Does homeschooling make me look fat?

When I first started homeschooling I hated having to tell people. You know that moment when you can see someone approaching to ask, “Did your kids stay home from school today?” I used to herd my kids away so we wouldn’t have to explain.

Then I got more comfortable explaining. In fact, I got so comfortable that I dared someone to ask. We’ll go out to lunch and when the waitress said, “Is it a special occasion for someone today?”  I’d say, “No. We homeschool.”

I thought if I debated with everyone who asked how my kids get socialized then I could convert the world, one intrusive inquiry at a time.

Then it got old. Especially for the kids, who sidelined my diatribes when someone asked, “What grade are you in?” by providing a simple number. As if everyone in the world is defined by their classroom.

Now I’m calm. I go about my business and let anyone who wants to subject their kids to standardized tests, and standardized curricula, and standardized socialization (whatever that means). Although I do want to mention to the naysayers that social scientist Hermenia Ibarra once told me that as long as you do not ignore social skills, then social skills will add up just fine. What you care about is where you grow. It’s whatever you’re ignoring that you are probably sucking at — and since we all have to talk with our kids, they are being socialized just fine. I settle into complacent homeschooling. Except for complacent.

And except for clothes. I don’t want to look like a woman who has no life outside of her kids. But the problem is that increasingly I am a woman who always has a kid by her side. If you don’t go into an office every day you don’t have nice clothes. Who buys nice clothes to schlep kids all over the place? I just read in USA Today that more than half the moms polled don’t change out of their pajamas when they have to drive kids somewhere.

But I’m thinking that I’m a more effective parent if I care more about what I look like. There must be research to back this up, though only to a point, because, I also want to believe that I am on equal footing with a supermodel when it comes to parenting: chronically ungrateful children are the greatest equalizer.

Anyway, I cut my hair. I haven’t done that since high school, but even today I wield a scissors with confidence.

My husband watched from a  safe distance and said, “Is this a cry for help? You’re not a teenager.”

I like that he called me a teenager. I cut more. And I decided my new haircut would look great with the Bartaile bag the company sent to me that my friends said I’m not cool enough to use. This is my new homeschooling look.

You can call it what you want. But at least you can’t say I’m ignoring how I look.

21 replies
  1. Cay
    Cay says:

    Wow. I can relate to this.

    I look like what I am — a breastfeeding mom of an infant. I wish that my wardrobe were more than nursing tops and plain black bottoms, that makeup wasn’t just dabbing on a lip stain.

    There are no incentives to change that right now, and that’s why I’m so excited for the in-person class I have starting next week. It’s a chance to be (and present as) a student again, and not just a lactating mom of one. Similarly, I am looking forward to going back to work.

    I think it has to do with self-expression. Being a mom is a big part of my life, but I don’t want my entire life to revolve around my children permanently. I thought that I was a pretty asocial person who would be fine with the isolation of early motherhood. I was wrong. I do want to socialize, on my own terms.

    So, I’m taking steps to change my life and build in parts that are fulfilling for myself. I trust that my appearance will follow.

  2. Maria
    Maria says:

    Love your hair. And for the record, I always think you look lovely in your pictures.

    I cut my own hair a few weeks ago with the same thoughts running through my head.

  3. moni
    moni says:

    Just stop plucking your eyebrows and you will look perfect! Let them grow a little (like a whole year) before letting a professional (not you) give them the right shape :)

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      She used to write often about expensive eyebrows. And i knew I was doing it wrong if I didn’t know the difference between $20 and $100 eye brows.

      Naturally I have a lot to work with. But it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to do it. But I loved that I learned this from here. A lot of social skills is to learn to fit in with the environment that benefits you most, even if you were not born in it.

  4. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Oh my gosh! I LOVE THE BANGS!

    It’s super cool and you look fantastic. You pull it off great.

    Growing up I watched my mom put on lipstick just to do the dishes. She always looked good even if she was casual. Even her casual had red lipstick.

    When I quit my old job and got this new job I went from nice office clothes of sheath dresses and heels to jeans and a t shirt. I didn’t like it. Everything was casual all the time now.

    Except for Friday nights of salsa dancing, I had no reason to wear nicer clothes. So I started buying nice cool clothes that could handle a job of sitting on the floor doing activities with little kids. Boots with heels. And sometimes, even if I am just wearing jeans and a t-shirt with cardigan, some bright lipstick.

    I am a better mom to my kids that way.

  5. Chris
    Chris says:

    What will Sharon say?

    I went through a very similar evolution as a gay parent. When my kids were little, if someone said, “Your daughter looks just like you.” I’d make a big point of saying, “Thank you for saying that, but we are not biologically related. My partner gave birth to her and I gave birth to this guy.” Mostly I did it to show my (at that point pre-verbal) kids that our family was acceptable. The most common followup question I got was, “What do they call you?” And I would explain that they called us “Mommo” and “Mommy”. By the time they were in middle-school, people stopped saying my daughter looked like me. And both kids started calling both of us “Mom”.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is such a great parenting story because it’s so hard to know what will matter. Things that seem so important end up being largely irrelevant. This is true of who is related to who, in Chris’s story. And it’s true of so many curriculum issues, in all of our stories.


  6. Jeff Melvin
    Jeff Melvin says:

    Nothing readily available on effective parenting and clothing. However, the broader topic “confidence clothing research” has a ton of research. Since it fits my results, I would argue that “Confidence” is what is important here. We are confident when we are in Flow. We are in Flow when what we are doing has our full attention even if we are not aware that it does.

    The research says that clothes make a difference in the amount of attention we can give to something.

    Therefore, continue to rock the bangs and the Bartaile bag.

  7. tamara
    tamara says:

    Now when people ask why our kids aren’t in school I say nothing and look at my boys who say, “We are homeschooled!”. It works wonders for me because no one then asks me anything. Whew! I love your hair – rock it out!

  8. malaika
    malaika says:

    of course you can have kids with you 24/7 and be fashionable and have nice clothes and expensive handbags. that’s like, half the women in Europe.

  9. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    When I first saw the photo I thought that Penelope had forgotten to add the blurb introducing the guest blogger.

    I was going to say something but there were over 10 comments so I was sure someone else already had. Reading through the comments I was confused, and it took me while to figure it out. My husband has been saying for years that I have face blindness, I’m starting to think that he’s right.

    Btw, the bangs look good!

  10. Ellie
    Ellie says:

    How is the bag?? I wanted one, but may never really need it, I don’t need to look that professional on my commute. I am also growing my eyebrows as advised by my mother.

  11. leticia
    leticia says:

    short bangs and bangs period arent for anyone 40+ imo.
    but you look cute anyway. you’re very cute. don’t be hard on urself there.

  12. Terri T.
    Terri T. says:

    Are you familiar with FlyLady? It’s mostly aimed at homemakers but one of her tenets is “Get dressed to the shoes every day.” There’s a lot of research out there on clothing, confidence and authority. I also read an article once about working from home that said you should dress and take conference calls standing up. Apparently it affects how you project even on the phone. So with all of that, it seems like it would affect how your kids perceive you.

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