If you're a stay-at-home mom, you might be familiar with the "mom uniform": unwashed hair, no makeup, a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms. After all, you aren't going anywhere; it's comfortable; and it's ideal for housework and childcare.

I understand, because I've been there. Once, I was brushing my hair and applying cosmetics, and my daughter asked me where I was going. That was the first clue that I hadn't been caring for myself properly. Another time, my husband commented that I looked nice -- and all I had done was shower! My frumpy ways had started with a desire to slash laundry and salon costs, but I ended up burned out, overwhelmed and feeling terrible about myself.

One day, I went out shopping dressed in slacks, a blouse, a blazer and heels. I noticed that I was treated differently by salespeople than when I was in sweatpants and a grubby T-shirt. I actually got better service! That was my light-bulb moment. I realized that maybe my family too would look at me in a new way if I took better care of myself. When I devoted just a little time to my appearance, I felt better and had more motivation -- and my family noticed me more.

When I look back at my "slob phase," I feel a bit sad -- even ashamed. Was my family embarrassed by how I looked?

We've all heard the dire warnings about letting yourself go: Your husband will wander, your self-esteem will plummet. Maybe you shrug it off because you believe your family loves you regardless of how you look, or because you feel it's superficial to be wrapped up in appearance. Or maybe, just maybe, you are aware of the changes in how you look and feel -- but just aren't acting upon that knowledge.

Take the time to care for yourself. You are worth every moment. Now, there's nothing wrong with being casual or comfortable; you don't have to wear your Sunday best every day or ditch your sweatpants forever. But don't fall into the trap of not showering, eating poorly or neglecting yourself. Whenever I start to slip back to my old flannel ways, I remind myself that I could bump into an old classmate any day. Do I want to be mortified that she saw me looking like a train wreck?

If you seek a little validation, remember the saying that if you don't care for yourself, you can't care for others. It's true.

Think of an authority figure you respect: How would you feel if she were talking to you in her pajamas? It's time to get dressed and set aside those sweatpants.


photo by erix