Mom Jeans

Well, it’s started. One of the harder years of my teaching career is under way.

I have 250 students this year. 251 actually. How can that be? Because I see the 192 6th graders on an A/B schedule, which means I only see 96 of them on any given day. I see my 69 7th and 8th graders every day though. Blerg.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do and what I actually do. I have a vague sense that this isn’t what I want to be doing, but I also have NO IDEA what I might actually want to do. This is not just about my job, but extends to all areas of my life. I’m not sure I live where I want to live, or have the social connections I want to have, and yet I can’t really envision some other, idealized life for myself.

I marvel at the people who know what they want. Who just knew right off the bat, or eventually stumble across it, or worked tireless to uncover it. I feel like I’d do just about anything to know what I really want, even if that job or place or life were impossible to attain. Not knowing is excruciating to me. It makes me crazy.

And the silly thing is, it shouldn’t, because I don’t think I landed too far off the mark. While what I do for a living is arduous and undervalued work, it challenges me in ways most other things wouldn’t. For all my griping and complaining, it keeps me interested. And I think I’m pretty decent at it. (I can’t imagine not being good at what I do, that would be horrible.)

I’ve written this post a million times before, and I suppose it makes sense that I’m writing it now. I guess I just feel like, if I had some kind of true north inside me, a direction that felt good and true, all my uncertainty would fall away, and I would know what to do. Without it, I feel directionless. Paddling in this particular boat because I don’t realize there are other boats out there, trained in this particular direction because it’s as good as any other when all you can see is the horizon.

That is the problem, isn’t it? For so long, any journey is trained on some unseen point on the horizon. It’s not until you’ve covered an entire lifetime of miles that you get even a glimpse of where you’re going.

What if some day, I see my destination hovering on the horizon and I recognize that it’s not at all where I want to end up?

I guess there are worse things. And life is supposed to be all about the journey. We’re not supposed to be thinking about the destination, it’s how we get there that counts. That’s what all the inspiration quotes superimposed over soft-edged shots of waterfalls and then shared on FB say, anyway.

I know I’m only 36 but I’ve been feeling old lately. I went shopping for jeans and realized all the places I usually frequent only had four options: skinny, super skinny, jeggins and ripped the fuck up. I just wanted some normal, straight legged jeans, but evidently you can’t get those in the places I used to shop. The places that I guess cater to young, fashion-forward women. I guess what I was looking for was “mom jeans,” which I had heard spoken of but couldn’t previously describe. Now I’m sure they are straight-leg (or maybe boot cut) jeans in stretch denim, with some nice tummy control thrown in for good measure. Those, I realized, were exactly what I was looking for, and those, are most certainly “mom jeans.” (I’ve been told I should check Macy’s, which totally proves my point.)

{The same thing happened to me earlier this summer when I wanted capris and realized no one was selling them this year (it’s all cropped-leg now evidently). I ended up finding a pair I really like at Cost.co. Yep, you read that right, I found my dream capris at a wholesale retailer.}

It’s funny that this bothers me so much because I’ve never been one who cared much about fashion. In high school I bought my jeans at Abercrombie, in the boys section, because knowing I liked my baggy jeans in a 30×34 seemed so much more straightforward than trying to make sense of the arbitrary numbers they assigned to women’s sizes. Also, I was all stomach and no hips, so women’s pants never fit me very well (this is still a problem today).

The point being, I wore baggy pants and oversized t-shirts in high school, and my fashion sense was a shambles in college. I’ve never fancied myself a good dresser, always opting for comfort over anything else. There have been times when I’ve taken great comfort in getting older and knowing that I don’t have to worry so much about what I wear. And yet realizing that, as far as clothing is concerned, I am basically irrelevant, was kind of a demoralizing dose of reality. If I am not longer a part of the coveted 18-34 demographic, then what am I?

This isn’t make much sense, is it? Especially coming from someone who is trying to embrace minimalism and free herself from the shackles of consumerism. I should be elated that no one is trying to market to me or my (severely lacking) sense of style. Now I can finally be free!

