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Pajama Politics

The Politics of Pajamas

By Amalah

I used to wake up every morning for work before my husband did. I would shower and get dressed in suits and heels and I wore makeup and blow-dried my hair every day.

Bounce Back ArchivesAnd then I had a baby and went on maternity leave. The first couple weeks, when I had some help, were okay — and then I got a crash course in having to manage mornings on my own and things took a sharp turn toward the frump. Showers happened later and later (if at all), and I was regularly kissing my husband goodbye with morning breath and oily hair and face, in my jammies or (oh God) a dowdy bathrobe. Maybe a sexy burp rag tossed over my shoulder. Obviously, what I looked like in the morning wasn’t a secret to him anymore, or anything, but dammit, I didn’t like his parting shot of me every day to resemble a sick day, or a stay-in-bed-and-be-sad day, or maybe how he probably remembered his mom looking in the morning before school.

I actually looked forward to going back to work the first time  JUST so I could have a reason to force myself to look presentable — but after transitioning to working at home and the second baby, oh, man. Not good. So I developed some rules.

Amalah’s Stay-at-Home Mom Rules

1. Thou must not still be wearing pajamas when your spouse returns from work. Put anything, ANYTHING, else on, so it’s clear you spent at least a few measly minutes on yourself during the day.

2. Brush thy teeth first thing, no matter what. Do not pass go, do not go to the crib, do not do anything until your teeth are brushed.

3. Thou shalt spend a moment with an oil-absorbing sheet. Thou shalt not regret it. Trust me.

4. Don’t ignore thine hair. Applying dry shampoo or blasting your roots with hairspray before you go to bed will change your hair’s life in the morning.


Maternity leave and beyond, I swear: every bad day I’ve had staying (OR WORKING) at home is a day I skipped the getting dressed part. “Working at home in your pajamas” sounds really nice, but for me it was a black hole where all my self-respect went to die. Even a simple upgrade to nice-ish gym wear would drastically improve my mood and ability to get things done.

(And let’s not even mention the days that I forgot we had someone stopping by to inspect the HVAC or deliver a package or rewire a ceiling fan and I had to answer the door at 2 pm looking like I just rolled out of bed, while my children were running around in THEIR pajamas and the house was a mess and I was just like, yeah, hey, come on in, WELCOME TO HELL.)

Plus, you know, I do still kind of want my husband to think I’m pretty in the mornings.

Does anyone else care about this, either for your own self-esteem or concerns over what your partner thinks? Did anyone else miss the whole get-up-and-ready-for-work routine — either now, or maybe just when you were on maternity leave? What are your first-thing-in-the-morning tricks of presentability? Fancy sexy bathrobe? A super-fast makeup or hair trick? Sneaking out of bed to get cleaned up and beautified before getting back in bed to play completely innocent like my roommate in college used to do when her boyfriend stayed over?

(Not making that up, but sincerely hope she was the only wackaloon who does that.)

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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  • Katie

    June 29, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    After 6 months at home, I am back at work now… but, oh my goodness, my morning routine is a shadow of what it once was! And, yes, I miss it! I feel bad about it (the half ironed shirts, the still-wet hair in a ponytail), but I can’t seem to avoid it! No matter how early I get up, I end up filling the time with nursing and changing diapers. My tricks to stay sane: never skip a morning shower even if there isn’t time to blowdry, stash hygeine essentials (deoderant, basic makeup, toothbrush) in my desk just in case I forget something in the morning rush, put on a pair of diamond earrings, and smile! When I’m home, I know my husband understands and doesn’t care. For my own mental state, getting showered and dressed make a world of difference.

  • kari weber

    June 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I go through this every summer.  As a teacher, I manage (somehow!) from September to June, but then it seems to go to pot fairly quickly from there.  I found that if I just get up and get dressed right away I can help fight the frump.  Otherwise, it can be difficult.  I like the idea of brushing your teeth before you do ANYTHING! That is something I think I will try.

