Monday, July 27, 2009

Have I let MYSELF go? Or THAT self go?

Last week I stumbled on upon the blog of SuperKawaiiMama. I must admit my first thoughts were; wow she is so gorgeous and such a great writer. Not often you get that combination. How does she manage to look so good and be a full time mama?

Then, coincidentally the following day I read her post “Why Do Women Let Themselves Go?” and it got me thinking. Instead of bombarding her blog with my essay of a reply I have answered her question here and I’ll link it through.

SuperKawaiiMama is very gorgeous and very glamorous. From her photos I see that she has a lot of beautifully applied makeup, her hair has been set and her clothes are brightly coloured, perfectly cut works of retro art. Her section entitled daily outfit provides readers with a glimpse into her pretty world.

To SKM I’d be her poster girl for “women who have let themselves go” what with my dark coloured clothing, bits of beige and taupe here and there. My often washed but not set hair, my scuffed ballet flats and my scruffy tops and jeans. I certainly don’t wear makeup most days and I never wear heels during the day anymore.To me, I still look maybe a tiny bit stylish but I certainly would fall into SKM's definition of letting myself go. Yes often, I wear whatever I can grab quickly before the little one starts tearing things off shelves or emptying my makeupbox.

So, have I let myself go? No, I do not feel that I have. I think I have let “that” self go.

Which self? The one who valued appearances so highly. The one who got up early to set her hair in hot rollers, apply makeup and squeeze into gorgeous outfits and high heeled shoes. That was not MY self but rather, my appearance. To me the sense of self is a complex thing.

It runs deeper than MAC Mineralize foundation and glittering Jimmy Choos. It is who you are to you, to your friends, your family and the world. What you love, what you value and what you think… for me, it isn’t what I wear or how many heads turn when I enter a room.

Sure, having a baby has meant that even if I wanted to spend 40 minutes on my face and another 40 on my hair, I couldn’t. Why? Because I get so little sleep as it is, I refuse to get up at 4am to apply makeup and blow dry my hair and Tinker won’t sit still long enough for me to do it while she is awake. As for my clothes. Well if I am honest, there are 3 reasons for my glamourless outfits:

1. When I became a mum, fashion, glamour, entertainment seemed to pale in comparison to the depth of feelings I have about life, babies and love now. I’m just not that bothered.
2. Having always been super thin I went from 45 kilos on the day I announced my pregnancy to 73 the day I gave birth, I guess to me no matter how gorgeous the outfit is, I won’t love my appearance until I am back to my old shape. Sure I’m no oompah loompah but to go from an Aussie size 6-8 to 10-12 is a big change and if I am honest I don’t think I’m that worried about it. With my best friend having cancer and my beautiful daughter growing up and amazing me every day, fitting into a teeny tiny dress isn’t really on my radar. Life is short.

3. Practicality and comfort. Painting, cooking, playing in the sand, at the park… none of these things lend themselves to dry clean only outfits and Gucci heels. I do love nice clothes but I don’t enjoy getting dressed up every single day.

So have I let myself go? What do you think? Have you let yourself go? I suppose looking like a million bucks and having heads turn when I enter the room just doesn’t do it for me anymore so in my mind I have moved on. I think of the frum women and the Muslim ladies who wear very modest dress. Have they let themselves go or are they just asking the world to value them for who they are not what they look like?

Thank you SKM for asking this question. It really raises some interesting issues. I like to look nice but I'm not sure glamour has a place in my daily life. It is hard isn't it? To know what to teach our daughters... To value who they are as people not what they wear and what they put on their faces. I have mixed feelings. Tell me yours!


  1. C- this was such a poignant post. your reasoning was sound and your heart was absolutely in the right place, as far as i am concerned. i do understand the need to give something up, once you become a parent- you can imagine how many things i have given up succintly since having 4 children! while i do understand the importance of caring about your appearance as it concerns your husband and the attendance to the livelihood of your marriage, i also know that a happy wife that is attentive and in love with her children, pouring herself out to them will beautify her in the eyes of her husband. this may sound quite silly to our generation but i believe it's true and truth stands the test of time, doesn't it?

