The toughest thing about being a mom – or at least the thing that my friends and I complain most about – is staying in shape. There’s no time; it’s too hard to get to the gym or yoga studio – or I waste money because I never go; there’s no privacy. I’m here to argue that it’s so important for your sanity, that you need to make time. It’s not an option to do nothing. What follows is my simple fix.
I have four things I try to rotate on a regular basis (and I’m not suggesting you try all four, but just for options): yoga, dance, strength training, and things for flexibility or stretching.
My rule of thumb is simplify! I do most of my exercises in my bedroom. I wear as little as possible (so I can see my muscles at work), add some music and let it rip. It is me time with the aim of being disrupted as little as possible. Of course, this rarely happens, but as we say in yoga, it helps me to stay “On the mat” – which means stay focused. I used to stop what I was doing when they burst through the door, but I have learned to keep going and they either camp out on my bed and watch or even join in.
I use a blank wall for balance exercises and my dresser like a ballet barre, and the small space around my bed for everything else. Sometimes I focus on resistance training basics – you know, those exercises we all used to hate (and still do!)—I do as many sit-ups as my abs can handle, 10 pushups and about 120 leg lifts and lunges on each side. We have a pull up bar installed in our bedroom doorway, and I do 6 pull ups. Of course, butt exercises are a must.
Always push yourself – easy to say; hard to do. But try to always increase the reps. When you do pushups, start with ten and add one more every other day. The same for plies and planks and any other exercise in your routine. Mix it up. And most importantly, breathe. If you are holding a difficult pose, picture it as one of life’s challenges. Picture the air intake enveloping the muscle group you’re working on and use it to breathe out as a stronger woman.
Remember to use your workout time as your time. Let your kids see you taking care of yourself, there is no need to hide behind a locked door or stow them in childcare at the gym all the time. My kids see me dance in the kitchen when I’m putting dishes away. I read vogue while sitting in pigeon pose. When you integrate simple activity like this into your daily routine, and stagger it throughout the day, you give your metabolism and mood a boost. And, you don’t let a lack of time (or money) be your only excuse to getting the strength and endurance you want to feel great.
At the very end of the day, unwind in a tub of epsom salts, stretch out and massage your sore muscles in the warm water. You’re worth it after all!
I’m a believer that when you look good, you feel good. And looking good involves a good hair style and make-up. It may not be the most ardently feminist position I could take, but it’s always worked for me. (frankly, this is not just for girls, but the teenage boy seems to be more generally resistant). And looking good doesn’t have to mean looking like everyone else or that you have to be classically beautiful. In fact, it shouldn’t. Sure, that girl is pretty. But how about you? There is no need to look like anyone else, as that look is already taken. I believe you can be yourself and still be fabulous.
Hence, the make-over lesson. Which in my definition means more than just a hair and clothes overhaul, but also self-care which starts with skin and make-up. One thing you can be sure of, if you don’t teach this stuff, the internet will. And that usually doesn’t end well, with some pretty caked on versions of so-called contouring.
So far it looks like only one of my four girls is ready to start this conversation, even though technically Milla and Em are the same age. Milla has already decided, I look good enough without makeup, thanks anyway. And she may forever be that person, content with who she is. The other two girls are still too young.
But Em and I are going to play. (added value is a great bonding opportunity!)
I often get comments like, “why are you always so gussied up?” and “what’s the occasion?” and my answer is always the same: “If I don’t look good, I don’t feel good. And if I don’t feel good, nothing good happens.” It’s because I need to knock my own socks off before I do the same to anyone else. Worn.
Let’s just say if I’m going to make an impact on life, it’s going to be a head on collision and not a ding. And if there’s going to be trauma either way, I want to at least be able to say I’ve lived. I want to be memorable. And you just can’t do that without a grand costume.
It’s like this: How many times have you dressed up and felt great? For me, it’s every damn time. Which is why I always dress up. It doesn’t get old with me. Why would it? Feeling great never gets old. I used to wear sweatpants and jeans. A LOT. And Uggs. Those modern day slippers that scream, “Guess who doesn’t give a f***?!”