Except I don’t feel free, I feel irrelevant. I guess I just need a complete change in mindset. I’m sure it’s just around the corner. And maybe when I embrace it, and learn to celebrate my place in aging America, I’ll figure out what I want to do with my life too.

{Why is this so hard for me to do?! Everyone else seems to have their epiphany, their revelatory a-ha moment and never look back, while I make wide circles around some poorly defined center, only making the most marginal of progress which each gaping sweep around the spiral.}

The truth is I’m probably obsessing about straight-leg jeans (or this season’s lack thereof) because all the other stuff in my life is too hard and complicated. Like the many overwhelming aspects of my job, or that my marriage is hitting a (totally understandable) rough spot, or that my son is biting at school again and is about to be suspended and then kicked out, or that my daughter is getting 20+ pages of homework a week in first grade, and I can’t decide if that is a hill I want to die on (I struggle constantly with being a parent to my own children as students, when my identity as a teacher is so much older and better defined–I worry I don’t, or won’t, advocate for them enough). All of that shit is all sorts of swirling shades of gray and should be receiving my full attention, but I don’t want to think about any of it, so instead I wonder why I don’t know what to do with my life, and lament the fact what I really want is to wear mom jeans.

I knew writing here was going to be an exercise in futility, but I was also in the troublesome headspace where I couldn’t even enjoy mindless TV until I got all this bullshit out of me. And now it is out of me, more or less, so hopefully tomorrow night I can enjoy some random comedy we’re currently watching, and look forward to Monday, when my recently ordered mom jeans are supposed to arrive.

What kind of jeans do you wear? Do you ever feel irrelevant?

26 Comments

  1. actually . . .Mom Jeans are apparently in. I have seen this pair referred to as Mom Jeans in a positive light: https://www.madewell.com/madewell_category/DENIMBAR/straightlegperfectvintagejeans/PRDOVR~C2819/C2819.jsp
    However apparently that look is only supposed to be cool if you are not actually a mom. Or something.

    J Crew still has very adult-looking jeans 🙂 And, that said, I interact with a lot of fashion-conscious women in the late 30s – early 50s set (they are the parents of my patients). Many actually rock the skinny or even mildly distressed look. Not saying you have to go there, but I don’t think there is an age limit. I’m 36 and my current go-to is still the skinny jean (with stretch so they are comfortable but enough structure to kind of hold things in when needed!)

    1. “However apparently that look is only supposed to be cool if you are not actually a mom.” <-- That sounds about right. 😉 I haven't been to J. Crew before, that is probably a good place to look. And I do have a few pair of skinny jeans (and look pretty good in them, if I do say so myself 😉 but I also wanted some straight leg jeans for work and the weekends. And I do know many woman older than me who dress really well, so yeah, my post doesn't make a ton of sense. Just me feeling sorry for my almost-40 self. 😉

  2. Gap is my go to for jeans – they have lots of options, from trendier to more classic. You may need to go online to get the exact size and style combo you want. And not being on the cutting edge of fashion isn’t necessarily a bad thing – a lot of trends aren’t very flattering to a lot of people!

    I attended an awards night at a high school this spring and was struck that, to my eyes at least (I’m 34), the 18 year olds looked less attractive than the adult women there since the 18 year olds were all wearing the apparent trend of super short skirts and flat shoes/sandals which is not flattering to almost everyone even when they’re 18!

    You’re probably overestimating the degree of certainty people have about a lot of their life choices. Sure, some people are totally sure about some aspects of their lives but a lot of us make the best decisions we can with the info we have at the time and then adjust as needed. Have you ever gone into your feelings around this with a therapist? Sounds like it might be helpful to discuss your feelings in this area and get another perspective on it from someone else.

