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Trying to fight the frum? Here's one mothers struggle to stay chic, even when fashion isn't a priority. 

Nefertiti Austin
Aug, 09, 2014

Remember when POTUS got cracked on for wearing dad jeans while bike riding with Sasha on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard?

That picture made me laugh. Until I looked in my own closet and spotted “work” clothes that went out of style a decade ago, pants that were hemmed an inch too short and too many pairs of black and brown shoes. Far from being high maintenance, there are times when I wished my bag matched my shoes. Typically, I am moving so fast that whatever purse contains my wallet is the one that gets used for months on end. And I have lots of purses; they just don’t see the light of day that often.

I’ve been fighting becoming a frumpy mother for about five years. I was doing okay until my second child came along. She derailed my efforts for about nine months and I am on a mission to reclaim myself. It’s hard though and most days I surrender to excuses: I’m tired; too busy; I need to mop. Did I mention, I’m tired? My rational mind makes a great case for not wearing a dry clean only blouse, knowing that formula or orange drippings are going to ruin it in minutes. Some women favor Yoga pants and tanks. I wear those sometimes but can usually be seen sporting my Sunday dress - a red, black and white floral maxi dress. That dress is probably past its prime but I don’t have to wear a bra, its machine washable and it’s comfortable. It’s this Trifecta that can take a fabulous forty-something woman down. 

In an effort to not be unsexy and boring, I either overdress on the few occasions I go out or probably pair too much eye-shadow with my uniform – wedge heels, maxi skirt or dress and top. If I even look in the direction of my heels, my rational mind intercedes: who chases a toddler in stilettos? So out come my very worn flip-flops, which should signal regular pedicures but it hasn’t. My new excuses are time and self-worth. Even when I have time, I feel guilty spending it on something so frivolous as a trip to the nail salon. When did this happen? I know, when the damn kids arrived they brought their friend guilt with them. Somebody needs a time-out. Anyway, after my toenails become weapons of mass destruction, I finally tend to them. And from a distance they look great. Stare long enough and you’ll see uneven strokes, clipped but unfiled nails and blue polish on my cuticles and between my toes. I need to get it together.

I owe it to myself to devote ten minutes a day for maintenance and not in the car on the way to a meeting. While I’m good about keeping my eyebrows trimmed, lotion other than sunscreen would keep ash at bay. A couple of friends suggested buying cute sweats or dresses to throw on as I run out the door. They are right. I could also purchase clothes that fit well, as opposed to telling myself that it doesn’t matter. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t have anyone to impress. I’ve got kids. Oprah would call me a “shlumpadinka”. This point was brought home one day at a BBQ. A male acquaintance commented that my dress was sexy and reminded him of when I was in college. He said that I was still sexy but usually dressed like a mom. Wow. 

Though inappropriate and sexist, he had a point. Like most women, I can turn it on and off and apparently spend too much time off. That’s a fixable problem. First, I will bump myself up the priority list. Second, I will invest in myself without feeling guilty. Third, I will work on my presentation so that even if I feel frumpy, you’ll never know it. And fourth, I’ll reframe “dressing like a mom” to include bright colors, clothes that compliment my shape and a little lip-gloss. After all, we’ve never seen FLOTUS in mom jeans and you won’t catch me in a pair either.

Nefertiti Austin is a Los Angeles based writer, college instructor and certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at mommiejonesing.com, and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her children in Los Angeles.