  • Lacey (Laptops to Lullabies)

    June 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I agree completely. I’ve been on maternity leave for seven weeks now — my son is three weeks old — and I’ve been determined to fight the frump. It’s been super hot, so I’m only wearing a nursing bra and capri yoga pants most of the time. But I brush my teeth, wash my face, apply moisturizer, brush my hair, etc. a couple of times a day/night (since the day and night blend together now!). My best trick is applying some blush to my cheeks, and adding a little tinted lipgloss. It makes me feel SO MUCH MORE HUMAN when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Seriously, makeup = lifesaver.

  • Lacey (Laptops to Lullabies)

    June 29, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I agree completely. I’ve been on maternity leave for seven weeks now — my son is three weeks old — and I’ve been determined to fight the frump. It’s been super hot, so I’m only wearing a nursing bra and capri yoga pants most of the time. But I brush my teeth, wash my face, apply moisturizer, brush my hair, etc. a couple of times a day/night (since the day and night blend together now!). My best trick is applying some blush to my cheeks, and adding a little tinted lipgloss. It makes me feel SO MUCH MORE HUMAN when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Seriously, makeup = lifesaver.

  • Hi, I'm Natalie.

    June 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    After 13 months at home with baby, I’m going back to work starting next Wednesday. I CAN’T WAIT to look like a put-together grownup again. (I’m impressed with people who can work from home and still find the motivation to look decent during the day!)

  • HereWeGoAJen

    June 29, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I get me dressed and the baby dressed before we go downstairs every morning. I have a drawer full of baby toys in the bathroom and she plays with that and takes all of my hair stuff out of the drawer she’s not supposed to play with and throws it on the floor. That pretty much keeps her busy so that I can get dressed and do my hair and such. (I still haven’t put enough effort into getting makeup and jewelry on each day, I usually get one or the other, but not both. I have no idea why.) Then I get the baby dressed and we go downstairs. But I shower at night, not enough time in the morning.

  • Susan

    June 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I started working out in the morning before everyone got up. It started out innocently enough, just go walking at 6am. Then I tried the Couch 2 5k running program (thankyouverymuch!) and now I switch off running and walking. Even on days I work, there’s nothing better than sneaking in a little exercise the second I roll out of bed. On days that I’m forced to skip (or FORCED to hit snooze a few times, *yawn*) I never feel quite as good as when I get up and out.

  • Catherine S

    June 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I am 5 weeks PP with son number 2 and the first son is 21 months. The non negotiables are shower, deoderant, brush hair, and moisturizer. MOST days I manage makeup too. I will not be the dumpy mom who wears pj bottoms to the grocery store and looks like she hasn’t had a good hair day in 3 years. My self respect and self esteem are too important to let that stuff slide. My house can fall down around me, but I will look cute while it happens. I want my husband and sons to respect me and they won’t unless I care for myself.

  • Bonnie

    June 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I’m pregnant with my first, and reading things like this makes parenthood sound awful. Not because you don’t look so pretty all the time, necessarily, but because it sounds like feeling human and happy is a constant fight.

  • Elizabeth

    June 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    OMG, this is my life right now. I’m home with my 7 month old, and sometimes there’s a mad dash to get dressed when my husband calls to say he’s on his way home. I try to be dressed after baby’s morning nap, and at least wash my face. I used to wear post earrings everyday, but one of Amalah’s posts about fearing ear tearing has scarred me — once baby grabbed my ear and I can’t do it any more!

  • Laurie

    June 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    When I was staying home with my baby showers didn’t always happen until daddy came home but I always tried to put in my contacts, brush my teeth and wash my face. As long as I was washing my face I could usually manage to put on some tinted moisturizer and mascara. And I always put on clothes. Usually just jeans and a tshirt (or nursing tank and hoodie) but real clothes I could go outside in.

    Now my son is almost three, I’ve been back at work for a year and a half and I’m missing the days of jeans and tshirts!

  • Di

    June 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    * stash deodorant in the kitchen. That was you can apply while making coffee.

    * baby wipes are your friends. If they can work wonders on a baby, imagine what they do for stinky moms!

