Pajama Pants and Formal Day

Yesterday – January 28 – was so mild that I wore my “light” winter coat and, after a trip to Costco, drove home with no gloves on. Those of you who know me, and have noticed my giant, purple, Reynaud’s-stricken hands know that this is indeed something worth commenting on. We’ve had so few really cold days this January that it feels like a victory, albeit one I had no control over.

It’s been a long week, hasn’t it? My husband was travelling for business earlier in the week, which always seems to make the week drag by, so I’m extra glad it’s Friday. It’s also a Spirit Day at school: Formal Day. Wear your best formal wear! Given that my boys are ten and eleven, their first instinct was to do the absolute opposite and show up in jeans and a t-shirt. I am of two minds of this: one the one hand, I don’t particularly care if they don’t want to participate but I don’t really want to encourage an attitude of mockery, since that seems like it is direct opposition to the intention of Spirit Day. On the other hand, they wear jeans and t-shirts every single day. Their options are limited; their “formal wear” is limited to a single pair of khakis purchased in 2014 for my brother’s wedding and never worn since, and in fact are probably miles too short by now anyway. So jeans and t-shirts it was, although they each threw on a button-up shirt over the t-shirt and Jake put some gel in his hair, so as to be extra fancy.

Speaking of non-formal clothing choices, I’m sure we’ve all heard about the U.K. principal who called out parents wearing pajamas to school drop-off. There seems to be quite the uproar about this.

Hey, I’m not telling anyone what to wear. The Fashion Police – like unicorns, the Yeti, and benefits to adopting Daylight Saving Time – are an imaginary construct. No one is actually going to arrest you for your clothing choices, especially if you aren’t planning to get out of your car. Personally, I rarely, if ever, notice what someone else is wearing unless I find myself coveting their outfit. Case in point: at last week’s School Council meeting, one of the teachers had on this fabulous flowy black tunic worn with these terrific ankle boots, and the second the meeting was over I ran over to her to find out where she bought them. I will always notice your gorgeous scarf, your beautiful necklace, your rocking shoes, but I probably won’t notice your sweatpants if you’re doing the school run. I admit that I noticed a stoned-looking fellow wearing gigantic purple Hammer pants in Costco yesterday, but that may have been attributed to the matching scarf jauntily thrown around his neck or possibly the giant cart filled entirely with toilet paper and frozen pineapple.

Let your freak flag fly, right? And if your personal freak flag is wearing sleepwear outside of your house, well, I have no issue with that. Personally, I have never worn pajamas outside the house because my pajamas are all adorned with things like hearts, coffee cups, and owls, and also it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to put on pants. When I was first a stay-at-home mom, I realized that it was very bad for my mental state not to have “night clothes” and “day clothes” because it gave some shape to those blurry, foggy days. I was never one to not shower for days; in order for me to be psychologically sound, I needed my daily shower, makeup, and clothing, and if that meant I had to put the baby in a bouncy chair in the bathroom and sing to him frantically over the noise of the water, I would do it. If it took me three hours to prepare to leave the house, what with feedings and soothing and diaper changes, well, I would take three hours to prepare. There is no shame in doing what you have to do, people, and if what you have to do to remain sane is wear your pajamas all day, I will support you.

I think that people get upset about edicts like this because it feels like a judgment on them as people and as parents. Saying “You shouldn’t wear pajamas to drop off your kids, put on some pants.” can be loosely translated in mom-guilt-language to “You are a mess and you’re going to screw up your kids and I bet you kicked a puppy yesterday.” Yes, pajamas are to me “at-home only” clothing, but there are exceptions. I mean, I admit I felt a little strange one Saturday morning when I was in line at Wal-Mart behind a man wearing pajama pants with a Papa Smurf motif, but that was more because the stench of vomit and cigarettes emanating from him was making me feel a bit nauseous. That has nothing to do with his Papa Smurf pajama pants. Not all Papa Smurf pajama pant-wearing people reek of vomit and cigarettes – although maybe the odour would be less in different pants. Non-vomited on pants. I don’t know. All I’m saying is that if I see a mom with a baby strapped to her body holding the arm of a limp and screaming toddler while trying to get her first-grader to class on time and that mom is wearing pajama pants? NO JUDGMENT HERE, ONLY DEEP EMPATHY. Papa Smurf-pajama wearing man whose smell is making me dizzy? Maybe a teensy bit of judgment. Hey, I’m human.

I also admit to feeling very uneasy when I see the elderly woman a few doors down walking down the street in her pretty blue flannel snowflake-motif pajamas. I worry a bit that she is wandering; as far as I know she’s in sound health, but what if she isn’t? When I see those snowflake pants, I watch carefully out the window, checking to see if she comes back to her house, breathing a sigh of relief when she does.

Good mothers put on pants before they leave their house AND ALSO good mothers burn out of the house in their pajamas to get the kids to school on time. Some mothers live in yoga pants and other mothers live in work dresses. It’s not about pajamas, it’s not about what you wear. Clothes can be fun or functional, or both, but they don’t determine your worth as a person.


  1. I just love this :).

  2. I am not a big fan of spirit days and I’ve been guilty of failing to remind my kids about them, but one time I remembered a “dress for success”-themed one, I noticed greater participation among the girls at the bus stop than the boys.

  3. bibliomama2 says

    The thing about the pj article was that there WERE a bunch of comments laying that kind of judgement on outside-pajama-wearers (of which I am not, or very rarely one, so my outrage is purely on principle): “I get up at five-thirty and put on a business suit and get three kids to daycare and look great doing it AND YOU SHOULD TOO.” I think the article actually mentions being ‘role models’ for our kids. And I just really hate the notion that what we wear has anything to do with what kind of role model we are (and I know that’s not what you’re saying here, so I will attempt not to hijack your post any further).

    Toilet paper and frozen pineapple. Wasn’t that a party. Hee.

  4. bibliomama2 says

    Oh hey, you actually SAID ‘they don’t determine your worth as a person’. I LOVE YOU NICOLE. (Duh).

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