If you’d asked me this question a year ago– or maybe even just six months ago — I would have been all, “Durr” brush your teeth and don’t buy sweatpants?!
HA. Oh, hubris.
Y’all, I’ve become That Frumpy Mom. I don’t shower until Noah goes down for his nap — which isn’t until lunchtime some days, and by that point I’m in the weeds writing-wise so I rarely give myself more than 10 minutes. Not exactly conducive for leg shaving or even making sure I’ve rinsed the shampoo completely out. If I don’t have anywhere to go that day, I skip my hair and makeup completely, toss on WHATEVER and then park my ass back on the couch.
The result of week after week of this routine? Frump. Flat, dried-out hair. Splotchy, tired skin. Ashy elbows. A four-month-old pedicure.
I remember reading somewhere, a loooong time ago, that people who work from home should resist the “I’m working in my pyjamas!” temptation and continue to go through the complete motions of getting ready for work in the morning. Even if your commute is just down the hall, you should shower, get dressed, put on makeup, whatever — and have it all done by the same time every morning. The theory being, of course, that if you look professional, you’ll feel professional. And also: increased productivity, serious of purpose, self esteem and the ability to begin and end your workday instead of letting it morph into an “I’m at home, therefore I’m at work, so I guess I better check my email during dinner and before bed” kind of mentality, which naturally leads to a lot of stress and feeling like a slave to a day job that never ends.
Yes. Yes. I get all that. And I’ll start working on it…um. Next week. Sometime.
Then I read this interview with Laura Bennett from Project Runway — she of the impeccable signature style and SIX CHILDREN — at (part of their “Still Me: The Cool Mom’s Guide to Staying Hip” series):

I do expect women to take time for themselves and not put themselves completely last behind their families and children. To try taking care of yourself and see if that makes you feel better and see if that benefits your family.

I don’t expect women to do it exactly the way that I do it; that’s not what I’m suggesting. If your upgrade in your clothing is a nice pair of trousers and loafers, then my advice is to try it for a week. Get dressed every day a little bit nicer than you would’ve and see if it makes a difference in your day. See if you feel better. See if people treat you better. I guarantee that it’ll happen.

I want to keep encouraging women to take the time to take care of themselves and spend a few extra minutes on themselves in the mornings and see if it doesn’t benefit their families by boosting their own self-esteem and nourishing their own souls.

Oh my hell, I love that woman.
Look: motherhood is a job all on its own. And it’s a tough job. Rewarding and precious, but tough. We do tend to put ourselves last. We’re embarassed to admit we occasionally use a babysitter or desperately want a cleaning service. I faithfully drop off Jason’s drycleaning and buy warm clothes for Noah and yet still haven’t taken five minutes to sew a button back on my own winter coat.
And the result of week after week of THIS routine? Anxiety. Creeping dissatisfaction. And hot damn, I feel about as womanly and romantic as a garden slug.
So I have decided to take the Laura Bennett Challenge. Every morning, no matter what, I’m taking a damn shower at a reasonable time. I’ll take care of my skin and put a little makeup on. Maybe I’ll even dig out the blowdryer and the root lift. I’ll wear clothes that I could actually wear OUT IN PUBLIC.
Even if this means an extra half hour of Noggin for Noah, I hope to make it up to him with a trip to the playground when he wakes up from his nap because I won’t be still stuggling to pull myself together at 1 pm. And I’ll step away from the computer at 5 pm, no matter what.
I’ll report back on my progress in a week. Anyone care to join me as I Fight the Frump?
Please join us again tomorrow for our regularly scheduled Advice Smackdown programming.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • JunieB

    November 9, 2006 at 10:17 am

    I’m in! I’ve actually already started a mini-anti-frump campaign by wearing my shoes all day instead of sliding around in my socks. On Day Two, I can report sore feet and the beginnings of a blister, but I’m going to keep at it.

  • Zoot

    November 9, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Okay, seriously? I do the no shower, no makeup, wrinkled clothes thing and I LEAVE THE HOUSE TO WORK. So,that makes me, like, ten times worse, doesnt it?
    So, yeah. I’m up for it.

  • Beth Ramsey

    November 9, 2006 at 11:56 am

    I’m in too. Like Zoot I leave the house for work, but I only shower every other day, minimal makeup, hairy eyebrows, and unshaven legs. And my clothes are wrinkled beyond belief… Let’s get fabulous!

  • Beth Ramsey

    November 9, 2006 at 11:57 am

    I’m in too. Like Zoot I leave the house for work, but I only shower every other day, minimal makeup, hairy eyebrows, and unshaven legs. And my clothes are wrinkled beyond belief… Let’s get fabulous!

  • Isabel Kallman

    Isabel Kallman

    November 9, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    yeah! I want to see before and after pictures, too. Okay?

  • queenann

    November 9, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    I have a story that might help- it has always helped me.
    In 1976, mom was an Army pilot’s wife with 3 kids under the age of 4 in CA with NO family for 2,500 miles. She had an “Avon lady” call one day around 1:00 and she was still in her nightgown, even though the 3 of us were dressed, fed, etc.
    The Avon lady, an older woman, took one look at my mom, came in, sat down, took her hand & gave her some advice. She said that no matter how tired or stressed you are, you should always spend a few minutes every morning for yourself: shower*, do your hair, put on clean clothes & a little makeup. If you get nothing else done that day, you’ve at least done that, and you will feel better for it.
    (*or whatever)
    I have taken this seriously and unless I am sick or there is an emergency, I follow this rule. As a person who deals with clinical depression, this really helps me to keep on track and also keep feeling good about myself on days where it is harder to do so.
    Note: Shaving is an exception- most natural blondes can take a few extra days between shaving- this perk makes up for having to stay out of the sun!

