The Capsule Wardrobe for Moms

I come from a fashionable family. My dad loves to shop and dress others. So does my sister. My mom has an eye for matching clothes. Even my brother tolerates shopping outings with the end result of a good looking set of matching outfits.

I, on the other hand, am happiest when I’m comfortable. When I find an article of clothing that feels good, I buy it in every color and rotate through them. I, famously, have this Express Portofino shirt in 8 colors and patterns (both long-sleeves and no-sleeves) and wear it with 3 colors of these Uniqlo pants.

Woman wearing Express Portofino shirt, smiling
My uniform

It’s my favorite work uniform, and takes some decision-making stress away from my day. See other uniform advocates, like Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Elizabeth Holmes here. And when I’m in shape, my uniform looks good and feels good. More on that in a moment…

Besides being an ongoing joke in my family, I don’t think much about my clothes. That is, until I didn’t fit into them anymore.

Maternity clothes were wonderful and continued to be so long after it’s generally acceptable to continue wearing them. When B reached 6 months and I was still walking around in parachute pants (which I highly recommend for maternity wear), I realized something had to change. This is where the capsule wardrobe for moms comes into play.

It’s depressing to look at all those clothes that don’t fit, even if you don’t care all that much about them. So, here’s what worked to lift my spirits AND make me feel and look good in my clothes again:

  1. I started by paring down my wardrobe. I removed all the clothes that were too small and put them in a duffel bag in the basement, alongside the clothes that were out of season. These were mostly those that didn’t fit around my expanded belly, butt, and bust.
  2. I identified which items were really outdated (as in, I probably wore them in high school) and donated them.
  3. I also determined which items were too small, but I could not live without. Those, I did some very selective shopping for, in a larger size. Bras were vital to this list!
  4. I crowd-sourced my pregnancy pals for a new uniform that I could rock while I worked on losing weight. Enter the baggy sweater and legging outfit!
  5. And, very importantly, my husband rescued some of the clothes from the donate pile that ended up serving as motivation. I worried over my Express Portofino shirts, so he ended up hiding them, along with a beloved hiking shirt and my stretch goal pair of jeans (come on, we all have these…) in the back of one of his drawers.

I’m proud to report that as of a few weeks ago, I’m back to my Express Portofino shirts + Uniqlo pants uniform AND I wore that hiking shirt again a few days ago. It only took about a year, 3 months of half-marathon training, and 5 months of food tracking, to fit back into them. That hiking shirt was originally purchased for our Peru trip. Oh how far we’ve come since then…

Without my temporary capsule wardrobe, I would have had to think about how different my body was ALL THE TIME. This gave me the chance to love my baby-bearing body, look good in some clothes, while also working toward a goal.

Learn more about capsule wardrobes here:

How did you address your wardrobe during the months (years?!) post-pardum?

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Half Marathon Training for Mom

The whole reason (or one of them) I started this blog was to continue holding myself accountable for my own half marathon training, and share the tricks I’ve learned in order to make this possible as a mom. We’ve discussed my four strategies as well as how I came to be a running, working mom.

So, how is this half marathon training going in real life? Let’s check on the plan first.

I’m a list-maker, an excel geek, a planner. So, of course I developed a 16-week half marathon training planner for me and my neighbor. At the onset, this seemed like the ideal way for us to reach our intended number of runs and distances each week. Having run the plan by a physical therapist, we confirmed that this (in addition to an initial month of running up to 3 miles and/or long quick walks of up to 5 miles, 1-2 times per week) this is reasonable and healthy for recent moms in training.

In practice, we’ve been using it to stay on top of our long-distance mileage, though the details have gotten a little fuzzy along the way. We’ve also been better about running the distances prescribed when we do them together, rather than when we attempt them on our own.

You can see just about how good I am at following a scheduled running calendar with the “Record” tab. (Hint hint – not particularly good.) You’ll also notice all the long walks I take with the double stroller, considering that my cross-training. Sometimes I run a few blocks with it (particularly if A says he has to go potty…), but usually when I’m pushing the million+ pounds of stroller/kids/supplies, I’m walking.

double stroller in the bottom left corner, view of the Burnside Bridge and the Willamette River to the right.
Walking around the Portland bridges with the double stroller

You’ll also see how I’ve had trouble sticking to the long-run part of the calendar. These tend to be scheduled on weekends which means I need to employ my partnership strategy. And with all the travel and weather challenges of the summer, I have not been great about following through. Hoping to do 8 miles this weekend, but we’ll see!