  2. This is such a hard question to answer, only because it has so many aspects to it. I have 2 kids, 6 and 18 months. I have also lost a baby at birth and have miscarried twins. Between raising children and losing children, I HAVE lost myself. But I truly believe that that's what a good mother does. She devotes her life to her kids. On the other hand, I do get up and get myself ready most every day. I try to at least blow dry my hair and apply a little makeup. But fashion wise- I am not, AT ALL, fashionable. It's just easier to put on those scruffy jeans and that faded t-shirt, rather than coordinating that perfect outfit..every single day. Some women may call me cute some may call me frumpy. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Since having kids I have gained 2 sizes, but as I look at my children and see what precious beings they are, I remind myself that it was for them. That's what we do as mothers, we sacrifice something. For some women it's our weight and for others it's a hobby. I have never met a mother who hasn't had to sacrifice something. For those of us who have "let ourselves go", fashion is our sacrifice.

    I will teach my daughter that while beauty counts for something, it DOES NOT count for everything! It's truly who you are on the inside that makes you who you are.

  3. Thanks so much for reading and thanks for all your thoughts here. As you point out, the important thing to remember is not to let YOURSELF go. And if that self is one that is just as joyful, happy and attentive to herself while wearing jeans and T shirt, there is nothing wrong with that.

    It is hard to cover all the issues in one post, but I hoped to make it understood that "letting yourself go, is letting go of the essence of what makes you YOU, and then letting that translate into what we put on everyday."
    Certainly, apperances can become crutches,masks and distractions from what is going on inside us; just as they can be joyful expressions of our creativity. My point is not about apprerances equating to the sum value of our worth, but about loosing something that is yet another tool for self expression.

    Somehow we need to find a middle ground. A place where how we look on the outside is not judged as a direct reflection of our value on the inside. We are more than the sum of our parts, as glamorous or modest as those parts may be, one should not negate the other.

  4. Very well said! And I like what you said as well, kristen. I can't wear any of the clothes I used to before I had my son. My hips are bigger. My ribcage is bigger. Sometimes I will think back to when I spent my money on fashion, heels, make-up, accessories...and now, I haven't gone shopping in two years. My money goes to clothes and fun things for my son. It is his turn now. Fashion isn't what is important to me anymore. And I don't think I have let myself go. Look in my eyes...I'm the same person I was before. I'm still there. There is just more to me now. I am a mother who is in love with her child. And he doesn't care what I wear! He loves me anyway.

  5. I'm hell bent on trying to make dark under circles fashionable. Anyone with me? No?

    I rarely wear makeup these days either and most of my heels are collecting dust. When I do dress up I make sure to snap a photo (and that's usually when I post a Fashion Friday post which is rare these days).

    You are right - priorities do change but your personality and who you are doesn't. I wouldn't want to be defined by the clothes I wear anyway.

  6. Great topic! You may have read this article already, but if you haven't--check out Jennifer Tung's article over at Cookie Magazine. It's worth the read!

  7. I do dress less to impress now than I did in my pre-baby twenties (although at no time in my life has my outfit included heels. I don't understand them, I find the notion of squeezing my poor feet into shapes which are incompatible with that of a foot and teetering around for eight or so hours totally perplexing).
    As far as clothes go, I wear what I am comfortable in. I like to present well but for me the requirements for presenting well are simple. It entails washing every day, brushing my hair and teeth, and ensuring my clothes are clean and ironed. Of great importance to me is being content in my own skin, feeling fit and healthy, being available to and present with my young children and living a fulfilling life.
    I'm actually much more comfortable with myself now as a 36 year old mother of two than I ever was when my hours in the morning pre-babies were spent 'grooming'! My essence is richer, I understand more about myself now. I think for me it's less about letting myself go and more about embracing other facets of life.

  8. Thank you for this post! As I read the post on SKM I felt so uncomfortable at the idea that one's appearance is supposed to be the extent of one's self!
    Yay you!

  9. Yet again I have to send major kudos your way! You always know what to say I love your spunk and wit. I have to agree with you when it comes to being more worried about enjoying your little one vs worrying about your waist line. I actually weighed less at the end of my pregnancy than I did at the beginning by 60 pounds! It was a rough pregnancy but seriously that was the last thing on my mind All I wanted was a healthy baby, and afterwards my focus was on making sure my baby stayed healthy and that she remains that way. Again Bravo with your eloquence.

  10. Great Post! I totally agree with everything that you said and it resonates completely with me too. I can't believe how caught up I was on fashion and looking a particular way prior to having kids, your priorities totally change and don't get me wrong I still love to glam up and enjoy that side of life, but I also love being stylishly comfortable and I love looking like I am a mum, because I am and it is the greatest job I have ever had.