  • MotherBumper

    November 9, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    I’ll do it and report back – thanks for the challenge Amy! It’s just what I needed (read my last post – mommyhood is kicking my ass).

  • patchuga

    November 9, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    I fight the frump by taking my shower before the kids get up. To do this, I have to actively wake up before they do. Luckily i have kids who sleep in.
    I take a shower, dress, go downstairs and once my hair has air dried enough, blow dry and style.
    My new favorite concealer–we need concealer, to fight the frump, because children, they make us tired and we look tired–is Burt’s Bees’ concealer. Doesn’t spill, is easy to pat on, and you can even tuck it in your pocket if you’re the type to forget to put it on until you’re in the car and spy yourself in the rearview mirror.
    I cannot stress the importance of a regular pedicure when one is pregnant. Seriously, you can’t reach your feet and even if they’re puffy, it helps morale to see pretty polish on them.

  • cagey

    November 9, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    My Shower M.O. is to get out of bed just BEFORE my kid wakes up – sometimes, on Special Days, I even
    get in a peaceful cup of coffee before he wakes up.
    If I don’t take a shower every day, it affects my mood. If I don’t shower right when I get out of bed, it gets delayed, which also affects my mood because it delays me getting out the house. It’s a slippery slope from there where I find myself at the bottom, not having left the house all day. And THAT, for damned sure, AFFECTS MY MOOD.
    Makeup-wise, I try to at least put put on foundation. I will admit that I am letting my hair grow out for the express purpose that it is easier for me to maintin by just clipping it back. I gave up having fashionable hair back in my 20s, so that’s not a great loss, anyway. And with my hair type, I HAVE to wash it everyday. No option there because otherwise it is greasy by evening.
    However, I haven’t figured out the “shaving the legs” thing. Every once in awhile, I tell myself I am going to do it on a regular basis, then I get all Sasquatch-like yet AGAIN.

  • heels

    November 9, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    I, too, leave the house to work. I found myself wallowing in excuses for not taking care of myself, and just recently started my own personal campaign of “Take Back Mommy Time” so that I don’t go off the deep and and murder my husband. It was getting that bad.
    So I had my first haircut in over a year (yikes- I know!) and I finally took care of my overwhelming eyebrows. I’m trying to bring little things back each week. It’s already been good for me. I have more confidence to dress nicely (instead of my BCBG “nice” sweats and a sweater- my work uniform for a while). I actually have been wearing my heels again. It’s been great!

  • b

    November 9, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Um, as I read this at 1:06 p.m. in pink sweat pants and a University of Iowa tee-shirt I say “Hell yes, I am in!”
    I have told myself on more than one occasion-yes just get your ass out of bed before the kids-but my one year old is up as early as 6 a.m. I yawn and get all bleary eyed just thinking of waking at an hour that begins with 5.
    But I’ll be damned, I’m in. I wanna fight the frump so I will figure something out that works in the next week.

  • barnmouse

    November 9, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    Okay…I’m in! I’ve just given myself a manicure AND a pedicure!!! Of course, I had to take of the two (different shades) layers of polish that had…umm…halfway grown out on my toes. Oops…how did that happen? 😉
    I’m looking forward to seeing how well this works. I have high hopes! 🙂

  • adkgal

    November 9, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    My older daughter, now 2, has taken it upon herself to put the girl back into the mom. Despite my best intentions to raise a kcik-ass little tomboy I have a frilly, pink, princess lovin’ little girl (who, by the way, can deadlift a 15 pound medicine ball). Anyway, if I try to work a little Cybil Shepard magic and throw on tennis shoes with my work clothes she’ll look at me, shake her head and say, “Mommy? No, mommy, no Daddy shoes.” And then she brings me heels. So for the last week and half I’ve worn heels and I’ll be damned if I don’t feel a hell of a lot sexier. Coolest thing, today she said, “Mommy, hiking boots? Put on.” I’m all about balance, literally and fashionably.

  • Shawnee

    November 10, 2006 at 10:28 am

    I don’t have kids yet & generally keep myself fairly well-groomed. (The words “generally” & “fairly” are important here. I don’t iron, ever. Some days, a ponytail is as close to a hairstyle as I can get. And there are a pair of pink yoga pants that should definitely be burned, I wear them so much. And I don’t even do yoga.)
    But I can totally relate to the sentiment behind this. My husband has no problem buying himself “toys” (sports equipment, electronics) or taking the day off to go golfing, while I feel inordinately guilty spending money on myself & have trouble relaxing because of all the things I “should” be doing. I routinely nag him & my mom to eat better, get more sleep, take vitamins . . . while I eat Cheez-Its for lunch, get roughly 5 hours of sleep a night & my vitamins expire before I ever open the bottle.
    So I will take your challenge to take care of & even pamper myself as I do others, & without the guilt. If I get in the habit now, hopefully it won’t be (as much of) an issue once we have kids. I certainly don’t want to pass this behavior on to the next generation.
    Anyone want to go Coach shopping with me this weekend?? There’s a bag I’ve had my eye on . . .

  • Anne Glamore

    November 10, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    I’m up for the challenge. I NEED the challenge. I think it will improve my mental state as well.
    My sister thinks I’m crazy, but for a while i tried shaving just one leg every couple of days and it was quick and better than nothing at all.

  • CallistaWolf

    November 11, 2006 at 12:37 am

    OMG, I totally need to do this. I feel like there are days where I DEFINE the word frump.