I see you, non-parents, looking at our sweatpants and Crocs, your lips twisted to the side, head slightly tilted, as if you can’t understand why parents just don’t care about the way they look anymore. And sure, we know how bad we look. No one looks good in Crocs. The holes are where your dignity escapes.
But before you get all judgy, before you make bold statements like, “When I have kids, I’m never leaving the house looking like that,” before you look at parents with that asshole face I see so often at Target, let me fill you in on the reality of parenting.
People talk a lot about adulting. Non-parents think adulting is paying bills and getting up in the morning for work. They think it’s buying your first sporty car, or not having to ask your parents to pay your phone bill. But the reality of adulting, after children, is much more complicated.
Adulting means sacrifice, and not in the way you are probably thinking. It means getting up really, really early each morning. Like 5 a.m. early, and packing lunches for your kids, dragging their whiney asses out of bed, arguing with them to put clothing on, checking to make sure they have their homework finished and packed, and their hair combed, and teeth brushed. It’s still dark out when parents spend far more time than necessary arguing with little boys to change their underwear.
And once it’s all done, and the kids are ready to go and loaded in the van, you haven’t had time for yourself. You’ve given it all to your children, your hair is mashed on the one side, and you’re still in the sweatpants and wrinkly, too large, T-shirt you wore to bed. You’re running late, as usual, so you throw on the easiest shoes you have, because your hands are full of backpacks and packed lunches, and those are the Crocs.
It just happens you are tired from getting up in the night for glasses of water and searching for lost binkies or socks or who knows what, and by the time you get home from dropping off the kids, the thought of putting on pants with a legitimate waste feels like a ball and chain. It’s already 9 a.m., and you have shit to do. You need to clean or do laundry, or whatever, and taking time to get yourself ready takes too long, so you just press forward. You go to the store, a toddler in the cart. You work forward, because your list of obligations isn’t getting any shorter.
And suddenly, it’ 3 p.m., and you’ve only accomplished half of what you needed to get done, because the toddler wouldn’t take a nap, and your son somehow forgot to grab his lunch, or school project, or whatever, so you had to run back to the school, still in your sweats and Crocs, and give it to him.
After school, the homework battle begins, or the clean your room battle, or the turn off the tablet and do something productive battle. And what would be the point of making yourself presentable anyway? It’s damn near 5 p.m., and it’s time to make dinner.
I know this all sounds grim, particularly to anyone who really values fashion and sex appeal. But here’s the really crazy part. With your first kid, you will fight it. You will get up extra early to get ready for the day. You will take the time, and you’ll feel good about it too. You will wonder what’s wrong with all those other lazy-ass parents in Crocs and sweats. But after awhile, and a few more kids, unless you have work or something legit going on, you won’t get ready unless you absolutely have to. And it’s not because parents don’t care about themselves. It’s because looking fashionable and trendy isn’t all that big of a priority anymore.
But this is the definition of adulting. This is what it means to let go of your youth and settle into being a parent with children. It doesn’t actually look like having children. It looks like buying a minivan. It looks like settling into affordable polo shirts and cargo shorts. It looks like yoga pants and Crocs. It looks like sitting in a school drop-off line, hair a mess, and asking your child why they took their shoes off during the drive to school. It looks like shopping without makeup, because even though you might not feel your best, shit has to get done. It looks like making practical and comfortable decisions rather than coolness factor decisions because they will ultimately make life with children easier and more manageable and bolster the overall happiness of yourself and your family.
Non-parents reading this, if you’ve made it this far, I know what you are thinking (“I’m never having children”). But you know what, it’s not all that bad. Because the reality of it is this: Having your child do well in school feels better than looking good at the store. A warm snuggle from a toddler feels better than looking fashionable in the school drop-off line. After being up with kids for a million nights in a row and going to bed late after taking a few moments of alone time and then getting up early to get kids to school, sleeping for an extra hour rather than getting up to get ready feels much better than looking good.
This isn’t to say that parents don’t make themselves presentable. We do. Parents work. Parents go to church. Parents have obligations where looking good, or at least presentable, is necessary. But when you see a parent at the store in Crocs and sweatpants, don’t be a judgmental dickhead. Rather, realize that this person had better shit to do this morning. Realize that after kids, looking good at Target doesn’t mean what it used to. It’s all good.