The Challenges of Mom Shopping

Mom Shopping

I avoid shopping for myself as much as humanly possible. It’s not that I don’t like shopping, it’s just that as the years have gone by, it has become a greater challenge. And yet, in regular cycles of about five years or so, I find that I have nothing to wear. Like NOTHING.

To be fair, the number of clothes in my closet has not lessened over time, so it’s a bit of a mystery. I’m not one of those, “I haven’t worn it in six months, so I’ll donate it” types. I’m more the, “I am fairly confident that corduroy is going to be back in fashion soon, so I better hold on to these maroon beauties that are two sizes too small because, also, I am going to lose weight.”  It’s not an efficient system, but it’s mine. This is why, without fail, I inevitably find myself staring listlessly into the depths of my closet thinking…why?

There was a time when I would shop for myself on a fairly regular basis, but things changed when I had kids. Before kids, I only had myself to shop for. I could spend hours slowly and thoughtfully roaming the aisles in order to find the perfect outfit. And sometimes I actually had time to try things on before I bought them. Better yet, I did so without multiple toddlers crammed into the dressing room kindly offering fashion advice such as, “Your butt is really big.”

But the days of leisurely shopping are long gone. And as my kids always say, “Mom, pajamas are not clothes.” So every now and then, I have to bite the bullet and actually get myself something that doesn’t have jelly stains and/or appear in eight identical variations in my closet (I’m looking at you “little black sundress”). And this is why I found myself at the mall.

The problem with shopping as a mom is that a) we have limited time and b) there are limited options for mom-appropriate/not-in-my-20s-anymore/must-have-fit-AND-function-type clothes.

There are department stores. There are shops where we used to shop but would be ashamed to show our face there ever again. There are shops where we used to shop and wish we could still shop there…but we know we just shouldn’t. There are shops where we wish we could shop, but seriously, we can’t afford it. There are shops where we shop for our children. Then, there’s Target.

On this particular day, I found myself at a department store. Now, as you know, department stores offer six categories of clothing:

  1. Children’s clothes
  2. Men’s clothes
  3. Professional clothes
  4. Clothes that our grandmothers wear
  5. Formal wear
  6. Juniors

(I realize that there are other departments. But “intimates” doesn’t count for the purposes of this article. Besides, let’s be honest, for most moms, “intimates” means a clean bra and some nice socks.)

But for the purposes of this shopping trip, I figured that this particular store was my best bet. Time was limited, parking was easy, and I was fairly certain I had a coupon.

Besides, I wasn’t looking for something fancy. Just some jeans that fit. And maybe a t-shirt or two that didn’t have my kids’ school logo on them. You know, “mom casual.”

But for some reason, nothing was right. The pants were cut too low. The shirts were cut too high. The sizes were all wrong. I was sure I had entered some sort of shopping Twilight Zone. So I did what I do whenever I find myself in these situations, I called my best friend.

As I gave her a run-down of the situation, she listened thoughtfully. “Ok,” she said, “where are you?” I gave her the name of the department store. She paused for a moment, then she asked with alarm, “Oh dear Lord, what department are you in??” Before I could even answer, she  said, “You’re in juniors, aren’t you?”

Uhhhh…yeah, I was in juniors. I was shopping for cute clothes. Not a smart pant suit.

I could hear her eyes rolling on the other end of the line. “For the love of all that is holy…GET. OUT. Get out NOW,” she said.

“But…but this is where the CUTE clothes are.” I thought. But then I looked around for a moment and it hit me. I WAS NO LONGER JUNIORS’ APPROPRIATE.

I don’t know why this was such a shock. I’m sure you picked up on it the moment you started reading. My friend certainly didn’t miss the signs. But, somehow, without my realizing it, I had gotten old. Not leisure-suit-that-my-grandmother-would-wear old (even if I did have a coupon), but definitely not Juniors-department-young. To make it worse, it suddenly dawned on me that the reason I thought the clothes were cute was because they were things that my daughters would wear. My teenage daughters.

It was not my finest moment.

But it got me thinking all the same. Mom shopping sucks. I mean, really. We spend so much time and money making sure that everyone else has what they need to feel good, to feel confident, and to express their own personal style, that sometimes we forget that we are still wearing pajama pants. And, possibly slippers.

For me, things got so bad at one point that I just started wearing work-out clothes all day and night. I wore them during the day, I slept in them, and then I got up and did it all again the next day. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t actually work out, but it made the bus stop less awkward and now I’m pretty sure most of the neighbors think I’m not competing in triathlons on a regular basis. I’m not going to tell them otherwise.

This, like so many moments in parenting, is a time when I have to just stop and breathe. I have to accept that this is just a phase. Yes, I am in the awkward years. These are the years in which I can’t wear the same clothes as my teenager daughters, but I’m not quite ready for leisure suits (ugh, I did have a coupon).

But, for now, my yoga pants will do. I am adulting so hard right now, that fashion can’t really matter that much. And it’s ok. I am happy to keep wearing that “little black sundress” over and over again and take a back seat to my beautiful girls who each have their own sense of style, fashion, and personal expression.

But just know, that when the time comes for a leisure suit, it’s going to be velour. And it’s going to be AMAZING.