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September 4, 2019
There is a sweet mom who comes to see me every few months at my pediatrics’ office with her two young kids. Every time I walk into the room, she asks me about what I’m wearing. “You always look so stylish and put together,” she tells me. I’m literally laughing my socks off on the inside as she compliments my personal style because there have been so many times I have NOT looked put together, especially in my early parenting days. I was the absolute queen of yoga pants, a shirt with dried breastmilk or pureed pumpkin, and a messy bun when my babies were little. Patients’ families would see me at the grocery store on a Saturday during my maternity leaves and hardly recognize me.
“Dr. Casares?” they would ask, quizzical.
“Yep, it’s me,” I’d respond grinning, still messy from a full night of nursing and diaper changes.
And that’s how it should be. If you’re in the very first months of mothering, just putting your pants on can be a challenging feat, much less trying to color coordinate a blazer and low-heeled booties. When you’re a new mom, you and your baby muddling through is the most important task you have on your list. So what if the house is not perfectly clean and you’re rockin’ sweat pants every day? Appearances should matter least when you’re learning how to keep a small human alive and yourself mentally well in the postpartum period.
When it came time to head back to work, though, I knew finding a low-stress way to present myself positively to the world would matter — not because I needed to dress to the nines or to have perfectly-coiffed hair to be accepted or loved –but because, the truth is, when we “dress the way we want to be addressed” like brand image strategist Toi Sweeney says, we can more confidently face the world (or even just the day).
I work hard at the things that matter in life and I know you do, too. Compared with building resilience in our kids and finding joy as we parent, looking good while we’re doing it barely matters. No matter how unimportant appearances are, though, it turns out they are a necessary evil. I have to wear clothes every day. I have to look professional at my job. Plus, I like to express myself with personal style, both in my home and as I show up socially and professionally. The problem is, particularly when we work, taking care of the way we look can feel like another stressful item on our to-do list. It doesn’t have to be, though.
Here’s how to simplify your shopping and your outfit selections throughout the week:
For years, I organized my closet in a haphazard way. Over time, I spent gobs of money on items that didn’t fit with the rest of my wardrobe. Now I have my clothing arranged by color. Here’s my secret: I don’t include every color of the rainbow. As you might imagine, my personal style reflects the Modern Mommy Doc website style and I dress accordingly, not because I have to but because those colors fit my personality and preferences. Narrowing my color palate also makes it easier for me to get dressed in the morning and makes my shopping more relaxed. I never feel like I have nothing to wear. I can easily mix and match and see where the holes are in my wardrobe.
I’m all for staying off social media as much as possible but I do find making visual boards of personal style extremely useful once in a while. This is not a free invitation to shop online hour after hour or day after day in wistful fashion lust, neglecting your kids and the rest of your responsibilities in the process. This IS an invitation to let yourself browse through Pinterest, seeing what others have curated from the web, saving whatever clothing items catch your eye, even if they are designer pieces that you’d never wear or could never afford. Concentrate on what you like, not on what fits with your current look or your current life, even. Then, look collectively at what you’ve curated for yourself. That’s your style, my dear. Mine is modern romantic, with clean lines paired with more feminine touches.
Once you have your personal style identified, take notice of the stores out there that fit your style, or parts of it. I have three main retailers where I shop online and in-person (though mostly online at this point): Nordstrom, Anthropologie, and a local retailer called Adorn. Nordstrom carries all the basics I need, including shoes, and has a killer Anniversary Sale. Anthropologie carries all the layering pieces or funky items I like to mix in to individualize my style. Adorn has a few more unique pieces and also has an amazing summer and winter sale program.
By honing in on just a few stores that carried several brands that fit me well, with lines that worked with my body type, and whose sizes I knew like the back of my hand, it was easier to shop online at all of these retailers, making my shopping even more streamlined.
By narrowing my shopping to three main retailers, I could also more easily shop their sales, earn rewards, and maintain a more cohesive look. Like my mama, I look for deep discounts so I can buy quality items that will last without breaking the bank. I still browse on vacation in boutique shops for specialty items, and I definitely buy basics like socks or trendy items that may not last even a full season at cheaper shops. The majority of the time, though, sticking with three retailers allows me to spend less in a shorter amount of time on quality items that will last me for years. What modern mama doesn’t want that?
One huge benefit I found when I started color-coding my closet and simplifying my palette was that I started spending significantly less on repeat items I already owned. All that saving freed up significantly more dough for fun accessories and shoes when my budget allowed. Even more importantly, it freed up money for saving toward my long-term life goals and for spending quality time with my kids and my partner.
As we work to win at parenting without losing ourselves, getting more efficient about our shopping and dressing is one of those tasks that can either be full of fun or full of stress, but creating a put-together look doesn’t have to be so complicated. Are there more exciting ways to style yourself? Yes, I’m sure. Do most modern moms I know have time for more as they juggle the rest of their priorities? No way. Follow a few simple guidelines: simplify your color palette, stick with brands and retailers that fit well and save you money, and organize your closet for maximum efficiency so you can get on with the rest of your (way more important) life.
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