Yummy Mummies: The Empress' Old Clothes

During my stay by the pool these last few days I've been able to catch up on my magazine reading. I'm a loyal reader of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, two magazines I hold in high esteem for their impeccable style and usually delicious editorial content.

I have fallen in love with Rita Wilson based on her charming and empowering essays about fashion and life and fashionable life. I may not agree with all of Bazaar's cover girls (Britney? Paris and Nicole Richie?) but I'm willing to overlook whatever politics were involved in such decisions to excitedly peruse the various fashion spreads. Month after month. (Have you seen Prada's chunky shoes for Fall? I don't think I have ever fallen so hard. So fast. For a shoe.)

Several months ago I started to notice a trend that had nothing to do with fashion at all. Or did it? The words "Yummy Mummy" started popping up like mushrooms, citing books like Momzillas as "Yummy Mummy" manuals. Apparently, these books have launched a revolution in Yummy Mummyness with quizzes like "Are you a yummy mummy or a slummy mommy?"

The Urban Dictionary lists conflicting definitions for what the "Yummy Mummy" is, but according to Harper's Bazaar, the "Yummy Mummy" is a mother who juggles her career and party-girl lifestyle, mainly of the Manhattan socialite cum businesswoman sect.

Fashionable and Motherly? Fuck yes. But wait... Wait. Wait...

Before I open up a dialogue with myself about why "Yummy Mummy" bothers me more than any "Mommy War" catalyst has, let me start by addressing my hypocrisy on this issue:

I fully support the working mother. And more than that, I fully support the style-conscious, fully made-up, heels-at-the-playground mom. I wish for the days of yore when everyone dressed up and well, even if they didn't bother to leave the house. When there was no such thing as shorts and the only Crocs in existence were wandering around Florida. When dressing well and looking good wasn't considered "shallow" but "respectable." When people dressed up for one another socially. When people dressed up to go to the supermarket. When everyone, regardless of her budget, could dress well because even JC Penny carried pea coats and pencil skirts and stacked heels and felt hats. When mothers, even of the stay-at-home variety, wouldn't be caught dead barefoot in the kitchen because I don't care what anyone says -- Comfortable shoes are not sexy. And a woman should always feel sexy. Life's too short for sweatsuits outside the gym and pajamas beyond the bedroom.


A "Yummy Mummy" would agree with me, yes. She would agree that career is crucial for a woman who loves her work. She would agree that there is no such thing as sacrifice. That she can juggle a dozen blowtorches if she needs to. That there is always time in the day to get shit done. To do it all. Whatever that "all" means... And yet...

And yet...

Something isn't right here. Something isn't real. Something is totally and completely wrong with this picture:

"...The very outgoing Rellie clan makes social obligations easy by bringing the whole family: Hubby Euan is a dinner-party favorite, and their firstborn, Heathcliff, has become enough of a social fixture that he appears occasionally on style.com by himself. Despite being a devoted mom, Sykes Rellie sees the importance of alone time. Recently, she sent her husband with the kids and the babysitter to the Hamptons and spent three days on her own. "I was very creative during the day, and I did my Pilates and yoga and came back refreshed," Sykes Rellie says. "I would say 'me time' is a higher priority for me than 'out-and-about time,'" she explains..."

I am well aware that fashion magazines are in business to make the average woman dizzy with jealousy. And they do a fine job of doing so. I am well aware that I could never in a million years afford even one outfit in any high-fashion spread. Not even a belt is in my budget. Not even a nou-vintage ring made out of plastic. And yet, I adore looking. Pressing my face against the glass of glamour and doing what I can with what I got: A size 8 and a two-hundred dollar a month clothes budget.

I adore reading about the fashionable lives of actors and models and even socialites. I read with piqued interest about their fabulous parties and boyfriends and tidy sex scandals, delighted by the simplicity of such seemingly difficult lives. But when it comes to motherhood and reading features about "how mothers do it all" without even a trace of irony in statements like:

"From breast-feeding to Bungalow 8, how do these glamorous Manhattan moms juggle careers, babies, and beauty yet still find time to party?"

