As I stood at the entrance to my daughter’s new school I became acutely aware of my choice of outfit. That day my outfit consisted of New Balance trainers, denim dungarees and white shirt tied at the waist. It was safe to say that I stood out like a sore thumb among the other smart/casual parents, an observation that was not missed by the ‘mum army’!
To clarify the ‘mum army’ is a group of perfect mums who can be found in any child friendly areas such as baby and toddler groups, coffee shops, the park and of course army H.Q…The school gates! These are the mums who attend a 6am spinning class then prepare a full continental breakfast for their family and arrive at school with perfect hair, perfect Jackie O outfits and perfect children. These are also the Mums who can make you doubt your ability as a parent with one look. We all know a perfect mum and we have all been made to feel like crappy parents by one.
Due to my fashion choices on the school runs it was fairly obvious that I would not become a new recruit any time soon. For the first time since secondary school I found myself painfully aware of a hierarchy and ‘fitting in’. Thus began a period in my life where I thought that to be a good mummy I had to be just like the ‘mum army’.
I think to some extent the feeling began as soon as I found out I was expecting my first child. The mum guilt flowed through me from the moment ‘pregnant’ shone out from my Clear Blue test. I thought that I should cut my unruly blond hair into a manageable bob, change from my usual YSL make up to Clarins and invest in sensible footwear. I thought that being interested in current trends was shallow and that spending money and time on myself was selfish and frivolous. But this was nothing compared to how the school gate judgement had left me questioning myself.
Each day I would straighten my hair, put on my best telephone voice and wear my most sensible outfits. Yet, try as I might to look the part of a domestic goddess it just never felt quite right.
Then suddenly, whilst choosing which button down shirt to wear that day, I had an epiphany! Much the same as a cartoon character with a light bulb appearing above their heads, I realised that I would never feel content pretending to be somebody I wasn’t and if the ‘perfect’ mums were going to judge me then so be it.
So, the next day I threw caution to the wind and dressed in my usual style. I put on my gold chunky heeled ankle boots from Topshop and instead of straightening my hair I unleashed the curls and for the first time that year I strutted the school run! Oh my goodness, did it feel good! The most shocking thing was the reaction that came from some members of the ‘mum army’ who commented on how nice my hair looked or asked where the boots were from. Of course there would always be the odd judgmental glares at my outfit choices but I no longer cared because by dressing like myself I had found my old confidence which allowed me to remember who I was ‘B.C’ (before children) and that girl would not have given two hoots what anyone one else thought about her.
I have always loved fashion, creating outfits and expressing myself through different looks. I have worked within the fashion industry since graduation and because of a few mums I thought I had to forget all about those things.
I believe that there is an idea in society that if a mum has the time to put on make up and go clothes shopping then they must somehow be neglecting their parenting responsibilities. This is utter nonsense and like most mothers my number one priority has and always will be my beautiful children.
So with this in mind I created ‘Styling out the School Run’. I wanted a platform to meet other like-minded women who celebrated fashion and weren’t going to apologise for it. I wanted to give style tips and ideas to women who are too busy or just too tired to go shopping and hunt for the latest trends. I also hoped it would let other mums know that it doesn’t make you a bad parent to care about yourself.
After a while I got to know the ‘mum army’ very well and they would ask my advice on clothing or compliment my outfits. I also learnt that they were just as worried and stressed out as the rest of us. We are all doing our best and we all love our children. Being true to yourself and who you are is incredibly good for the soul and it is also a pretty awesome lesson to pass on to your kids!
A Guest Blog Post from Charlotte Lamb
Charlotte Lamb is the creator of Styling out the School Run, a blog and Instagram which focuses on all things fashion & style.
Charlotte graduated with a BA (Hons) in Fashion and went onto work for a number of large brands such as Ted Baker, Oasis and Debenhams as a Creative Manager. Charlotte and her Husband currently live in Lincolnshire with their two young children, Daisy and Charlie.