The other day in the grocery store, my 10-year-old daughter looked up at me with a steady stare and asked, “Mom, could you please wear some makeup next time?”
I looked up at the reflective ceiling, angling for a better glimpse of myself, and answered her: “Really? But we’re just buying chicken.”
I admit that on weekends I like to take a hiatus from “Professional Me,” and perhaps that is a bit unsettling for my tween. Professional Me wears the latest heels, and flat-irons her hair, which is loaded with different types of anti-frizz and curl-activated products. I wear makeup and take pains to ensure my eyeliner is just right and that the shade of my eyeshadow matches my business jacket, which is coordinated with my jewelry.
But when I come home from a long day at work, the first thing I do is change clothes, scrub my face, put my hair up in a pony tail, downgrade to a comfortable bra and trade my heels in for some well-worn fuzzy slippers.
So is it really fair for my daughter to ask for me to be well-presented during my scarce free time? As a mom, don’t I have a right to my own look? And if I don’t comply, am I really crushing her ego or fragile development at this age?
I presented this scenario to Dr. Katy Britt-Sharp, a pediatric psychologist in Texas, who said I’m justified on all of the above counts. But she said there are parameters for moms to follow. And there are legitimate times to tell a tween to go mind her own face.
“There are some fair requests,” said Britt-Sharp, mother of four. “Like (if you’re) wearing a string bikini and your 11-year-old feels uncomfortable because your boobs are hanging out. There’s kind of a fine line and that’s an appropriate request. If it’s embarrassing to them because you are being too provocative, then consider what they are saying.”
Britt-Sharp says modesty plays a big part of tweens’ development and this is an age when our tween is figuring out who and what she wants to be. “At this stage they are fishing around for their identity and they’ll start trying on different ones,” she said. Bottom line: Be aware of what you, as a mom, are wearing because your daughter might start emulating you.
But Britt-Sharp cautioned that moms don’t have to sacrifice completely. And in today’s world dominated by marketing gimmicks and advertising campaigns—designed to make women (and men) feel inadequate if they aren’t swathed in style all the time—it’s okay for your child to know that her parents are comfortable in their own skin.
“There is so much emphasis on them telling them they have to look flawless and wear makeup all the time, that it’s important to express to them that it’s okay to be yourself,” Britt-Sharp said. “It tells them ‘I’m cool with who I am.’ You don’t feel the need to dress to impress everywhere you go.”
And I am cool with who I am. At 46, I’ve reached a point in my life when I can dress up or down at my leisure and know when I’m killing it, when I just want to blend in, or not get noticed at all. And frankly, I don’t want much attention when I’m buying chicken.