A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
When a young, city-dwelling woman is pregnant with her first baby, she has lots of fantasies about what motherhood might look like on her. Largely, those are based on watching chick flicks for chicks in their 30s, as well as all the very real, very wealthy, full-time stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) who cavort around that woman’s Manhattan neighborhood.
This is what one such young woman might envision: mom goes to yoga every morning followed by lunch with fashionable, funemployed girlfriends. She is looking svelte as ever in a pair of designer jeans. As they laugh and booze and eat their salads, the baby remains in her stroller, respectfully silent, interjecting the occasional coo. If ever she whines, she is easily placated by her mother’s momentary glance and a half-hearted blanket tuck. When the ladies have finished they take a casual stroll through the park and discuss their sex lives in graphic yet hilariously euphemistic detail. Her hair is sleek and tumbles down her shoulders, and she’s wearing an ethereal, white, silk blouse along with $600 platform heels and fabulous dangly earrings. They sit on a bench and chat and let the baby toddle away towards the duck pond with a chunk of baguette in her little fist, without any fear of imminent fatal dangers (kidnappers, aggressive geese, accidental drowning), to say nothing of the more pedestrian ones (eating goose poop, eating dirt, eating cigarette butts). Somewhere, a jazz trio can be heard playing.
Har har. Har har har.
Here is the reality: I went out a few weeks ago for a neighborhood mom drinks thing, which meant that I actually had a reason to look in the mirror before stepping outside. As I gazed at my reflection trying to decide whether a nice top could disguise slightly dirty maternity jeans, I had a revelation. I look like a mom. Not the above mentioned kind. The kind who wears mom jeans and ugly sneakers and who might one day feel compelled to get an inexplicably androgynous haircut. The journey from well-groomed cosmopolitan professional to disheveled pariah is swift and silent, and I’d completed it before I knew I’d begun. Sadly, realizing this did nothing to reverse it. In fact, as I thought it over, I began to rationalize my style evolution (or devolution). It all makes total sense. Here’s how it breaks down:
First, let me start by defending the maternity jeans. Once you go giant elastic belly panel, you can never willingly go back. Buttons and zipper flies are for suckers and sorority girls. Psht. Naturally, I only wear the maternity jeans when I have somewhere to go. For all other times, it’s the blessed yoga pants. I have roughly eight pairs now, and I divide them between daytime yoga pants and sleepytime yoga pants. It works.
Of course, any shirt or sweater I wear will inevitably wind up dotted with food (new and regurgitated), drool (human and canine) and other secretions (boogers on a good day, poo on a bad one). What kind of fool would I be if said top was dry clean only? A broke fool, fool. This old t-shirt will do nicely, thank you.
Bracelets will scratch the baby and she’ll definitely yank a necklace until it snaps. Hanging earrings will be torn through my earlobes. No, thanks. I’ll stick to these little studs, or more often nothing at all. Besides, what am I accessorizing, my pajamas?
I’m certainly not going to expend any extra energy traipsing around in heels, and with an infant on my hip it doesn’t make much sense to be teetering around, anyway. Besides, all my nice shoes have become a half size too small since my pregnancy, so my closet is basically a wistful museum exhibit at this point.
My hair must be swept up and out of the way the instant the baby wakes, because otherwise it will wind up in her tiny iron grip and will be mercilessly wrenched out of my skull. This means I am not spending time taming flyaways or learning how to do that neat trick where you use your own hair to disguise your ponytail holder. This is a combat ponytail. Strictly utilitarian. Self-preservation is the name of the game. In other words, it’s a mess.
Makeup? Please. I’m going to Target, not Buckingham Palace. Please.
Frankly, none of this matters because I generally go days without seeing anyone other than strangers on the street or other, similarly weary-looking mothers. Who am I impressing? The grocery store clerk? Nah, she’s just interested in talking to V. I’m wallpaper. I’m the Saint Bernard who was hired to mind the children in their nursery while Mr. and Mrs. Darling go off to benefits and high tea. I’m InvisiMom. Hey look! That stroller is walking itself! This is why Baby Gap now owns all of my money.
It does feel good sometimes to dress above the level of “mental patient out on a day pass,” but those opportunities are now reserved for special occasions.
And how very special they truly are.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter at @NinaPajak!