Growing up, my parents never dwelled on what we lacked materially. Dad worked hard and mum looked after us children and our home. She still is extremely house-proud to this day, though breaking her rules on mess where her grandchildren are concerned.
We didn’t have fancy clothes or shoes, but what little we had, mum made sure we wore it well and with pride. Shoes were polished and kept clean. Mum made sure we all looked presentable from the start of the day, lest someone dropped by and spotted us looking unruly and in her words, ‘make us lose face’. It is an expression that would follow me throughout my childhood and teenage years.
I think what mum meant was that society is so quick to judge a book by its cover and from our less than privileged background, said society already had preconceived notions about who we were.
Funnily enough, mum and I are at odds about this today. We are now both economically blessed and have a comfortable life. I embrace minimalism and think nothing of recycling a dress to an event where guests may have seen me wear the same outfit previously. This is a no-no for mum, again, lest we are judged for having less than. I suspect this is a generational stigma which mum struggles to shake off.
One of mum’s many lessons which I hope to pass on to my own daughter is to get ready for the day. Whether you are working from home, or due to meet a friend for coffee at 10am or 3pm, or walking your children to school, no exceptions. Be presentable. Wear make-up (light or slightly made-up). Wear clean and smart clothes (that fits within one’s budget). Dress to impress yourself (or in my mum’s words ‘don’t let mum lose face…!’), it will give your mood a boost and set you up for the day. I find myself with two types of clothes in my wardrobe which reflect my current situation and lifestyle. Suits and dresses for work mainly for the week. Skinny jeans, tops and jumpers for the weekends or when I’m working from home. I accessorise even at the weekends – a necklace or a scarf, and a spray of my favourite perfume.
The evening we returned home from the hospital after my daughter was born, we had our first visit from the midwife. She imparted two words of wisdom. The first, was to be up and dressed by 8am every day. Even if I hadn’t time for a shower, it was important that I was dressed, hair and face done. The second, was breakfast. Even if it was a cup of tea and a banana. By being dressed for the day and looking presentable, and fuelling myself with food, I was giving myself a headstart/boost to face my day as a new mum. I had my own struggles with my new responsibilities (a post for another day), but I knew by adhering to this routine, I was giving myself permission to charge forward.
Which was what mum was trying to instil in me many years ago.