Sarah Meier's Parenting Series: In Defense Of Sweatpants
Because exercising self-care sometimes calls for athletic-wear.
“Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants”?Karl Lagerfeld
When I first heard the Lagerfeld quote, much like Linda Evangelista’s infamous “won’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day” statement, I swiftly swatted the notion away as something a privileged, removed from (my) reality person would say.
But when the same idea was floated on Seinfeld, a television show whose characters were forever dressed in an assortment of department store Dad-looking shirts and shoes, it was clear that sweatpants were some sort of universal code for giving up.
Today, I rise to the defense of the humble sweatpant, and by extension, the reliable black legging as well, in the hopes of displaying the same loyalty and dependability they have extended to us over the years.
It all harkens back to form versus function. Sweatpants and leggings, identifiable with exercise and sport, are most appreciated for their range of movement. It is this, coupled with ease of wear that make them a no-brainer for moms the world over. Because let’s be real, every last brain cell is best preserved for more crucial things, like not forgetting to turn off the stove, or remembering to strap the baby in the car seat properly before driving off (this actually happened last week, y’all. Sorry, Juno.)
Happy in sweatpants!
Tech giants Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg’s affinity for a basic fuss-free uniform is rooted in the same premise mothers have; of having more important crap to do than figuring out what we’re going to wear in the morning.
Now by no means am I championing the idea that mothers should put themselves last. Because selflessness, putting the needs of others in the family before our own, is often instinctual and so deeply programmed, prioritizing self-care is laden with such incredible mom-guilt that it is “not even worth it” to some.
In the long run though, it is massively important.
Self-care in motherhood is one of the more pressing concerns and needs of this parenting era; the stigma of post-postpartum mood swings still persists, and increasing demands of women to perform both at work and at home have catapulted the need for ample education on what support for mothers looks like in these fast-evolving times. I can tell you firsthand that the occasions on which I asserted myself in demanding alone time in the early weeks, even if it was just to take a “long” soak in the bath, those 15-minute breaks kept me from spiraling into hormonal and depressive depletion.
I read somewhere that there are a few tenets of newborn motherhood self-care, and taking a daily shower is one of them. To think that something so basic becomes a monumental chore shows that anything beyond fundamental hygiene and grooming is almost, well, comical. Whether it is comical because it is luxurious or frivolous, I’ll let you decide.
Now, no shade thrown at moms who find joy in dressing up. It has certainly saved my sanity on more than one occasion. At 6 months post-partum, I’ve graduated from the early months of sleep-deprived insanity, and have room to inch my way toward a sense of normalcy, feeling less like a milked cow and looking more like myself. I crave the pep in my step that I get from wearing a killer outfit; or the way I hold my chin just a touch higher when my lipstick is on point and my hair is cooperating.
It was, in fact, this desire that led me to impulse-order six pairs of “respectable” but comfortable shoes online one day when I realized how sick I was of being in Uggs and Adidas NMDs.
A more active lifestyle calls for more forgiving clothing.
But most days, still, sweatpants. Because while the black legging is in itself the more versatile garment, boasting the ability to be dressed up or dressed down as needed, sweatpants entice with the promise of…pockets. (Why, by the way, does so little of women’s clothing give credence to pockets?) A handbag is honest to goodness the last thing I want to schlep around when I already have the baby, the diaper bag, the stroller, and lord knows what else to juggle.
So, in defense of the philosophy of sweatpants, I hereby declare that they are not a sign of giving up but rather a sign of accommodating. Accommodating the need to crouch down every five minutes to pick up that blasted sippy cup the baby keeps throwing on the ground. Accommodating, in the way they do not strangle or shame the deliciously soft rolls around our mid-sections, still pliant from birth, whether it’s been weeks or years. Accommodating the pull to nature, to raise our families amongst trees, ocean, sun. Their pockets, accommodating all the things we no longer have hands for. Because being a hands-on mom is tough stuff, and sweatpants are a welcome ally.
And if the argument is aesthetic, know that individuality never has to be compromised for comfort. Whether made from a highly metallic fabric, emblazoned with graphic print, or fanci-fied with buttons and other bells and whistles, sweatpants can take on a range of personalities. Athleisure is an entire fashion movement sparked and sustained by moms for this very reason. We needed something to transition us from yoga class to meetings to playground runs in terms of functionality and form.
Which is probably why dear Mister Lagerfeld, who said sweatpants were a sign of giving up, in one of his final projects, made—you got it… sweatpants. A bunch of ‘em.
Rest in peace, Papa Karl.
Mama knows best.