Many times a week, mostly at work, I get the comment, "You don't look like a mom!!!"
There are different variations:
"You look like you're in high school!"
"You've got THREE BOYS!?!?!?!???"
"But you always look so together!"
"But you look so nice!???"
While I choose to take these comments as compliments, they make me wonder... What is it that a mom looks like, exactly?
Is she frazzled and haggard with bags the size of Texas under her eyes? Is she rushed and stressed, with spit-up running down her yoga pants and breast milk oozing through her hole-y T-shirt? Is she running around like a chicken with her head cut off, or dragging her exhausted body around like yesterday's trash?
What is it that a mom really looks like?
Is she disheveled and worn, with babies wrapped all over her body like little leeches? Is she un-showered and smelly, with dirt in her fingernails and boogers crusted in her hair? Is the only makeup on her face caked-on face paint from last week's crafts project?
What does a mom look like to the world?
Now, let me be the first to tell you that in my stay-at-home mom days and on the weekends, I precisely match that familiar image of what a mom looks like. And there are so many reasons why that's OK.
Come Friday night at 6 p.m., I'm rocking the mom look all weekend long, baby! The blouse is traded for a comfy T-shirt, the slacks are swapped for my old faithful yoga pants and the heels are tossed away for... wait for it... CROCS! Or tennis shoes. It depends on if I'm adding in a layer of sweat from a workout or not.
But by 4:30 a.m. Monday morning, I've got no choice but to bust out my real human being clothes. I have to shower and wash the grease from my hair. I have to find something to wear that doesn't have marks of motherhood all over it, though I wear them proudly. I have to put the Crocs away and get out my big girl shoes.
And I like it.
It's kind of cool to be forced into taking care of myself for the benefit of those who have to smell me.
I do take pride in the way I dress and present myself. Always have... mom or not. But sometimes, these "You don't look like a mom" statements throw me for a loop.
Some of the comments I get come with an expression of complimentary shock, awe and wonder, while others are dripping in an almost palpable disdain. I once had a woman look me up and down like Regina George and say, "Well, I know I didn't look like that when I had young kids! You look so put together!"
While it tried to be a compliment, it wasn't. It was a cutting, back-handed mommy war comment dressed in lace.
I pretended not to notice her expression and disgusted, mean-mom-soaked tone. I smiled at her and said, "Well, thank you, but trust me, I don't always look together and it's really just a ruse. I'm a mess under these clothes." I tried to level the playing field we apparently stood on, unbeknownst to me, and remind her that despite my real clothes, I'm still just a messy mom like everyone else.
But it's kind of sad, isn't it? This need to defend ourselves for looking decent, or not screaming to the world, "I'm a mom!" with our haphazard appearances and diaper-bag-laden bodies.
The thing is, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding Yes! Moms do look like that! Often! And for good reason!
But believe it or not, moms can also look like human beings. They can squeeze in a shower every now and then, change their yoga pants to dress pants and slap on a little lipstick over last night's spaghetti sauce before they dash into work or the PTA meeting. And trust me -- or don't -- moms can even look kinda sexy sometimes!
Here's the other thing: Moms are so much more than what they look like whatever day you happen to see them. And our babies couldn't care less!
Now, my boys do prefer my hair down rather than up, but that's just because they're quirky! And they pay attention to the fact that I do look a little better when I've showered and done my hair than when I'm running on day four of dry shampoo and yesterday's deodorant.
But I'm a mom no matter what I'm wearing, and it's a title I will proudly scream to the world -- whether in yoga pants or my business attire and a smile.
I'm a mom. And it's OK with me if I look like one. I'm also happy to know I can occasionally pull off not "looking like a mom," whatever that really means, while I'm in the public sphere.
But here's what I propose: How about we celebrate each other. How about we put down our swords of insecurity and our misguided views of what we are supposed to look like, and we flaunt our momness to the world.
How about when we see the struggling mom in the grocery store with flailing, tantrum-ing children, an overflowing grocery cart and thinning resolve, we support her. How about when we see a woman who clearly takes care of herself AND is also a mom, we say, "Well done!"
How about when we look like a mom and our badges of motherhood are all blazing through, we throw up our hands and say, "I'm a dang superhero!" How about when we look good, and dare I say sexy, we don't apologize for it?
Let's join our sticky, motherhood-soaked hands together and remember that we are all just trying our best. Giving our best. Looking our best -- whatever that is at each moment. We need each other, and all our babies need is us!
I do look like a mom. And so do you. And it's a beautiful thing!
HuffPost Parents offers a daily dose of personal stories, helpful advice and comedic takes on what it’s like to raise kids today. Learn more