While I understand their purpose and have owned a few pairs myself (and I secretly ADORE them), UGG’s, Tom’s and other lazy shoes do absolutely nothing for us. Maybe they give us REALLY flat feet, and some comfort, but that’s it. Heels give you bunions. Courage. Calf muscles. Grace. Beauty. CONFIDENCE. Bunions I can live with. Worn.
Just say no to the average stuff.
Jeans with T’s, sweatpants, or anything cheap and trendy (yes those words are interchangeable) don’t make the kind of statement you’re looking for. That stuff is not style. Style is intentional. Style is curated like art. Style is individual. You develop it, like yourself, over time. Style feels GOOD.
What works are investment pieces:
Manolo’s. Louboutin’s. Gucci. Chanel. Oh MY!
Tutu’s. Mini skirts. Classy silk blouses…did I mention tutu’s?
All of it, all of it to be worn to the store, to pick up kids, to take out the trash.
Let’s get this straight because I don’t want to confuse you. And I don’t ever want you to feel like I’m not being real with you. I’m not rich. As a matter of fact, I would even go so far as to say I’m poor. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at me and that is because style is not about having money. It’s about having creativity, a pinch of integrity and a dash of class. It is the recipe for living a good life. If you’re urban, you can shop at some of the greatest consignment shops in town and also frequent thrift. If you’re not, there are plenty of online options: Etsy, EBay and the like. Worn.
This is how I keep myself from looking like everyone else—being one of a kind. Memorable. A diamond in the rough. A realdiamond, too. And I also want to add that this type of shopping means more. It’s the art of the find. The score. Remember, we are curating, not consuming—so take your time. Make it a ritual. You will not find your true self hidden among the racks of H&M or Forever 21 because that is all about building an empire of lemmings. We are more creative than that.
A note on shoes: I don’t buy them often. In fact, I rarely buy them. But only because I have the same pairs of high end shoes that I have been caring for, for YEARS. My Manolo’s are almost three years old. My Louboutin’s are seven. I simply get them re-soled for $20 each year and they are brand new.
Dressing up like it’s normal is how I take care of myself.
Dressing up is what makes me a woman. This is what I consistently do so I can feel like I am not only on top of my game, but that I am the game. I make the rules, and others play by them–But only when I feel good by looking good. If I can dress, every single day, like I am going to a party, then life will literally be that party. When you dress awesome, you feel awesome. And everyone around you will love you for it. People will talk to you more. You ARE the conversation piece. You are the thing that makes everything LESS awkward. You’re the relief, the icebreaker, the prevention of “let’s play charades!” Who doesn’t Love THAT? Hell, even the gas station attendant dude said to me, weeks ago, “Oh hey, is that Missoni?” He was referring to my sweater, which is huge and gorgeous and accented by magenta fox fur. I told him, “No. I believe it is handmade. There are no tags anywhere and I got it at an estate sale for $65, five years ago.” And now he pumps my gas before anyone else. We talk about clothes each time. Great guy!
Take something simple. The T-Shirt for example. By tucking it in to the bottom half of a ball gown, you have turned your life into a soiree. And THEN go to the grocery store. See? This just helps me live better. I once went to a kids soccer game like this. No regrets from me.
The magic is in the small things too.
Another way I keep this girlie-girl on the up and up is by treating myself. Usually this happens on Sundays. I put on a mud mask, hop into the tub and HIDE. My husband does his best to keep the kids out of the only bathroom in the house and to be honest, it doesn’t work for very long. I usually have a small guest jump in, uninvited (the same kid that TAKES up precious space in our bed at night). It’s inevitable— but you’ve got to try.
So let’s move this ship forward by agreeing that we can only reclaim the woman screaming to get out from inside your diaper bag purse by taking a collective vow:
“I hereby solemnly swear to toss teething rings that double as necklaces, to wear push up bras that don’t come unhinged to pop a boob out (unless it’s for your husband) and to always, always, choose heels over flip flops.” Worn.
