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...
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:
...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:
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