After a busy couple of weeks, Babble contributor Adrian Wood decided to take the day off. So while her kids were in school, the writer and mom of four from North Carolina set out on the hour-long drive to Greenville, home of the nearest Target and TJMaxx. (In other words: Mecca.) As she now tells Babble, Wood had some things to get for all four of her children, but she also simply wanted to be alone; to “mill around” by herself for a little while.
And also, because she wanted a new pair of comfy sweatpants.
Once in the dressing room, though, a familiar scene played out.
“As I stood there examining my figure in sweatpants, I thought to myself, What am I doing?” says Wood. “They are sweatpants. You don’t wear sweatpants to look good. If you wear sweatpants, you will say to the world, you have given up.”
She wrestled with that thought for a while — of what her appearance says to the world. The one women so often play with in their mind. Wood admits that as her body’s changed since having kids, so has her confidence. But instead of giving into it, she pushed the thought away. Then she pulled out her iPhone, snapped a photo (“somewhat lightheartedly” she says), and walked out, sweatpants in hand.
Still, the conversation she had with herself inside that dressing room stayed with her; and when she got home later that evening, she took to her laptop, and started writing.
The next morning, Wood shared that dressing room photo with the world, along with a touching missive she wrote telling moms everywhere to wear the damn sweatpants if you wanna wear the damn sweatpants.
“I’m just the girl standing in the dressing room trying to talk myself out of the sweatpants,” the post began. “Why though? Why can’t I wear sweatpants? Because my mind says NO, though my soul says, ‘Don’t listen.'”
“Elastic and stretchy means I’m wearing fat clothes. I shouldn’t because then I will be encouraged to eat too much. My mind says you shouldn’t, but my soul says, ‘Don’t listen.'”
“I’m not good enough. I’ll never be thin enough. I’ll never wear a 6 or even an 8 again. My mind says you are not enough, but my soul says, ‘Don’t Listen.'”
“You should exercise. You should get up in the morning and walk and do more than drink coffee and make lunches. My mind says you’re lazy, my soul says, ‘Don’t Listen.'”
“You should shower more often, wear makeup, cook dinner, be more, be better, be what you will never be. My mind says you’re lesser, my soul says, ‘Don’t Listen.”
“My soul says, ‘You’re healthy.’
My soul says, ‘You’re perfect.’
My soul says, ‘You’re strong.’
My soul says, ‘You’re a daughter, a wife, and a mama and you are enough.'”
“The sweatpants don’t matter after all.”
Wood says that the post, which was first shared on her Facebook page, Tales of an Educated Debutante, Tuesday, September 27, was beyond liberating:
“It really was quite freeing and though I received a few somewhat horrified comments, I think the greater response was one of relief. I don’t need to pretend. I don’t want to miss this one life I have, a joyful life with three sons and a daughter and a husband. I don’t want to waste one minute questioning or regretting or portraying shame to my daughter or modeling a false perception of perfection to my sons. I want to raise boys who are happy to see their wives cozy in sweatpants and cuddling with children.”
Amen to that.
In the last year alone, there have been more than a few honest mom selfies like Wood’s making the rounds. This summer, new mom Amanda Bacon made headlines after a photo of her standing in a postpartum “diaper” went viral. She was praised for exposing the “raw, honest, and messy” realities of new motherhood. And last year, Meg Rymill had moms everywhere giving her virtual high-fives, after she shared a post-birth underwear selfie and declared she wasn’t concerned with what her body looked like, “only how it functions.”
The list goes on and on, and I say, keep ’em coming. We’ve grown so used to seeing retouched photos of super-thin models and near-perfect actresses that have bounced back from birth within days. In the process, we’ve forgotten what real bodies look like, and turned the criticism inward.
But if you ask Wood, it’s up to us to stop the cycle of shame.
Because motherhood is hard. Trying to be perfect while raising kids is hard. And attempting to meet everyone else’s expectations of what you should and shouldn’t look like — while feeling like total a failure if you don’t — is no way to live.
So yes, sometimes happiness is slapping on a pair of super comfy sweatpants. Sometimes, saying “to hell with what anyone else thinks” is the way to go. And that’s okay.
“I haven’t worn a bikini since my honeymoon 14 years ago in October,” admits Wood. “Each summer I think to myself, there’s no reason, you’re chasing children and need to be comfortable. But I wistfully wish my stomach was tan again.”
I know countless women (myself included) who can identify with every bit of that sentiment. And yet, we all kick ourselves for allowing ourselves feel this way. For not just putting on the bikini and not giving a damn.
“Why do we wish and wonder and complain and lament and pause over our figures?” wonders Wood. “Why do we feel envious of those in our tribe that look better, do more, work harder? I’ve never considered myself a competitive type or someone lacking confidence and in that moment, I thought if this is this hard for me, what is like for those that I know who struggle outwardly? I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t have those thoughts. I hope that showing my whole self in those sweatpants says to women, your worth is not tied to your perception.”
Hell YEAH it does.