  11. Wow--deep stuff here! It is true that our priorities change. Now I'm a grandmother; my kids are all grown and on their own, and I still like me as I am..for the person I've become on the inside--much stronger, kinder, and giving than in my youth.

  12. Sorry, had to comment again. I went and read some of SKM's posts and was slightly nauseous. Her male friend I think hit the nail on the head when after browsing her blog, he said, “It looks like you spend all day deciding what to wear and then you’re so happy about it you have to tell the whole world.”
    Am I just jaded and cynical?

  13. I think letting yourself go is a subjective thing - we all have that line in the sand that we set for ourselves and we know when we cross it.

    For me, I'll happily leave the house without makeup. It doesn't phase me at all (and I think my skin is better for having makeup free days) but I just won't wear trackie pants or runners outside the gym. To me, that is letting yourself go.

    It's not about living up to someone else's standard but keeping to the standard you set for yourself.

    If you are doing something (or not doing it) because it's not a priority in your life at the moment then it's different to letting things slide because you just can't be bothered. The most important thing is feeling comfortable in our skin.

  14. A few months ago I went to a Vintage and Antique Fair in Sydney, and there were multitudes of ladies dressed in the style of SKM. How I stared at their perfect hair and make-up, the immaculately researched and presented outfits. It was all so the Fair.

    I spend what I consider to be a decent amount of time on my appearance. Working three days a week gives me the opportunity to take off my mother clothes and put on something more "glamourous". I totter about in vintage heels, lovely skirts, cashmere jumpers and the like. My work clothes are those which are mostly inappropriate for childs' play.

    However, gone is the high maintenance blonde hair, gone are the regular shopping expeditions for the latest and greatest fashions, and gone is my teeny pre-baby size (in fact, my size has changed almost identically to Stepford's!). I couldn't imagine being so interested in myself and my appearance that I would document it on a blog, complete with pictures of my clothes!

    But horses for courses. It takes all types. What I have "let go" in some areas, I have "picked up" in others. I love my little job, in part for the opportunity it gives me to dress up and imagine another me from another time. God help me if that's how I was in everyday life...

    (On another cynical note, it concerns me that SKM, who advertises herself as a person one could potentially engage as a writer, cannot proofread...but that's just a part of me that I will never let go).

  15. Hmmmm. lots of views. lots of voices. As I read all the posts, one thing jumped at me. 'As women, we need to have a strong sense of self'. If you KNOW who you are, then no matter what, you will be in touch with what floats YOUR OWN boat. I think that is what matters and a lot of people have said that in one way or another.

    I have seen people dressed to the nines with zero heart. No personality. There seems to be no one home on the inside. They are so caught up in what I call the 'frivolities of life'. So even if you admire how they look after a while you walk away thinking 'what a shame!'

    I have met people who, no fault of theirs, appear rather unkempt or maybe just dressed down to suit their lifestyles. But O what warmth and charisma they exude. The moment you begin to engage them, you lose sight of their outlook as you connect with their hearts. For me, I would like to be somewhere in the middle of these two places. Well balanced.

    As I have grown up and the children have grown older,I have actually begun to pay more attention to how I look without being obsessed about it though. I like to look well turned out. It makes me feel good about me. It makes my 'mighty good man' and my older children feel proud of me AND I believe I represent a good looking God who wants me to be kind and loving and look good while I do it.

    But you know what at the end of the day, its ALL vanity so I am ever consious of the more important things in life. Love. Family and God.

    Very very thought provoking post Stepford Dreams. Thanks!

  16. You know, I don't have any kids myself (disclaimer!), but I think that it's important that mothers show their daughters especially what happy women look like. A model for happiness is so important. And for some that might mean what C describes, and for some SKM, that might be mean putting more focus on appearance. As long as it's about what makes the woman happy, I think it's okay.

  17. I don't have any children either, but I think that this is something you have to be willing to give up (eh, maybe no give up but put on the back burner). It's ok though! You have a much more important job now!! -- taking care of the little one!

  18. This post is so ture. Great, great work.

  19. When I was a teenager, if the house had caught fire I would have stayed to put my makeup on before I let the fireman drag me out the door! Now, after having 4 kids, it is not even an issue to me if I go to the store without my face on. I don't do it all the time but if I do it is of no concern to me. Some people would think that I have let myself go. I think I've just let my insecurities go.