Generate a capsule wardrobe. Buy only the finest underwear (see why here). Elevate yourself with some dead sexy heels. Get caught in the rain—let yourself get soaked, just like they do in the movies. Put mascara on (remember to do both eyes) AND lipstick and then take a walk. Feel better already? I do too!
We are foxy ladies. We are hot goddesses. We are mad-sexy mavens. We are the ultimate MILF in sheeps clothing. Hear us roar!
One last thing.
This isn’t about looking good for anyone else but you. We aren’t pin up dolls. We aren’t sex kittens (even though we all know how well we can make ourselves purr). We are made whole by this genius of getting dressed up. We’re not made whole by what other men (even our own) think of us, but what WE think of ourselves. Worn.
Under the surface of this outfit lies skin and beyond that are a whole lotta feelings. Feelings that include the days where I didn’t feel great and I sure didn’t look great. Back then, I had to retrain my thinking around something that only appeared to be surface level: clothing. I started to realize something: If what I wore on the outside could transform how I truly felt on the inside, then I would be cured. So I tried it. Again and again. And even on some days when I’m not so sure, I put on that tutu and I just shine. My love for myself reaches new heights like this–and I may never come down.
Self care is up to you. How you feel is up to you. Don’t put it on anyone else to make you feel a certain way. Start here, and let it get out of control! And let it get contagious—get your girlfriends on board. Let’s all look and FEEL gorgeous together. Are you ready? I’ll be looking for you on the town. Worn.
I have something to say about being this So Called Mom.
When we become mothers, it feels like it is this monstrous thing that steps into your shoes, without your being ready, and takes up ALL THE SPACE. Like, toes crammed to the end; and all you can do is watch your precious Manolos split at the seams as you drift farther away from what you once were, into the abyss of “just a mom”. When this happens, you can forget about your career, forget about being creative, forget about your friends and forget about yourself: Both who you were and who you wanted to be. Because you are now officially one thing and one thing only: A mom. Right? Women first.
Don’t get me wrong, I love motherhood.
But if you think this here woman has given it all up just to be that one thing, you’re highly mistaken. I have already shaken my fists at the sky over this. Motherhood should not be the decision we make that wipes out our hopes and dreams. It is not the Hurricane Katrina of choices. Becoming a mom doesn’t need to devastate the rest of you. But when you have that first kid, I swear, the rest of the world knows it. Just look at your mail: Cosmopolitan and Vogue traded itself for Martha Stewart and Parenting. You also started getting Land’s End catalogues without ordering them, didn’t you? We don’t need to be polite about this. Mom’s only look like the Virgin Mary because we allow ourselves to. Motherhood doesn’t mean trading in your sexiness for a closet full of sweater sets and necklaces made of pasta. I confess I have a few of those necklaces in my jewelry box, but I do feel like feeding them to the dog from time to time, just to get a piece of myself back.
I specifically remember my first experience of becoming “Just a mom” after I had my first batch of kids early. I was 22 when I had Jake, 24 with Milla and 26 with MJ. Timely, I know.
I recall being in a bar shortly after popping those three kids out, toasting with a few girlfriends, some who were new moms, others who were not. A guy (I wouldn’t dare refer to him as a man) approached me and asked to buy me a drink. I let him. We were talking and he was getting pretty serious, so I did what any mom would do…and talk to a guy in a bar about kids.
“Wait. Whoa. You’re a MOM?”
He snatched the drink from my hand.
“You should be home. Why are you even out?”
I felt like a birthday candle being doused with a pan of water. And it has resonated with me for decades.
When I became a mom, I un-became a woman. Women first.
I un-became a dancer. I un-became a dreamer, a creative and unstoppable female with big ideas. I un-became everything I knew to be truly me. I was no longer a pretty girl with fresh young breasts in the fruit section at the grocery store, hip with her eco-conscious canvas bag. I was the basket case in sweats chasing my toddlers down the cereal aisle, with REAL grocery bags—under my eyes. I drove a brand new minivan with vanity plates: 1 GR8 MOM and accepted this as my destiny.
