There are a lot of work-from-home parents who talk about one of the greatest advantages: being able to work in their pajamas. It really is an awesome arrangement. Make money without having to put on a bra? Sign me up. I’m not ashamed to say that I stay in my pajamas most days. Why get dressed just to take care of my kids and clean the kitchen?
But I started to wonder. How would my “job” of running the house and being a stay-at-home mom change if I were to dress like I was going to a real job? No jeans, no sneakers. Would putting on different clothes change my behavior? Do the clothes really make the woman? I decided to find out.
For one work week, I’d dress in business-casual clothing and see if there was any effect on how I ran my home and parented. Here’s what happened.
Monday’s Stay-at-Home Mom Uniform:
I started with ambitions that were way too high. It turns out I don’t have a lot of business clothes. I actually wore this dress in a wedding last year. But I decided if I was going to do this experiment, I would start off doing it right. So here I am: a woman who puts the “stay” in stay-at-home mom, in a bridesmaid dress, taking care of two toddlers.
The day was fun and different. I felt kind of like a teacher, all dolled up, so I tried to have a little “school” with my kids. They sat at the table and we went over numbers and letters. I tried teaching my 3-year-old how to spell some words and maybe it stuck. Time will tell.
The downside of this attire is trying to clean. I didn’t want to get anything on my dress — a near impossible feat when you live with toddlers — so I did a lot of picking up stuff and organizing instead of my usual Monday cleaning day.
I stayed in my fancy clothes up until after the kids were bathed, deciding that could be the end of my experiment. My yoga pants felt amazing that night.
Tuesday’s Stay-at-Home Mom Uniform:
I went a bit more casual today because I had to clean something. Also the weather forecast said it was going to be a nice day and I wanted to take the kids to the park … not in a bridesmaid dress. I felt more relaxed in this outfit so I got some cleaning done. These aren’t my usual toilet cleaning clothes, but better than yesterday.
On Monday my kids seemed confused and kept asking where we were going because I was “so dressed up.” Today didn’t make much of an impression on them, but it did on me. Because the clothes were more casual, I felt more in control of my mom-ing than I normally do when I’m in my PJs all day. I was put together, I felt confident, and my kids were going to listen to me dangit.
I don’t know if their behavior was any different in reality, but the day felt different. I felt like I was in charge instead of feeling like I was losing my mind.
Wednesday’s Stay-at-Home Mom Uniform:
Wednesdays are big days because we go to Storytime at the local library. It may not seem like a big deal to many people, but as someone with social anxiety, taking my kids to a structured, social event is huge. Plus, I’ve been trying to give the kids more social interactions than just the grocery store and park. I wanted to still maintain my “more than jeans and T-shirt” style, but not draw attention to myself, so a dress and leggings seemed like a good choice. Plus, if my kids peed on me I wouldn’t totally freak out. Bonus.
I was definitely the most “dressed up” of the adults present, but I didn’t feel out of place. Again, I felt that “in control” feeling that I don’t always feel when I’m frumpy-ing around the house. Maybe there was something to this whole putting myself together idea.
The kids were completely unfazed by this outfit, but the confidence I had yesterday seemed to have continued into today and they weren’t nearly as toddler-like. Or maybe they were and I was just handling it better.
Thursday’s Stay-at-Home Mom Uniform:
I wanted to try wearing a dress again, but not one that needed to be dry-cleaned, so I pulled this one out of the back of my closet. I learned that dresses feel far too feminine for me to wear on a daily basis. I feel like I can’t sit down without being self-conscious or, again, clean anything. How did ’50s housewives do it? Maybe I need to wear an apron. Maybe that’s the secret.
I have noticed through this experiment that I’m not nearly as yell-y as I normally am with my kids. It’s a complete placebo effect, but something about wearing a dress and feeling so feminine really has calmed my temperament. I still lose my temper and I’m still more abrupt with my kids than I would like to be, but when my kids ask for a drink of water for the 500th time when they should be taking a nap, I’m not wanting to pull out my hair. At least not all of it.
And it feels strange sitting in the recliner staring at my phone when I’m in a dress. I feel like I should be doing something when I’m dressed like this. Fascinating.
Friday’s Stay-at-Home Mom Uniform:
Last day! My 3-year-old complimented my skirt — pink is her favorite color — so she put on a skirt, too. And then my 2-year-old son wanted in, so he put on one of his sister’s princess dresses. It was a fun morning, no doubt.
I felt like I could get some house stuff done in this outfit. Maybe it was the flats. Maybe it was the fact that I was getting used to dressing like I was going to an actual job, but something was changing. I woke up with a sense of purpose for the day, a sense of control over what would happen and what I’d get done, instead of letting my mood and kids dictate what happened.
My kids also seemed to be getting into a new groove. There was a bit more obedience because, I think, I was showing more restraint and patience with their behavior. Not in the usual “fine, do whatever you want” way, but more in an “OK, let me explain to you why we’re going to do things like this” sense.
I ended the day getting into my yoga pants a little earlier than I had been all week because it was Friday, and I felt like most people would go home early on a Friday, so why not me? The experiment was over.
It was a weird week. I was out of my comfort zone a lot, but something about the way I dressed truly did change how I parented my kids and ran my home. I wasn’t as quick to put on a show for my kids when I wanted a break. I was more inclined to sit down and do something with them. There was something about being more dressed up that made being a mom more of an official title and less just something that happened to me.
I learned that it’s important for me to actually get dressed more days than not because it really is a game-changer. I don’t think I’ll be donning a dress anytime soon, but I’ll at least be putting on a bra before 10 AM from now on. And I’ll wear shoes or flats instead of my slippers. I need to start acting like my job as a mom is as important as a job at an office and that means finding a way for me to feel like I’m an active participant in this life and in control of it.
I’ll never give up my yoga pants completely, but on days where I know I need to kick ass and take names, I’ll be changing out of them as soon as I get out of bed so I can get my day started on the right foot. And so my kids know I mean business.