...delighted is a far cry from what I feel. As a mother. But also as a woman who looks to successful women as role models. Real role models.

Because, let's be honest, we all know how glamorous multi-millionaire mothers find time to party. It's hardly rocket science.

What is it with us as women that we feel the need to categorize ourselves? That we must label one another and create groups to rebel against and belong to? Yummy Mummy used to be the name of a breakfast cereal, after all. Perhaps such a title needs to be discontinued from media outlets like its predecessor.

What angers me most about the way motherhood has been "modernized" is that it has simply gone from one group of carefully presented lies to another. From 50's housewife to successful multi-tasking alpha-mom to this?

"Look how far we've come!" I like to think. And we have come far. But "A Fashionable Life: Yummy Mummies" puts us right back where we started: the mythological cliches that frustrated our mothers and grandmothers.

Here's what I know: The Yummy Mummy doesn't exist. She is a mirage: an Empress in flesh-colored Lanvin. I also know that breastfeeding doesn't make you skinny and that sex is not the same after a vaginal birth. I know that women don't look this good without professional lighting and air-brushing:

Yummy Mummy, Lucy Sykes Rellie
photo credit: Amanda de Cadenet

Fashion and parties and parenting can go hand in hand. But there is a whole hell of a lot more going on beneath the surface. Of me and you and Lucy Sykes Rellie and THAT is what makes a mummy "yummy": The truth. The irony. The humor and darkness and humanism.

"But that doesn't mean the new mother is flitting around to spa treatments all day. She's balancing intense fitness regimes and yoga postures with product launches, regular dinner parties, and the kids' playdates. "It's not all manicures," says Kelly Killoren Bensimon, 39, a separated former model turned writer and television personality who shuffles her two daughters, Sea, nine, and Teddy, seven, around in a deliciously yummy-mummy white pickup truck."

If this is so, there is no difference between the June Cleaver of yesterday and the Yummy Mummies of today. And that is frustrating. That isn't progressive. That is NOT redefining the modern mom.

Motherhood can and should, in my opinion, be fashionable-- dressed to the nines in Balenciaga if a mother is lucky to afford such delicious designs. But let's be honest: A mother is not a mother unless her shit is stained with drool. And there is nothing "yummy" about bullshit stories congratulating women for getting manicures and still having time for a play-date on the weekend. Because even in a fluff piece, vacant as the eyes of the women featured on its pages, shielding readers from the reality of motherhood goes against everything we should perceive as "modern."
"...Kemble's not an anomaly on the New York scene; she's just one of many glamorous young moms who seem to balance an active and engaged social life with at least the appearance of a perfect family and a successful career..."

The modern mother doesn't have a perfect family. And she doesn't pretend she does, either. And that is the kind of woman I want to read about. That is the kind of woman who empowers me. And goddammit, I'll bet my entire wardrobe, she's just as fashionable. Maybe even moreso.


Cross-posted @ Straight From the Bottle


ImpostorMom | 6:00 AM

This makes me sad. The fact that these women are supposed to be the picture of modern motherhood. It reminds me so much of the Nanny Diaries. (Movies on my own are my me-time)

That movie just depressed me, yes it was funny at times but I was appalled at the characterization of women and men that generally seemed to use their children as accessories and left the actual parenting to the hired help. (The little boy in the movie actually made me cry because he was so desperate for his parents' attention.)

This article doesn't really tell you that is the case for all these women but like you said I'm sure it's no secret how they get it all done.

I can't speak to the fashion aspect because I'm one of those hopelessly unfashionable women who really does prefer pjs when I'm at home. I want to look good out of the house but I also want to feel comfortable.