  3. Ha – so we are of similar age and I just birthed my third child. I totally rock the low slung skinny jeans with or without distress. I am NOT a fashion guru by any means nor have I ever been BUT I wear what I like without giving a damn what anyone else thinks. I used to buy the boys button fly levi’s in a 27×34 – oh they fit to perfection (hmm I should go see if they have those still). I also agree on the lady upon J. Crew has awesome jeans and pretty good sales (bc I am cheap as well and refuse to spend more than $50-60 on one pair of jeans).
    As for what I want and what I’m doing. Really I have no time to think about me with three children 4 and under. Eventually I want to be able to travel ALOT – with and without my family – so somehow someway we (my husband and I) need to make this happen.

  4. I feel your pain when it comes to jeans. I was just telling Brian the other day that I need to stay in shape because the only jeans readily available for purchase (without having to make a gamble by ordering online a pair you’ve not seen or touched) are skinny jeans, skinny jeans, skinny jeans. And here’s the thing about skinny jeans – they don’t look good on most people. They really don’t. I know that a lot of people THINK they look great in them, but they’re going to die when they look back on photos from this time frame and realize that they didn’t look that good. Just like as we gain weight, we don’t really see it for what it is until we’ve lost that weight again and look back on photos? THAT. Big reality check coming for lots of women! 😉 I am so particular about my skinny jeans because I KNOW that most of them don’t look good on me, no matter what the sales ladies tell me. The other cut that looks terrible on most people is the boyfriend jean – so not good. They are comfortable though, so I have a pair that I do wear but every time I do, I have to accept the fact that they don’t look good. Even the models online look bad in them. I don’t get it.

    Try Eddie Bauer. Not awesome in regards to feeling good about where you’re shopping (there will be older gals in there), but they have some nice straight jeans. I buy a pair whenever needed.

    I have no idea what I want to do or be when the kids go back to school. All I know is that I don’t want to go back to what I was doing. That’s not very helpful. HA!

    1. Agree 100% that skinny jeans are a trend that doesn’t actually look very good in a lot of cases. I do wear skinny jeans sometimes myself but like you am careful on what pairs I wear.

    2. Ha! I had not noticed that most people don’t look good in skinny jeans. At least they are probably comfortable! That is why I love them. But sometimes I just want to wear a pair of straight leg jeans, you know? I think I’m just missing my old pair. 😉

      I am not a big fan of the boyfriend jean, which probably means in two years when no one is wearing them anymore I’ll really like them. That is usually how I roll.

  5. I second J.Crew. I also get my some of my work jeans at Ann Taylor/Loft. So not a place where you’ll see young, hip crowd but they provide me with the professional, clean lines I need for work.

    I too am stressing over the amount of homework my 1st grader is receiving. Are you kidding me?! I know it’s to help them for the years ahead but holy moly.

    I’m 36, 37 in October, and I’m contemplating a career change. At 36ish. Why? Because I’m not really sure if I want (or can) be in this industry I work in for a long time ahead.

    1. I will definitely have to look into J. Crew. I have literally never shopped there. I’m not even sure where one is! I’m lucky that I don’t have to dress very “fancy” or even “professional” at work so I’ve never been to Ann Taylor/Loft. Maybe it’s time I started.

      I hope you write some on your blog about thinking about (possibly actually doing) the career change. I find that kind of thing fascinating. My current plan is to teach until I’m 58 (30 years) and once I’ve secured my retirement, trying something new. I know that is insane, but it’s something to look forward to. 😉

  6. You know I feel you on the “not sure what you want” thing.
    As for jeans, I wear skinny jeans with lots of stretch because they are as comfy as wearing leggings! (also I think I DO look good in them, though maybe I am fooling myself?) I did get a cool pair of flares last winter, but never really figured out how to make them work for weekends with the kids (they look better with heels, but…no)
    Yes, the high waist “mom jean” look is supposedly “in”, but I’ve only seen teenage girls rocking that look (it goes well with a flat stomach and crop top?)

    1. So mom jeans are high waisted? A lot of jeans are high waisted right now. And yes, I know the young people wearing them look you are referring to. I’ve seen that a lot of places. 😉 That is NOT how I would look in jeans like those.

