I want you to know that I read your article the other day. I pored over the words on the page, reflecting on their meaning, as I absorbed the content of your piece. And I have to admit, I walked away angry. But it wasn’t your words that I found myself angry about; it was the words of others — words that appeared in the comments below your post. People called you lazy and unfit to be a parent and judged your inherent morality. They said that you were setting a poor example and that your children were sure to dress in pajamas for interviews in adulthood if you couldn’t model proper attire for them in their youth. Being relatively new to this whole “mom wars” thing, I was shocked at the level of vitriol jumping off of the page and couldn’t understand how others could attribute so much meaning to such a relatively innocuous practice. So I wanted to write a post in response to you, so that I could relay one very important piece of information…
I wear pajamas too.
I wear them to bed. I wear them to the shed. I even wear them in a shade of red. I wear them to the grocery store. I wear them amongst the rich and poor. I love, I love them, to their core.
Sorry, I just finished reading the same Dr. Seuss book for the sixth time in a row. Something I read while sitting at home wearing pajamas. And you know what lesson my daughter learned from that? That I love her. And that Dr. Seuss must have been on some really good drugs. Now it is true that we serve as the role models for our children. They’re impressionable; they’re pliable; they emulate everything that we do. But in wearing pajamas when and where I feel like it, I’m not teaching my daughter to be lazy. I’m not teaching her to be unprofessional in those environments that call for an added air of decorum. I’m teaching her something else entirely.
I’m teaching her to be true to herself. I don’t wear pajamas, because I’m lazy. To the contrary, I actually change into new pajamas, the same way that others change into whatever attire they’ve selected for their day. I wear them, because they’re comfortable. I wear them, because in a day where I’m forced to shuttle back and forth between Irish twins, I’d rather end said day in spit-up-covered pajamas, rather than spit-up-covered cashmere. Simply stated, I wear them, because I like them, and because I’m at my happiest when I’m in them. If I were to wake up each morning and put on jeans and a button-down, I wouldn’t be doing that for my benefit; I’d be doing that to conform to the expectations of others. And more than anything else, what I want my daughter to grow up to be is…herself. Having been held hostage at gunpoint over a span of multiple days when I was a child, I learned at an early age that life is too short to live it anything but happy. Had I died that day, I wouldn’t have been concerned with the opinions of the bystander at the convenience store; I would have been concerned with whether or not I lived my last days comfortable; content. And while I hope that my daughter goes on to live a long and prosperous life, I also hope that she will look back on it with no regrets, in silent conviction that she lived her life in the way that she wanted to, and not how others made her feel she should.
I’m teaching her confidence. In the same way that I’m teaching her to be herself, I’m teaching her to be confident in that disposition. I remember when I first started seeing my husband, my mom told me that I shouldn’t let him see me in disarray. That I was not to sleep over his house, because he shouldn’t see my hair in its natural, un-straightened state. And you know what I said in response? Forget that. If my husband didn’t like waking up next to Troy Polamalu, that was something I’d rather learn sooner than later. Because at the end of the day, I was happy with who I was in my organic state and only wanted to marry someone who felt similarly. Same goes for friends. If my friends didn’t like the pared-down, unglamorous version of me, they weren’t friends I wanted to consort with. As such, I hope to teach my daughter to not only be herself, but to love herself, and not to let her self-opinion be influenced by the opinions of others. At the end of the day, before we can be loved by anyone else, we must be loved by ourselves, as true self-esteem/respect isn’t found in the approval or acceptance of others; it’s found within.
I’m teaching her context. I saw someone argue that, if you don’t wake up and put on “normal” clothing, the grown-up version of your child is sure to show up to job interviews in pajamas. But if these same individuals can explain to their children how pajamas are appropriate for bed, but not appropriate otherwise, how difficult is it to take it one step further and explain the difference between casual settings and those requiring added professionalism? Do these same individuals worry that, after a day at the beach, their children will go on to think that they should wear swimsuits to job interviews as well?
Life is all about context. What is acceptable in one situation may not be socially acceptable in another. When you apply for a job, you adapt to the requirements of the position, and said requirements may dictate how you dress. That’s a natural result of seeking employment with someone else; their rules go. Same goes for formal events. If somebody else is expending time and resources to host an affair, then you respond in kind by abiding by the dress code for the occasion. But if you’re running errands on your own time, nobody else is paying for you to dress a certain way. And so I fail to see how it’s hard to draw a distinction between appropriate dress in that situation and appropriate dress when otherwise guided by the circumstances of the moment. This will be far from the last time that we’re forced to stress the importance of context in this journey we call parenthood.
“Okay to be naked in the bath. Not okay to be naked in public.”
“Throw baseballs. Don’t throw food.”
“Wear Dora the Explorer costume on Halloween. Not to Aunt Doris’ funeral.”
And so on and so forth.
I’m teaching her to be accepting and not to judge a book by its cover. What we wear is but a superficial measure of our potential. Clothing is less than skin-deep; it’s surface-level in the truest sense of the word. I have friends from all different walks of life. They’re of different races and ethnicities. They’re of different socioeconomic backgrounds. They come from different areas of this country and others. But each one is near and dear to me, nonetheless. I would never want my daughter to make judgments about someone’s character or worth based on outward appearance, and that outward appearance includes their manner of dress. Goth. Hipster. Prep. Pajama-connoisseur. Each individual is equally deserving of respect, courtesy, and an open mind. I cannot even begin to quantify how much love I would have missed out on had that not been instilled in me. After all, once upon a time, some might have thought that jeans and a tee was an unacceptable wardrobe for an entrepreneur expecting to be taken seriously. And yet, in doing so, those same people would have been discounting two of the most influential individuals of this millennium in Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. These men are no less intelligent, no less ambitious, no less deserving of praise and reverence, simply because they weren’t suited in a, well, suit. They didn’t let their attire define them. They didn’t let societal expectations shape them. They paved their own path, and they did so successfully.
So the next time you see someone at the grocery store in their pajamas, maybe focus less on the fact that their attire isn’t up to your standards, and more on the fact that they’re busy making sure that their family is well-fed and nourished. When you see someone dropping their child off at school in sweats and a tee, don’t make baseless determinations about said person’s value or morality, and instead appreciate that they got their child to school on time, ready for a day of growth and learning. And when you feel the temptation to judge another person for making a decision contrary to your own, ask yourself who it is really hurting, and if nobody, ask yourself if you would like it if others judged your decisions so harshly.
We need to prop each other up, not tear each other down over matters of superficiality. We need to practice humility and understand that our own particular way of doing things isn’t the only way of doing things, and that neither of us are right or wrong. In the end, we need to promote the ideals of acceptance and love and not tie our perceptions of another’s self-worth or respect to our own subjective expectations. That’s the best and most important example I can think to set for our children. And as far as the mother who wrote the original article on the subject? I’d like to buy that woman a drink.
I’ll be the girl at the bar in pajamas.