“Like so many other moms, I thought that giving up my career meant that I had to also give up myself.”
by Amanda Rodriguez
My What NOT to Wear experience with TLC’s Stacy and Clinton was a completely fun and mind-blowingly positive experience. Spending a week in NYC shopping and getting a new look was refreshing, and interesting, and exhausting, and awesome.
A remarkably happy ending to a ridiculously sad story.
Because that’s what I was before my best friend (since the eighth grade) nominated me and then worked her butt off to convince the producers that I was the best choice for the experience. But I can’t say my story was unique.
It was the classic story of the young-ish mom of three who gave up her career to stay at home and raise her kids. For some reason, like so many other moms, I thought that giving up my career meant that I had to also give up myself.
My weekend mani-pedis were quickly replaced with shower optional days spent in oversized sweats and goldenrod scrunchies. (I know… gag.)
Instead of perusing fashion magazines for ideas on how to dress, I cancelled my subscriptions and dug them out of their basement storage boxes only when preschool collages needed completion.
It felt right at first. Being a mom was my dream. I knew from a young age that I would grow up, go to college, get married, have babies and stay home to raise them. I didn’t know I would meet my husband in college, but was happily surprised when I did and was able to get to the next step sooner than I had expected.
So, as I sat at home in my brightly colored fleece hoodie and my maternity panties (yes, I wore them even when I wasn’t pregnant), putting together wood puzzles while singing The Backyardigans theme song over and over and over again, I felt like my life was perfect.
Even once the initial shock of life with a baby that refused to sleep when the sun was down began to wear off, I didn’t think my makeup-free face and disheveled appearance were questionable or out of place. I had the symbolic mom uniform and I wore it with pride; relieved even to have my baby to blame for my uncanny ability to look identical to a homeless person. I fit so perfectly with all of the other sleep deprived, unmotivated moms at the park, and the library, and the play center.
It was the norm. All the moms were doing it.
And I was fine with it. Fine with the lack of effort. Fine with the baby weight. Fine with the puked on pants and the year-round flip flops and the diaper bag purse and the ill fitting undergarments.
Until I just wasn’t.
I started to feel gross. And ashamed, and lazy, and disappointed, and incomplete.
Not with my family. I love my family. My Dudes (the little boys and the big one too) are my priority and always will be. Because they are awesome. And I know it.
But, I started to realize that instead of being a contributing part of the family equation I was on the outside. I was more like the hired help; mostly because I spent all day looking and acting like it! I needed a change, but after years of not changing anything at all, I didn’t know what to change or how to go about it.
So I started with the most glaring issue: my weight. It was difficult at first, but as the success came I started to feel like I might just be a little bit amazing! Maybe even important and special, too. Taking control of that one part of my life was empowering.
Feeling all accomplished and unstoppable, I decided to tackle another missing element of my life and I started writing again. And, what started as a bit of an experiment to develop a hobby turned into an endeavor that has allowed me to build a community, experience career success, and discover my passions.
Then one morning I found myself on a stage preparing to give a talk to a room full of people about how I discovered an outlet and found my voice. How I started with a little website and built it into something I could be proud of while simultaneously developing a skill and an income, and in walked Stacy London and Clinton Kelley with their $5000 and their much needed advice.
The rest is history.
History memorialized on a one hour reality TV show you can surely catch in reruns come this summer. Now that the lights and the cameras and most of action have cleared, I am making it a point to share what I learned with moms everywhere.
Not the just how-to-put-on-make-up-like-a-grown-up-and-pick-dresses-that-hide-your-post- partum-pouch stuff. But how to remember that you are a human member of your family. That it’s okay to feel good about yourself. That you deserve to poop and pee in private. And, that you have a name. And, if your kids haven’t ever heard it, maybe it’s about time they did!
Before going on What NOT to Wear, I thought that sacrificing my beauty rituals and my exercise routines and even my personal hygiene was for the good of my children. I was living this day-to-day either-or existence that left me feeling worn down, tuckered out, and shot up.
But now I know that I was wrong. Is it sad that I had to go on a reality TV show to figure this out? Probably, but so what?! Because it was fun (how could being in NYC on an all expense paid trip, sans kids not be), and rewarding, and I learned more about myself and what I want out of life for myself (not just for my kids) in that one week than I had in the past 10 years.
I know now what I am more than “just a mom”. I am not defined solely by the fact that I’ve birthed three babies. I have my own personal wants and needs that should be met. I need my Dudes to see me feeling good about myself; to see me living and thriving and contributing to our life.
I need more than to be someone who is falling through life and existing as my children’s own little Cinderella. I need to show them what a woman they might like to marry one day should look like, and it’s not someone they can walk over and make demands of.
Mostly, I need them to know that their mom is an independent, confident, and wholly awesome woman who is rocking the socks off of life.
And, now that I have my gorgeous Coach boots and matching handbag, they really can’t even doubt it!
Amanda Rodriguez, is the owner of Then Again Photography and has recently begun her life as a professional writer. You can find her spewing her humorous tips on how to be awesome at parenting on her popular blog, parentingBYdummies.com.