  7. Ha. I thought mom jeans were the really high waisted, frumpy ones (Google for the fake snl commercial). I think the whole skinny jean trend is awful bc really they only look good on extremely thin tall super models. I have 2 pairs of sorta boot cut jeans I bought around 2005 that I amazingly can still wear after 2 kids. They are flattering to me so I’ll wear them til they fall apart.

    Wow, I didn’t know Macy’s was considered frumpy. I’m 12 years older than you but still. To me Macy’s is still “fancy but I’ll shop there when I have a coupon and stuff is on sale”. And I’ve certainly bought stuff from Costco not realizing it was considered uncool (I mean some stuff is directed at the the older set but not all).

    I too remember wearing boy’s button fly Levi’s–shrink to fit–back in the early 80s before most of you were born…

    As to direction, yeah that’s rough. First: that’s a sh!tload of students. I dunno, I’m more one of those know what I want people–even tho what I wanted changed mid career–but the thing is we don’t always get what we want no matter how hard we work/how well we do in school. I had an epiphany and decided to go to law school to practice in a very specific area. I didn’t really think it through, and it turned out that while this area NEEDS lawyers, there aren’t a whole lot of paid jobs, let all be well paid, and none in the area I wanted to live. Fortunately I was able to find a good job where I wanted to live with enough good attributes to keep me moderately satisfied. But sometimes I am wistful looking at the young lawyers in their 20s who don’t have kids or a mortgage who can just work anywhere and do this sort of law for low pay. By the time I start d law school I was already mid 30s and beyond that stage in life. So clearly knowing what you want isn’t always that great either.

    1. I don’t think Macy’s is considered frumpy, I just associated it with older women, probably because it’s my mom’s ABSOLUTE FAVORITE place to shop. EVERYTHING she gets is from Macy’s, and she is 65, so that is my biggest association with it. Of course, she was shopping there when she was my age too. 😉 I feel like Nordstrom is the more “fashion forward” of the department stores around me, of course it’s also a lot more expensive than Macy’s, and doesn’t have the sales Macy’s has. God, my mom loves a good Macy’s sale.

      There really is something to starting a new career at a point in your life when you can’t afford to take a beginner’s salary. That is why I am planning to teach until I’m 58ish and can secure my retirement, and then try something new. By then I’ll even be done paying for college. It’s a fool proof plan! Ha!

  8. I love skinny jeans! Always have. My go to is White House Black Market- but search out the sale codes. LOL I hate the look of a flare or bootcut leg. It always looks like the 70’s to me. I did breakdown and get ONE pair when they were so popular and I still hated them.

    1. I think bootcut can be really nice, but not the super flary kind. I don’t like flare jeans myself either, definitely very 70’s. Too 70’s for me at least. I have never shopped at White House Black Market, I think it might be a little out of my price range, but maybe I can find good stuff there on sale.

      As for buying stuff when it’s in even if I don’t like it (or it doesn’t look good on me–this happens often), I’ve done that before. A lot. Especially in my 20s. I don’t do it much anymore (YAY!), in fact I hardly ever do these days. It has taken me a long time to learn what I look and feel good in, and now that I have I don’t make those mistakes anymore.

  9. Good jeans suggestions here. Did not see Talbots mentioned but they do a classic jean and if it sounds like a ‘not cool’ store remember a size is a just a number not a judgement and a store name is just a word not a magic wand to cool.
    Recently heard about 25 people between 75 and 97 talking about when they might figure out what they wanted to be when they grew up, how what was significant and important to them now was not what they expected at your age, and how amazingly well their lives had turned out anyway without having gotten quite what they wanted or earned stacks of money. Worth keeping in mind.
    20+ pages of homework in 1st grade is silly make-work and is being shown to not be of value by current research. SO, make a deal with the teacher or get the special needs teacher involved, about how much YOUR child will actually do and the consequences of not doing all that is assigned class wide. e.g.: Maybe enough math to show concept is understood only or what ever. Also find out how much daily time the teacher thinks it will take to do her assignments and agree to spend that much time (IF REASONABLE) on homework. Despite your status as a goddess of wonder and brilliance, most teachers are not gods/goddesses and most, but not all, are human. GOOD LUCK!!!!

