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Grungy Mummy – Why must new moms let themselves go?

I am so sick of moms who seem to stop caring about how they look just because they have kids. Seriously, how hard is it to blow dry your hair and put a swipe of lipstick on before you leave the house? I had to spend extra time assuring my husband that I wouldn’t let myself go when we had kids because he’s seen it happen so many times. Wouldn’t you agree that they are giving us moms who still have some self-respect a bad name? – Get Your Roots Done Already!

Dear Get Yours,

We must begin by disclosing that we are those moms you’re complaining about. Maybe not as much as we used to be, but in those early days, we could quite often be seen leaving the house with Einstein hair, mis-buttoned shirts, and yoga pants worn so often they may as well have been surgically attached. Things are better now. But we still have great empathy for the new mother’s grooming challenges. The way we see it is, in the early months (years?) of parenthood, all bets are off. After 75 days without REM sleep, we’d forgive a mom for walking around with no pants on, never mind lipstick. We do have a certain kind of awe for moms who manage to look flawless while caring for an infant:not unlike the feeling we have about people who break bizarre world records.

We weren’t proud of our slovenly ways. It was just how things went down. By all means, if you’ve got the inclination and the motivation to keep up appearances in the midst of chaos (or if you’ve been lucky enough to be blessed with great genes and a baby who’s not so chaotic), more power to you. But there are plenty of reasons why a mom may not be able or inclined to dab on the gloss for every soccer game.

Everyone’s basic primping threshold is different. There are women who would never dream of leaving the house without using several hair appliances. There are others who might easily leave the house wearing two different shoes. And that’s before having kids. Pile a newborn or a carpool and a job on top of that, and everyone tends to move down the ladder a few rungs. This may be a simple matter of priorities or it may be an actual political stance.

And speaking of priorities, when do you see these grungy moms? At daycare drop off? The park? It may be that they clean up nice when they see fit but have no interest in looking good for a bunch of toddlers in a sandbox or, for that matter, you. Life with kids is messy; they may just be dressing for the job. Some mothers actually do want to spend more time on their looks, but aren’t able to. Lack of time, support and resources equals a compromised grooming system. Maybe they’ve rationalized looking like hell for the time being, or maybe they are as horrified by themselves as you are.

It’s also possible that a mother who spends no time on her own appearance may actually be depressed. If this is the case, styling is the least of her problems. Have heart, and count your blessings.

When you’re looking at other mothers, remember that they have different priorities and lives you may not fully understand. Partners, too, have different expectations. It is actually possible that these unkempt women are fine with how they look, and their partners are too. And if they’re not, it’s really not your concern. Sure, there is something to be said for just running that brush through your hair every morning, come hell or high water, colic or a sexless marriage. But somehow we’re not worried that women aren’t getting a strong enough message to “look good.” There’s a formidable MILF/yummy mummy culture out there doing a decent job of just that.

Our question to you is: why do you care so much?

Your husband was worried about your looks going south after you had kids. You’ve obviously proven him wrong. So why do you have to take down your schleppy sisters? What is it about their lack of primping that you find so threatening? Do you feel that their disheveled looks are a sign of their altruistic commitment to childcare over self-care? Does falling apart on the outside signal falling apart on the inside? Or alternately, does a controlled image mean that life is under control?

Think about what’s behind the disgust, because it could well be a very legitimate fear; a loss of control, happiness or sense of self we all fear losing. Working out this anxiety can be a lot more productive than being critical of other women.

There’s no reason to think the scruffy mom next to you in the sandbox is bringing you down. If anything, she’s making you look better.

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