Mom seeks balance in fashion, motherhood
Crystal Lewis Brown is editor of the Leader and is an Army wife of four years.

FORT JACKSON , S.C. -- Earlier this week, I got the opportunity to meet with Sue Hertling, wife of the first head of Initial Military Training, as part of a Family Readiness Group roundtable discussion.

I would be a part of a wonderful and hard-working group of women - who took time from their busy schedules - who would collectively and actively decide how to make Fort Jackson's FRGs the best they can be. And I was about to be part of that.

A few minutes before the meeting, I went to the bathroom to spruce up.

As I looked in the mirror, I saw that in addition to the lip gloss I'd applied and the earrings I'd put on, I was wearing another accessory - dried baby spit-up.

The telltale sign of my reflux-prone infant was on the collar of my jacket. And I didn't even have one of my blinged out "Hooah" pins to cover it up. As a mom, I was succeeding. As a fashion forward, always together, do-it-all Army spouse, not so much.

This time last year, I couldn't have imagined that I'd be going anywhere wearing a stained outfit - especially not one stained with week-old baby formula. Even pregnant, I did my best to hold on to my style, even buying a pair of high-heeled boots to wear in my last trimester (to me, the 2 1/2 inch heels were almost akin to flats).

My transformation from hip, fashionable spouse (in my mind anyway) to overly-busy mom seemed to happen overnight. A Mother's Day card I got from a friend sums it up perfectly.

There is a woman pictured on the front of the card with arrows pointing to and describing her neat hairdo, stylish clothing and sweet scent. Inside the card is the same woman, this time described much differently. Her stylish wardrobe has been replaced with a stained wardrobe, messy hair, "sensible sneakers," and an overflowing diaper bag.

Slowly, but surely, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, but it is hard. I feel silly trying to dodge the rain as I carry my nearly 20-pound infant to the car, all the while wobbling on 4-inch heels. And the other day, I decided to wear perfume for the first time in months, and succeeded only in giving myself a headache.

And, of course, now, the spit-up incident.

I see moms all the time who seem to have it all together. They cook, they clean, they're impeccably dressed - all while taking care of three and four children. The moms, their husbands and the children all look as though they've stepped out of a department store
Half the time, my son and I look like we've been dragged through a food fight. We start off the day just fine, he in his coordinated outfit, and I in mine. By the end of the day, however, his clothes are often splattered with food stains, and often, mine are too.

As I sat in the FRG discussion, I forgot all about the stain. But one thing Mrs. Hertling said during the meeting stood out. None of us are perfect, she said, and everyone, including the most senior spouses, have their problems. Though she wasn't talking about me, specifically, I applied her words to my situation. In comparison to all of the other issues we military spouses face every day, showing up to a meeting with a little spit-up on my collar was nothing.

Remembering that will make me feel better the next time I have to run into the grocery store with formula covering my back.

Until then, I have some laundry to do - the baby just spewed green beans and turkey puree on me.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16