  10. PS: Past history says you and husband need a date night out alone together no children. See if kids can spend the night with grands really really soon.

    1. We actually just had a date and it was then that we started fighting. Very unfortunate. It probably will be a while before we have another one again. Maybe next month.

  11. I have straight leg jeans and have historically been happy with the kind you can get from the feed store. The pair I have now is a fashionable fat chick pair and super comfy if now too big (phew).

    Have you actively looked for what you want to do, like an official time of discernment? I did that after I quit student teaching and at the end I had a strong direction and vocation. It took a year but it was useful to spend time listening to the universe and others and myself.

  12. Jeans. Ugh. I usually prefer a fairly straight leg or boot cut. I’ve resisted any urge to try skinny jeans. You know, this age is interesting. I’m a few years older than you (39 in September) and I feel more and more invisible each year. I’m technically a Gen Xer, but I was too young for the Gen X moment. I’m out of the coveted demographic. I now have one of the longest tenures at my org (16 years). I feel old but at the same time, it is freeing. I wear what I want and say what I want.

    1. Invisibility FTW! I am 43 and love it. I dress for comfort and to look respectable, but no longer think that anyone would consider me in a sexual context; the freedom is awesome and I enjoy being a bossy bitch/old fart.
      Re jeans, boot cut all the way! I could not have pulled off skinny jeans even when I was young and reasonably hot, and certainly not now.

  13. I definitely feel like I look best in boot cut jeans, but you can’t find them anymore b/c it’s all about the skinny jeans (which I wear but fully admit I don’t look great in *sigh*). I hate shopping for jeans. Hate it.

    I also agree with the ladies above that I think you’re overestimating how many people had a career path in mind and/or even followed it. I’m not doing anything like what I had kinda sorta envisioned myself doing, and I’m pretty sure that’s all about to change in the next 6 months again anyway. Meh. I’m damn scared about it, but it will be what it will be!

  14. Most people don’t look good in skinny jeans. I have a pair for comfort but I wear longer shirts so my 45 year old tummy doesn’t show. I would give for slight bootleg or straight…j.crew or madewell?

  15. I never commented on this one, either. I guess because I’ve been shopping at Talbots for years, and agree with Working Mom of 2 that Macy’s is a place I think of as fancy, not frumpy. I never had a body for teen fashions, and ever since I’ve been a grown-up I have wanted to dress like a grown-up. I don’t have any desire to dress like a twentysomething, since I’m not one. If anything, I think I’ve gotten better at dressing since I’ve gotten older. So this is not something you should feel bad about!

  16. I’m going with the higher-waisted flares this year because I never embraced the skinny jean thing (it really just doesn’t look good on most people, as others have noted) and I couldn’t find straight leg or bootcut that I liked. Gap and Banana Republic seem to have decent ones, esp. when they have a sale. Macy’s has many sections to the store, that range from the trendy (cheaper in both senses) to the frumpy, older lady areas. Nordstrom always struck me as no in-between those two, like there’s the BP for teens/juniors and then the rest is very conservative (and expensive.) I laughed about the capri thing too, because I was very surprised last year not to be able to find ANY. I’m in the East Bay but I run cold and hate shorts, but was going on a trip somewhere tropical and capris are just not made anymore!

  17. I actually gave up jeans for lent. Just kidding, I’m an atheist. So around Halloween last year I got contaminated at the elementary school I was working at and was sick with respiratory shit for 2 months that didn’t allow me to work out. I gained some fucking weight. So the 6 pairs of identical (that still managed to be different sizes) perfect jeans I had purchased no longer fit. I am not buying more jeans. I refuse. I will however buy 6 pairs of buy 1 get one half off stretchy pants at target that are my dream come true in leggings land. Someday I’ll fit in those jeans again. But until then it’s stretchy pants all day everyday.

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