I was also on my second marriage. And it wasn’t holding my attention, no matter how hard I tried to play the part. For a few more years, I wore the sweater sets and the pasta necklaces and pretended it was everything I wanted. Pretended that was the real me. I was always biting my tongue off at PTA meetings and kids birthday parties, careful to not be myself too much. Because the real me, wasn’t very mom-like at all. The real me jumped off the roof of a houseboat naked at a party. The real me did shots and stayed out late with my girlfriends, dancing to Missy Elliot on repeat until we fell asleep in the living room. The real me wore funky clothes and slept in and binge watched shows that I now could only live vicariously through. Sex in the City. The Sopranos. Desperate Housewives. Even Friends. I took dance lessons back then. I was serious about it. I was good enough to be on stage in a tutu, the lead. Now I was just wearing tutus to run errands, just to make myself feel better.
Having kids nailed me down. I made a promise to them.
“I will always be there for you.” I whispered to Jake, tiny and trembling in my arms. I repeated the same thing to each kid on the day they were born. But it was years before I realized that my interpretation of what it meant to “be there” for them did not mean putting myself last, giving up on who I was, or trading my self worth for theirs. I realized that I greatly limited my philosophy as a mom. That there could NEVER EVER be any cross over with who I was and being a mom. That if there was a license to parenthood, that mine would get revoked.
Then I met my third husband, after fleeing New York and moving across the country to Portland, Oregon—truly a place where the wild things are! His name was Pippin, like the musical, and it instantly called a part of me out that I was sure I buried long ago. The dancer, the singer, the stage act in me was set free through his name alone and he went along with it. Our second date was at a playground with the kids. BOTH his and mine. We had five kids under the age of six, running around us like a solar system and it all just felt right. Chaotic, messy, and right.
Pippin not only redefined parenthood for me, but he redefined life for me.
He loved the ME that he met— I was a whack job; completely off the rails. But only because I was working hard at re-establishing myself as a woman first, and a mom second. I think he was greatly worried at the beginning. But he stepped into the role anyway and filled those shoes like no other. And there was still plenty of room for more. More more more. More me, more him, more kids. And we did have more kids; two to be exact. Even with everyone looking down their noses at us. We were called “irresponsible.” He never said no to me. He was the first person who made me feel like I should really be myself. It was like the sky opened up and said, “Yes. Shave your head. Rent that Porsche. Dance in the street. Let them all watch you.” And I would turn to Pippin who would smile back at me and have this “Well what are we waiting for?” look on his face. He was the perfect mirror and he reflected a life that I was searching for. And now we’ve been together for ten years. And it still feels like we just met. Women first.
This blog is a resurrection of womanhood. Women first.
Its a shout out to all the ladies: single, married, divorced, remarried—to step moms, biological moms, adoptive moms and everything in between. It’s a call for us to return to our hopes and dreams. Do you recall what you dreamed of when you wanted to be a mother or wife? Was it perching on your child’s shoulder when they did homework? Was it soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, games on Saturdays all over the county? Was it late nights of science projects that are more your projects than his/hers? Was it throwing your life away to live it through your child? I say no to all the above. Women first.
This So Called Mom is making an intentional call out to other women. Within these words, you’ll find me raising a glass to those of us thinking about motherhood for the first time, those of us expecting, and those of us who already have our hands full. When we become mothers, it seems like everything else fades to black. Everything that once filled your life: Your friends, the fun —or the way you had fun, the odd hours, the choice—all of it goes away because our culture asks us to become that one thing: A mom and that’s defined in one way.
But not here.
When did we surrender being physically fit and wear ONLY yoga pants because they’re stretchy (Not to mention UGG boots in any color, which my husband calls birth control)? Or pretend to enjoy ourselves in bed with our husbands when we would rather be scrolling on our phones? When was the last time you laughed so hard you almost peed your pants or did something JUST for you, to get on with your wild self? Women first.
This blog is about being real. A real mom. Here, we are women first, moms second.