This is another issue but what really bothered me about the article was part of the quote from the women who "sent her kids and husband to the Hamptons with the babysitter" so she could have some me time. WTF? Why do they need a babysitter if dad is going to be there? This sort of thing just burns me up. Dads are somehow perceived as needing help while Moms are expected to handle things just fine without help. (probably not in the case of a Yummy Mummy, however)

My MIL does this too, she once asked me if my husband was going to babysit while I went and did something on my own. :| My husband does not babysit his own child! When you donate half the genetic material its called parenting, not babysitting!

Anonymous | 6:27 AM

I am complete agreement with you but I can't imagine that, in my life time, we'll be seeing much of "the kind of woman you want to read about."

The mainstream media gives us two mothers - the I-Have-It-All and the I-Live-Slavishly-For-My-Family - and then they give us opinion pieces criticising both of them.

Very simplisticly, the sad fact is that even serious media is trying to sell us something and people (imo, women especially) like buying it. Accepting a prepackaged place in the world is easier than trying to carve yourself one.

But it's not June Cleaver - it's the Virgin, the Mother and the Whore. It's mythological, now with a post-Enlightenment, capitalist twist.

So I do want to read about women who are brutally honest with themselves. And they exist, both in the bookstores, and walking down the street. That's enough for me. People have to choose to hear the voices crying in the wilderness.

Even when they're wearing Prada.

PunditMom | 6:36 AM

The impefect family and home? Come on by. I treat myself to a cleaning lady every two weeks -- you know it's bad when she asks, "Dear, haven't you had time to do laundry in a few weeks?"

kirida | 6:51 AM

I caught the "babysitter" in tow line of the article, too. And of course the Yummy Mummy is a facade. Post-partum depression isn't mentioned once, but I'm sure if it had been it would have been followed up with how Bergdorf's always cures those unyummy mummy moments.

More Stepford than Yummy, I say.

Jessi Louise | 7:30 AM

The yummy mummy is perfect and unobtainable...you can never measure up. Yet behind closed doors, everyone knows that's not the case. I really agree with you here. I respect truth more than the picture of some plastic life that has no spit-up on it.
I also love to get Vogue, mostly for the ads. But I do not aspire to be someone in the pages of the magazine.

karengreeners | 8:00 AM

This is supposed to be aspirational? Who would want it?

This just makes me glad that I am satisfied with what I am, what I have, and what I don't.

Lisa Dunick | 8:20 AM

Amen sister

Anonymous | 8:26 AM

Oh, I love you for this post!

Anonymous | 9:25 AM

I love you for this post. It's all just beautifully said. As a pretty much "slummy" mom, at least clothes-wise, I agree whole-heartedly on wishing for a return to the 50's style of heels and pearls and all that - maybe then I'd remember how good it feels to look good. Right now it's too far away and I've sort of forgotten.
But at the same time, why do we forget that motherhood is hard, motherhood is real, hard work, no matter your budget, your clothes, your lifestyle? We're all just mothers, we're all struggling to do our best, and we need to stop judging each other - and I admit that I judge, too, in my comfy pjs: I breastfed for almost 2 years, I buy organic, I worked nights to be home with the boy all day, blah blah blah. And it's hard not to judge and try to feel superior, because really all you're doing with that shit is trying to make yourself feel better, because you feel inadequate. You feel like you can't measure up, so at least you can pull yourself that rung higher, be better than somebody else, not be the bottom of the mommy heap...

Anonymous | 10:20 AM

The GGC said.... "I know that women don't look this good without professional lighting and air-brushing" I would like to add ....."and high priced boob jobs, liposuction, brow lift, tummy tuck,and a hair and makeup artist on speed dial."

AMEN! sista.

barbara | 11:33 AM

white pick-up trucks are "yummy mummy?" i am so confused.

S.T. | 11:56 AM

Yummy Mummy = lots o' money and a nanny and a housekeeper.


I love you. There are no other words.

Lori | 12:40 PM

I loved this post. I have to agree with stephanie t.

