I Don’t Want to Be An Invisible Mom

When it comes to fashion, the only thing most Catholic writers have to say is “modesty, modesty, modesty.”  I’m sick to death of the topic, and if you’re reading my blog, I’m sure you are too.  What about beauty?  That’s one of the transcendental aspects of being, right up there with goodness and truth, no?  Nothing gets my dander up like religious folk obsessing about clothes while patently not caring about them.  My Christian college had a dress code, which I think was a good thing on the whole, but my post-college wardrobe doesn’t always conform to it, and I haven’t been kidnapped by white slavers (so far).  I have appeared in public (though not at church or work) in strapless sundresses, shorts, and even a bright coral dress that hit me mid-thigh – but I doubt anyone sane thought I looked slutty.  The strapless sundress had a floor-grazing skirt; the short coral dress had cap sleeves and a demure neckline.  I won’t wear a bikini, but I wouldn’t automatically unfriend a girl who did.

The point is, I enjoy looking pretty and I have a small, hard-earned store of knowledge on how to do so.  Aeon, a true NCB, enjoys my appearance, and I don’t plan on trashing it any time soon.  Let’s face it: we’re Catholic; we’ll probably (God willing) have a baby within the next three years.  But I don’t want to end up in a freaking denim jumper!  Gah!  When I look at photos of my grandmother holding her children, she’s always wearing some killer 50s outfit.  I want to be like her!  Don’t even talk to me about June Cleaver; I’ve never seen her.  Is she a hipster who makes bread-knives with owls on the handles?

This little inspirational gem has apparently been making the rounds of the internet.  The most offensive bit is the husband ignoring his wife at a dinner party, but this is the crux of the matter:

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England.  Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

This imaginary lady doesn’t need a condescending gift from her fabulous friend – she needs five freaking minutes to take a shower, and she needs to look at some style blogs and buy a few machine-washable knit dresses in bright colors.  And some knee-high boots.

Why should Invisible Mom care?  Well, if she were a cheerful hippie mamma that would be one thing, but she’s not.  She’s conscious of being “out of style” and grungy, and it makes her unhappy.  Also, if she has a daughter, Invisible Mom will be her most powerful advertisement for the state of motherhood.   Does she see a thriving, happy woman?  Why should she want to trade in her pretty, single state to become a meek, shabby, peanut butter-scented drudge?  Why would you wait on your daughter hand and foot, training her to enthrone herself at the center of the universe, when all you want is for her to grow up, marry a nice man, and forget about having a moment of peace or appreciation ever again?  How are you preparing her to be happy?

Rant over.  When I have kids I will:

1.  Keep this bookmarked.

2.  Remember that as long as it’s machine-washable, it’s all good.

About flirtyintrovert

I love reading blogs more than talking to people. I'm trying to change that by writing a blog.
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11 Responses to I Don’t Want to Be An Invisible Mom

  1. Sheila says:

    I’m afraid people don’t know, to look at me, that I really AM a hippie mom, that I was grungy before I was a mom, and that I happen to love enormous men’s t-shirts. They think I neglect my appearance because I have kids, when in reality I neglect my appearance because I am really not that interested in it. Not to mention I’m still recovering from the mental scarring of years and years of being told I didn’t look good enough or dress nicely enough, whether from family, classmates, or abusive guardians.

    What I’m saying is that I might neglect my appearance, but I don’t neglect myself or my identity. I think every mom deserves a chance to do what makes her come alive, whether it’s a shower and a primp or an hour in the garden or time to blog and dash off a couple of poems. That alive-ness is something she’ll need for her massive job of forming the next generation. Rolled-flat, gray women don’t make good mothers. However, it bothers me that when we DO find a rolled-flat woman, we blame her for it and say she’s only looking frazzled and tired because she’s a martyr, instead of assuming that her children have a father somewhere and he is not giving her a break. I get lots of breaks, and thus I remain sane while so many women are pulling out their hair. Circumstances can’t always be helped, but a dad should always try to pull his share. On this self-sacrifice depends his ability to come home to a stylish wife or one who sparkles with delightful conversation. These things don’t come out of nowhere.

    I will definitely remind you of all this when you are knee-deep in babies! (Oh, what a charming thought, a forest of little Flirties.)

    About modesty, all I can do is echo Simcha Fisher and say that sometimes talking about immodesty is likewise immodest. There are many ways to objectify women, and commenting on what is and isn’t showing is a big one.

    • Thanks for responding, Sheila. I was painfully aware as I wrote that I may have a baby exactly like the baby I was (big screamer, refused to be toilet trained before the age of three), forcing me to live in hospital scrubs and accessorize with ear plugs. But I don’t want to go quietly!

      I would NEVER say snarky things about the appearance of an actual mom (although I won’t spare the “feelings” of certain clothing items – denim jumpers should not exist). I know the way you dress has been consistent through the years and that you like it – I hope I didn’t sound like I wanted every mom to prove she’s not oppressed by putting on red lipstick and high heels before she’s allowed to leave the house. I took aim at the Invisible Mom for these reasons:

      - She’s not an actual mom blogger, she’s a persona in an “inspirational” piece that has been circulating through church groups and the Internet.
      - in the story her HUSBAND ignores her too, not just her kids, and this is never critiqued. The mom just decides that her family’s blatant disrespect is God’s cure for her “stubborn pride.”. What kind of jerk looks at his exhausted, peanut butter-stained wife (who is expecting guests) and DOESN’T say, “Honey, let me watch the kids, you need a break”? I have a problem with this being pushed as inspiration.
      - She’s unhappy with the way she looks and feels, and she simply accepts that she has no power to change things.
      - I may be fixating on the peanut butter because I loathe the stuff. I’d almost rather have rotten egg in my hair.