Any tips to keep me motivated for those long runs? Scheduling suggestions? What keeps you going?

Joining the working world

What was your first job? How did you get it? What was your first full-time job? How did your life change at that point?

Though my mom stayed home with us kids when I was little, I always expected to work myself. I assume that came from some set of values my parents instilled in me from an early age.

She eventually did go back for her PhD and started an awesome second career, right about when I started mine. She did that with a drive and conviction of what she wanted to learn that impressed me. Similarly, my dad found his specialty in children’s clothing and stuck with it through several company changes over the years. Ever since my family renovated our house when my sister was in fifth grade, she knew she wanted to be an architect. She went through a 5-year BA/MA program and is an architect today! And my brother’s interest in research and science has been singular and continuous from the beginning.

My career path has been just as fervent, though in every possible direction. I remember moments of panic before writing college essays, in which I had to decide whether I would pursue Spanish interpretation, musical theory, or genetic counseling. Even now, I often get ridiculously excited about career pathways that I’m wildly unqualified for. HR Director of a massive corporation? Sign me up! Talent sourcing for diverse tech candidates? I’m in! Human Rights Commissioner of the UN? That’s perfect for me!

So, where did it all start? My dad likes to say I could play tennis before I could walk. Maybe it was his enthusiasm that led to my first job as a children’s tennis instructor. I was a child myself! I tossed balls to kids who could not even see over the net, and they swung wildly with their too-big rackets, sometimes smacking the balls into the net or each other (or me!) and sometimes missing entirely. Those few hours a day led to my first full summer job as assistant for my coach’s tennis club. That meant hours upon hours picking up balls, instructing kids’ camps, and dodging wayward lobs.

Around the same time, my sister and I branched into catering by starting our own business – Sister Act II, inspired by the classic Whoopi Goldberg film. We had dressed up in button down whites and black pants with red aprons and helped serve food and clean up my parents’ Christmas party one year. One of their friends asked if we could do her party the next week. We made business cards and from then on, we worked a few parties a month for several years, making more money than we would have babysitting!

As you might imagine, neither of those turned into my full-time adult career. Since then, I worked in international development at a think tank in Washington DC (my first job out of college, which I committed to over the phone without a second thought and before they even told me the salary), in partnerships for an Au Pair agency, in workforce development and training at local branch of a national nonprofit serving underprivileged youth, and now at a community college developing partnerships for STEM education. Each time, I was thrilled to dive into work!

Working, first job out of college

“Where’s the through-line?” You might ask. “Why do you work?”

Well, primarily, the through-line is that I find purpose in helping others. Specifically, I get excited when I can support organizations to improve their impact, particularly when working toward a cause I believe in. And I’ve had a chance to do that in each of those settings.

And I work partially for money – who doesn’t? I work because I crave feeling fulfilled, and work in the social impact sector is how I accomplish that feeling (selfish, I know!). I also feel a sense of duty to my gender, to show that women can be productive contributors to society. And finally, (and this is hard to admit) I work because I don’t think I have the creativity or self-discipline to be a stay-at-home mom and stay sane at the same time. I have a ton of respect for stay-at-home moms & also wouldn’t be able to do it myself.

Why do you work?

Four key strategies to running as a working mom

Before kids, I could sleep in on weekends or build up the motivation to go for a run. I could go to a happy hour after work or lace up my running shoes for a work out. I could shower and go straight to work or set my alarm a little earlier and squeeze a jog in beforehand.

And back when I was in college, I didn’t even have to plan around the American classic 9-5. I could run in the middle of the day if I wanted, or at midnight. Why not?

Now that my husband and I both work full-time and co-habitate with a toddler and a baby who are largely dependent on us to do literally everything for them, from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep (and sometimes in between), those whimsical workouts seem like a luxury.

We could wallow and complain about how easy life used to be, not only our schedules but our metabolism, our idealism, our expectations for the future… Or we can can be grown-ups and find a way to make what matters to us a reality.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a doctor, a therapist, a professional athlete, or a parenting expert. So consult all of those before taking any of my advice.

That said, I’ve found a formula that works for me to fit running into my life while also making the time and space to be a successful professional and engaged mom. In other words, my formula for work.run.mom…

And it boils down to four key strategies:

Join me in the next several posts as we explore each of these in more depth. And share the strategies that have worked for you in the comments!