    * get an easy hairstyle. Mine is super short, and I can shape it without looking.

    * tinted moisturizer and tinted lipbalm.

  • BKC

    June 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Preach it. On my maternity leave I found that if I didn’t get dressed first thing in the morning, it would never happen and I would never leave the house, and then I’d get all depressed that I went a whole day without seeing any other people.

    My trick was one that’s recommended for preschoolers: lay out your clothes the night before. When you wake up and see the pile of clothes that you coordinated the night before, it makes it harder to give up and spend another day in a robe.

  • Julia

    June 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    So I have a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old and I have showered every single day of my adult life.  Not because I am some super-woman who finds balancing my life easy but because I just cannot stand to skip a shower in the morning.  I think it is partly because my hair is curly and I have to get it wet to style it anyway.  Or I am vain? Or have some terrible OCD cleanliness issue?  Anyway, I think you make time for the stuff that absolutely you HAVE to have to feel OK and for me, that is a shower and real clothes everyday.

  • Heidi

    June 29, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I also work from home and have an 11 month old. He goes to daycare part time and so that’s one of my big motivations to get ready every day – I can’t drop him off in my pj’s and feel good about it. My trick is getting up at the crack of dawn to get a work out in and at least bathe before he wakes up. Trick #2 is a bouncer/jumper in the bathroom that keeps him happy long enough to at least put on a little makeup, do my hair quickly, and get dressed. If I have to squeeze in a few extra minutes during his morning nap I do that too. I agree, I can’t be as productive or feel good about myself if I stay in my jammies all day.

  • Melissa

    June 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t quite make it to “presentable before husband leaves,” as the baby still wakes up several times at night, and we’ve established a routine that if I do all of the night wakings, husband will get up at 6am with the baby so that I can have one blissful hour of uninterrupted sleep. So then at 7, he brings the baby to me, and generally we lay in bed — the baby talking to me and grabbing my face, me trying to pull myself out of sleep. Husband is out the door by 7:15. I suppose I could forgo this sleep and use the time to look presentable, but until the baby wakes up less than 4 times, it’s probably not going to happen.

    But anyway, I do use first nap to take a shower every morning. First nap isn’t so long, but I have enough time to shower, blow-dry and dress in a pretty respectable manner before Sir Baby demands to rise again.

    Doing so helps my days IMMENSELY.

  • Chelsea

    June 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    I take my shower at night, when the baby is in bed. I’m fortunate enough to have thick and coarse enough hair to get away with blowing my hair out at night and just styling in the morning. I’ve got my morning routine including full makeup and styling down to less than 15 minutes. I am also extraordinarily vain, so if the baby fusses 5 minutes for me to feel human, then so be it.

  • Bonnie

    June 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    “’Working at home in your pajamas’ sounds really nice, but for me it was a black hole where all my self-respect went to die.”
    OMG I laughed so hard when I read this! I had to leave my job early in the pregnancy due to complications and dizzy spells, and the first few weeks I was just too exhausted to even get out of bed if I didn’t have to. Once the symptoms started to get a lot easier to deal with I felt 1000% better if I just threw on some jeans and a tshirt, even if I just went to lay down on the couch instead of the bed. It made me feel a little bit more like a person again. As for any tricks I have, I have none other than that I only even shower every 3 days because my skin would shrivel up and die if I did so any more often. Believe it or not if you do this, your body will adjust once it figures out it doesn’t need to produce as much oil to compensate for what you’re taking away from it on a daily basis. Of course that’s probably just not possible for a lot of people who live in really hot, humid places. It also helps to have super thick, curly hair that benefits from being washed less often.

  • Jaymee

    June 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Does it count if you change from one set of PJ’s to a clean set of PJ’s?

  • Kathleen

    June 30, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Even before kids, I was writing a dissertation at home. And I discovered that I had to at least upgrade to yoga pants and something involving a bra to keep any self respect or motivation. This turned out to be even more true when my pj’s started getting burped up on!

  • From Belgium

    June 30, 2010 at 7:24 am

    I showered in the evening, washed my hair in the morning and took make up and hair supply’s to the office.