      • Sheila says:

        LOL — not a peanut butter fan. That explains everything. I love peanut butter. Though — not in my hair.

        Right, I think you’re spot-on here. It’s not that the MOMS need to be trying harder. They usually are trying pretty darn hard. (There was a First Things article awhile back making fun of frowsy moms at the playground, and I wanted to hit the author. I really did. Why do you think they look so messy and tired? Because they ARE tired, duh!) But everyone else needs to actually respect them — us — and give us a break. And we need to expect and ask for that. A lot of the Catholic world expects us to make our lives a constant martyrdom, and then praises us to the skies for doing it … but what if we actually like our lives and would like to continue enjoying them, while being a good mother? Is that supposed to be impossible? I don’t think it’s impossible. Sure, I don’t read as much Greek as I used to. But in my free time, which I guard jealously, I am translating a book from Spanish, I read psychology books, and I make myself a good lunch every day. I think it’s stuff like that that helps me keep my sanity and be a (mostly) patient mom.

  2. petitepaumee says:

    I really liked this post. I’d definitely hope – if and when I become a mom – to not lose that spark of aliveness, but rather, make it even bigger. I’m not quite sure what that will translate to, but I’ve always been rather aghast when reading mom blogs about the prospect of not even getting 5 minutes a day to shower – 5 minutes for myself. I’d think that’s not too much to ask for, and I’d definitely hope my husband would pitch in to make sure that at least those 5 minutes would be free for me to do my own thing. But this may be an unreal, introverted view of things…

    But I definitely agree that sacrificing everything to your kids – and letting them walk over you – is not a recipe for happiness, for either the mom or the kids. It boils down to letting them disrespect you and your hard work – and I don’t see how that could be a virtue?

    • Yes, I always freak out when mom bloggers say they live in sweatpants and haven’t washed their hair for two weeks. Is the baby really going to burst into flames if they take a five minute shower? Where is Dad? I don’t understand, I’m afraid. I think it has something to do with the American cult of busy-ness. Women who boast of their frantic lives and powers of multitasking used to make me feel guilty, but lately I’ve stopped being afraid of them.

      • petitepaumee says:

        I think you’re right. It’s the cult of busyness, but it’s also some wrongly understood ideal of a Christian woman who should just grin and put up with everything her children/husband dish out to her. As you pointed out, not a very good way for her children to grow in selflessness and consideration of other people, and a recipe for unhappiness down the line, even if you convince yourself this is God’s will for you.

  3. Amy says:

    Dear Flirty, You don’t have to be an invisible mom. I went and read the article and felt a great incongruity between the first and second half of the article. I loved the analogy of the cathedral builder- mothering does have hidden works. I hated disrespect doled out by her own family Proverbs 41, anyone? How about the third commandment? Is she our role model? Yeiks. Yes, you may accidentally leave the house someday with a ketchup stain (or peanut butter hair or whatever)… but that is not the norm. Thank you for the allowance for “Happy Hippy Moms”- we exist. For myself, I dress more attractively now that I am married than I ever did when I was single and I put more thought into my appearance since having children (changing shapes are hard to drape well without extra thought).
    May I talk about Natasha at the end of War and Peace? Tolstoy says that she lets herself go after she becomes a mother and a wife- and Tolstoy seems to approve. I don’t think that this is depicted because it is ideal, rather I think that this is in response to her previous vanity, glamor, and worldly allure. Sometimes when we flee one vice, we fall to far towards the opposite extreme. Virtue is in the mean.

  4. Jacquie says:

    Looking back over my own life as a mother perhaps I did fall into the invisible. I put some effort into myself but as I believed a mother should look. I lost the fact that I was still a woman and a wife. I wore the jumpers and my husband never said anything contrary, until recently. My children are adults now, just about all moved out. I guess you could say I’ve come full circle, wearing clothing similar to what I wore before motherhood fully took hold. My husband compliments me more than he has in years. He went a little further a few weeks back when he confessed that he hated the dresses and jumpers I wore daily. They were ‘mommy’ clothing, not wife clothing. When I asked him why he never told me he replied that he thought it was what was expected as a mom. He didn’t want to say anything to hurt my feelings or make me feel bad. Additionally we took our cues from the churches we attended.
    He is much happier with how I put myself together these days. I feel more confident in myself as well. I feel like I can do so much more. Yes it is difficult as a mother to find some time to put into yourself, but like with anything in life, if you make it a priority you will make the time.
    So glad you are thinking about this now; it will make it so much easier for you to accomplish when you get there. It is something that I believe many women miss.

  5. Wow, thank you for addressing this topic, Flirty. As Jacquie says, it is an advantage to address this before one walks up the aisle, but having said that, so many women learn this after marriage, and they do well. I am so pleased for Jacquie that she has gained her confidence over the years – it’s nice to know that it’s NOT all downhill from here lol.

    Yes it is important to realise that one is a wife first, mother second. That thought alone changes how one dresses. I am glad I know this, because I know that any man I marry won’t tolerate me putting ‘mommy status’ ahead of ‘wife status’ except of course when our future children are very small. I just know it…
    One of the ‘sins’ of religion is to magnify ‘virtue’ to the point of unattractiveness. We should find the happy medium, as Christian women. Which from your description, you have, Flirty! NCB Aeon is indeed a lucky boy.

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