Mandee - I Think You Should | 1:33 PM


Anonymous | 2:19 PM

I object! Patent ballet shoes make me feel very, very sexy.

Everydaytreats | 5:44 PM

I long for a time when we all dress up for how good it makes us feel.

But I love this post, because you're right, these women are not realistic and not mommies - they don't have spit up on their balenciaga.

Cath | 6:10 PM

They have MONEY. Lots of MONEY. Money can get you everything, from a nanny to a shiny new pair of perky tits.

Anonymous | 6:39 PM

I love this. I love you.

Trenting | 7:14 PM

I play glam mom on the weekends, with my sweats on and no bra.. lol..

Woman on the Verge | 8:36 PM

Great fucking post. I love it!


Rach- Totally. Patent flats are way sexy. Especially on you.

Barbara- The trucks as "yummy" threw me, too. I think the point is that whatever these women do is "right"... It's arbitrary and senseless.

CerebralMom- Great points. Thank you for your insight. And while I agree the voices are out there, I think they are often featured in magazines as well as our beloeved books. Did you check out the Rita Wilson link? Everything she writes is wonderful and once in a while a "Nostalgia" piece in Vogue will move me to tears and there are real guts that spurt from the pages of magazines sporadically. It isn't all fluff. Unfortunately for every great piece of editorial content in a fashion magazine there are a dozen rotten ones. Bazaar has become a bit of a joke, unfortunately. It used to be really great. Sigh...

Meemo | 12:09 AM

You are the most fashionable mummys I read. And I'm sorry to say it, but that makes you yummy. What makes you even yummier is that you are real. It's easy to be that perfect mom when one has nannies and housekeepers. I'd love to see one of those "yummy mummys" actually take care of their kids for more than an hour and do the dishes and cook dinner and unclog the toilet. All at the same time.

Candace April | 6:17 AM

Would it be terribly superficial if my first thought was--where did she get that stunning top?

What a great post. Is it so hard for the "taste makers and shapers" to understand that Fabulous does not have to be some artificial plastic idea of Perfect, marketed, purchased, and drugged?

B | 11:12 AM

I love how in that last quote you pulled it is actually acknowledged that these "Yummy Mummies" have "…at least the appearance of a perfect family and successful career…"

Because really, who cares if they are beyond disfunctional as long as the manny comes on time and the mani/pedis are scheduled.

Anonymous | 11:58 AM

"I also know that.... and that sex is not the same after a vaginal birth."

What did Archer do to your va-jay-jay?

I've given vaginal birth three times more than you have and one of those times to a massive newborn. Yes, sex isn't the same after my three vaginal births, it's better.

How is it worse for you?

Mme | 5:51 PM

If you like those heels and want a cheaper but equally as lovely pair, check out the most recent Anthropologie catlogue. They're all over it.

kittenpie | 8:29 PM

You know, this is the thing that I love about the blogosphere and real friends. Thank god for people who let each other know that you know what? It's not all easy. It's not all perfect. It's messy. It's life. We've let go of ideas we had before getting into it, we've adjusted standards, we've despaired. It's why I'm sending my new-mom friend into the momosphere with a fistful of addresses of people who've written about new motherhood. Because as much as she's said she appreciates my getting it, I'd love her to see how very many of us there really are.

(And to be honest, I'm not really feeling the new chunky heel thing. I'm chunky enough already...)

Anonymous | 6:12 PM

What really irks me about these YM glamamamas in the media, with their nifty wardrobes and ridiculously padded lives, is not so much the padded lives or enviable wardrobes as the fact that they wish the rest of us to all KNOW about and ENVY their lives. I think that's just so rude and unclassy. Lucy Jellie Wellie whatever-her-name-is should just enjoy what she has privately instead of letting everyone else know it.

And her son is Heathcliff. But of course. And husband a "dinner party favorite." Whatever the heck that is. What a bunch of tosses!! YOU, Rebecca, are far more glamorous, so says the Crabmommy.