    Since traffic is killer it gave me a good hour to do my make up and hair in the car. Often I could get my nails done too. When I was at home with our daughter I would just shower when she took her nap. Sure sometimes I had to dash from the shower to the crib in nothing but a towel, but hey at least I was clean.

  • Ruth

    June 30, 2010 at 7:29 am

    I’m one of those people, too, who NEEDS to shower every day. I’ve also got the curly hair that once slept on looks like a rat’s nest. So, Baby is 3 months old and I’ve only missed one (two?) days of showering. Shower, deodorant, and go-outside-the-house-without-looking-like-I-belong-at-Walmart-at-2am clothes are a must to keep me from losing my mind.

  • Julie

    June 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Maybe it’s because I have a simple routine, maybe it’s because I’ve always been in the habit ever since college of getting up and showering and everything esle before breakfast, maybe it’s because I often sleep in just a t-shirt or other things that aren’t suitable for walking around the house in. But I’ve never had an all day in PJs day, with the exception of an occasional “I’m sick and we’re all lounging in the house all weekend” day.

    That may become harder now that my son is on the verge of being able to escape his bouncy chair/toddler rocker. He’s 15 months old, and had gone in that thing every morning so I could take my shower. But I’m sure I’ll figure something else out at that point, even if it’s switching to an evening shower.

    My morning routine, in case it helps any one – I would usually bring my son back to bed to nurse when he woke up in the morning. Then when we were both up for the day, I would get up, brush my teeth, put him in the bouncy chair, hop in the shower and sing to him while I shower, get out, brush my hair, put on lotion and deoderant if I remember, get dressed. Then I would change his diaper, get him dressed, and then get us both breakfast.

  • Wallydraigle

    June 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I’ve only missed two showers since my first daughter was born. The first was just a few weeks after she was born, and it was such a horrible day that I vowed never to do that again. The second time I was sick in bed. It doesn’t matter how busy the day is or if I wake up to late to shower before the kids are up. I get that shower every single day, or my husband comes home to a raving lunatic and a very upset toddler.

    I also need my house to be picked up. I’m not naturally neat. I’m a clutterbug. But after having my second child, I realized that if I didn’t stay on top of things and do a little housework every day, my home would devolve into a maelstrom of suck. I get a little depressed living in constant clutter. My kitchen must always be clean, with the exception of a few dirty dishes on the counter. I do a load or two of laundry every day. I wipe down the bathroom counters with a towel and a little vinegar every time they start to look less than shiny, and a swish out the toilets with a brush and some Lysol every few days. Then, either right before nap and bedtime, with my toddler’s “help,” or right after, if I’m just too tired to deal with her, all toys get picked up and put away. Of course they go right back on the floor (in the couch, behind the toilet, under the washing machine…) as soon as she’s awake, but it does seem to contain the toy monster. And my husband gets to have a picked-up house for at least five minutes a day.

    It’s made a huge difference. It also keeps me busy on days that might otherwise have me just sitting on the couch, staring into space, feeling more and more worthless.

    Life will get interesting when the baby is mobile. We have a feeling she’s going to be a little pistol, unlike her relatively docile older sister.

  • Lisa M

    June 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I LOVE Katie’s tricks (first comment). My babies aren’t babies any more (2 & 5), but holy cow, I still have days where I get to work and realize I forgot a crucial step. Totally going to get deodorant, toothbrush, make-up, etc. for my desk. And a bra because, yes, I have actually forgotten to wear one before, and yes, I felt very conspicuous and self-conscious all. day. long.
    But weekends…we all stay in jammies until otherwise necessary. Especially on these hot summer days. It’s hard to feel motivated to play outside when it’s thick and humid.

  • Jae

    June 30, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    I try to do as much at night so that there’s less to do in the morning.  Also, if I leave some of the bigger tasks (like working out, showering) until nighttime, then I can spend more time doing them and doing a good job.  I like to take my sweet time in the shower at night because nobody  needs me and I can have some girly-girl time. 

