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Ask Sarah: How To Look Good With “Mommy Guilt”

In the spirit of feminism, female empowerment, and the advent of the “girl bosses” finding resonance in the hearts of Filipinas, and the series of related questions creeping into my inbox from ladies residing from Manila to Manhattan, I’ve decided to open up my e-mail for your questions about anything from fashion and style, beauty and health, wellness and womanhood, to tips and tricks for managing the Metro girl life in the modern day.



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So save in your address book, and feel free to type whatever question or concern pops into your head, wherever it comes to you—be it staring at a beauty counter and finding yourself very overwhelmed, feeling the liquid courage after four margaritas at happy hour, or at four in the morning when your baby is breastfeeding and you want to scream bloody murder.

Disclaimer:  my advice will often be in the tone of how I’d talk to my girlfriends; a mix of empathy and comedy, personal experience and guesswork. And as I’d expect my friends to do, I always encourage you to get as many perspectives as possible on solutions for your dilemma, because lord knows I’m just another girl trying to figure out this world, too!

Today’s question (statement?) came through my Instagram direct message inbox:

“I’ve heard you mention the term ‘mommy guilt’ when you were asked about your favorite places to shop. I used to love buying clothes but since I gave birth to my son three years ago, I can’t seem to enjoy shopping anymore. I miss looking my best and though I love being a mom, I feel like I’m becoming less confident every day.” - LGV

Ah. Mommy Guilt—which for me, is spelled resolutely with a very capital G—a malady that came in swiftly after delivery, and has remained for the entire 12 years of my daughter’s existence. Now, mommy guilt manifests differently for each woman, but generally speaking, it is a lingering feeling that you are not doing or being “enough” for your child. This affects decisions we make about how we spend our time, and in the case of this particular question, our money.



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As if it were not enough for our babes to suckle milk from our breasts and leave them much less pert than they used to be, or consume so much of our time that fixing our hair or doing make up becomes an almost unnecessary luxury; the role of mother can also weigh in on who becomes priority when there’s a little extra money to spend.

Where that surplus might have once found its destiny in the cash register of a retail store on pure impulse, you now find yourself cringing at the thought of even stepping into a boutique. Am I right?

If so, here are a few tips and tricks to eking out some style and getting your mojo back without feeling like you’re depleting your child’s college fund.


The Overview: It’s all about creating your Signature Look.

I’ve written about this several times before, and it continues to be a lifesaver for women that are busy, on a budget, or just a little discombobulated when it comes to looking polished every day.

Take cues from people like Victoria Beckham, who lives in turtlenecks and well-tailored pants, or Carolina Herrera, who you will probably most often see in a crisp white button-down top and a black a-line skirt that hovers right below the knee. Two ladies that are recognized for their contributions to fashion and style, who really keep it simple when it comes to their personal wardrobes. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be considered well-put together.


Step 1: Start by locking in a silhouette that you know works for you.

Do you feel best in body hugging clothes? Tops that allow you room to move? Pants or skirts? Think about what makes most sense for your lifestyle. If you have to look streamlined and put together, consider more tailored pieces. If you’re not beholden to a professional dress code and love to tap into your bohemian spirit, go flowy. Once you’ve figured out your formula in how clothes fit, we move on to….



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Step 2: Narrowing the rainbow.

Come up with a three to four color palette that suits your spirit, your skin tone, and your environment. Hopefully those colors do not clash with each other (a good guide for what NOT to do is study major NBA basketball team’s jerseys. Blue and orange, purple and yellow, red and green are not often pleasant outfit combos to look at). Resources online like color wheels and Pantone’s color palettes/schemes can be a great place to start.


Step 3: Figure out what basic pieces you need to survive.

My daughter and I have realized that we can live on between 15-21 basic items, ranging from short sleeved shirts to turtlenecks and formal blouses, maxi skirts to denim shorts, palazzo pants to streamlined slacks, light sweaters, a blazer, yoga pants, and jeans.



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Step 4: Pick a brand that makes sense to you.

Since you’re going to be wearing these pieces over and over again, I suggest finding a quality retailer at a price point that you can justify the cost per wear for. Oftentimes you can pay P250, P2,500 or P25,000 for similar items. Just know what to expect in the long run. Now this is likely to going to be the most difficult part, but if you can find the funds and the fearlessness to splurge on yourself, just this one time, you won’t have to think about it again for years.


Step 5: Make a shopping list. Then go out and actually do it.

Have your silhouette list, your color list, and your budget. Stay disciplined and stick to that list. Lock in a date. Find a support system; someone to watch your child, perhaps, or someone to go out and shop with you. Plan in advance and communicate your plan to whoever matters, not as a question, but a statement (even if the only person who will listen is your three year old).


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And when the guilt kicks in (and it absolutely will) remember what the pregnancy was like, labor, all the nights and mornings you put everyone else first. Know that this shopping spree isn’t going to come along again for awhile, and that your kid deserves to know what a confident mother looks like.

Oh, and if you needed extra incentive, my calendar just reminded me that Mother’s Day is coming up. Treat yo’self.


Lead photos by London Scout, Unsplash