    As far as mornings go, as soon as I hear the kiddo, I roll outta bed, put on some cute clothes, do skin care without exception, and smear on some eye make-up (eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara-sounds like a lot, takes all of about 5 minutes to do it all).  I feel like if I take some time for myself, I’m a better mom.  

  • Lady

    July 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I can totally agree here and I don’t even have kids yet!
    I spent a large portion of 2009 unemployed after relocating. I’d just gotten married and moved to my husband’s city. my #1 rule was to be dressed by the time he got home from work. it’s sad how close i’d be cutting it some days! but yeah, i showered, dressed (in cute clothes-not lounge wear), did my hair and did makeup. Makeup became my thing bc i’d spend lots of time on youtube watching makeup tutorials when i wasn’t looking and applying for jobs.

    i wasn’t sure if my husband appreciated my efforts in the beginning, but he mentioned some months later that he was so happy that when he came home i looked nice and was wearing makeup. sooo this has solidified for me that when we do start making babies, i’m more that willing to let the little one fuss for a few minutes if it means i can pull myself together that day. It helps my self esteem so much and i know the husband will appreciate it.

  • Ashley

    July 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Having seen what the frump can look like with some of my friends that have kids, I made a VOW when I had my son that I would at least make an effort. Obviously when he was really little, it was hard to get a shower in and I was living in nursing tanks, but now that he’s 9 months? I always take a shower during his first nap, blow dry my hair most days and put on makeup. Yes sometimes that doesn’t happen because he blows the nap, or I get sucked into the computer (hah) but I really think that you feel SO much better when you take some time for yourself.

    They said when we first brought the kid home that you need to take care of Mommy to take care of Baby. I think that applies to how Mommy feels mentally too… 

  • Jen

    July 3, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Oh God, I have become the frump.
    I’m not working (quit my job a month ago), and have gained a lot of weight in the last couple of stressful years. I spend most days in my pyjamas, and yes, it’s making me feel quite ill.
    I am going to brush my teeth right now. Thanks for the wake-up call! :os

  • wallydraigle

    July 4, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    (I’m a SAHM, so my job IS keeping the house picked up and clean; I know this won’t apply as much to others)

    The more I think about this, the more I think keeping the house clean goes a lot further toward keeping me happy and unfrumpy than anything else. I get up in the morning and shower as soon as I can, but other than that, nothing makes me feel better than just getting my job done. The worst days are when 5:00 rolls around, my husband will be home soon, and I realize I’ve done absolutely nothing on my end of the family responsibilities. The best days are when I keep busy all morning, showing the toddler how to ‘help’ me do certain chores, getting a load of laundry and/or dishes done, doing an extra once-a-week chore or tackling a project I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I’m more likely to use their naptime to my advantage when I have a morning like this. I hop on the elliptical and get a workout in, usually (using our HSA to buy that thing was one of the best ideas we’ve ever had). I’m far less likely to do this if I’ve been lazing around all morning.

    I keep reading the advice to lower my standards when kids are little, and I have done that a little, but on days when I slip back into my natural household messiness, I’m the least likely to take care of myself.

  • Samantha

    July 6, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Our trick has always been to shower together in the morning. Extra time together, everybody smells good. That didn’t change after we had the baby. We’d either leave her in her crib, or bring her in the shower with us. Now that she is a toddler and sleeps until 8, we shower before she gets up. It works great. Now, we have NOT yet figured out how to get in a workout…

  • Jennifer

    July 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    Running and Mascara. Not at the same time. If I get my daily run in, I feel (& look) so much better (even if I’m still in my sweaty work out clothes!). I have a deal with myself that I WILL NOT shower until my run is complete. This sometimes means I’m in my work out clothes all day long, but I’m motivated to exercise all day, wanting desperately to shower and get on with my day. Also, I may not dry my hair, shave, or put on a fancy outfit, but I will wear mascara. Immediately I look more awake (key when my 13 month old still won’t sleep through the night….) and happy. And even un-showered, I feel much better trudging to the grocery store or Target in my running clothes- people will just think me sporty, not dirty.