Mom Guilt, It’s a Trip

We are our biggest critics. We stay up late judging every choice, every raised word we uttered and every moment we could have done “better”. Being a mother in this world is perhaps an impossible job. The world is waiting to tell you what a failure you are, and if that weren’t enough, we are there to berate ourselves as well.

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When I became a mother I just knew I was going to be good at it. I was one of those women who always wanted children, who could see no future for myself that didn’t include being a mother. I assumed, naïvely, that the act of mothering comes naturally. I was right, in a way, instincts kick in and a lot of it is indeed as natural as breathing. What I was not prepared for were the decisions, the endless choices made on behalf of this little person that may or may not impact the rest of their lives. Breastfed or bottle fed seemed like an easy choice, of course I would breastfeed. “breast is best” is drilled into you the second you conceive and even the nurses in the hospital are hesitant to even offer a pacifier for fear of the dreaded “nipple confusion”. Immediately after birth you are being judged. While I knew I wanted to breastfeed what I had never even given a thought to was the actual physical demands of breastfeeding. Finding the right latch with my first baby was difficult and for two weeks every time she latched my toes would curl in pain. I tried a nipple shield, but those don’t really help. Everything I read said “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt” and “breastfeeding is natural and easy” and so, i felt like a failure. Eventually we got the hang of it but breastfeeding and pumping became a full time job on top of caring for this new baby I had at home. I beat myself up when my supply started to drop around 8 months postpartum and even went so far as to purchase donated milk to keep my baby on breastmilk until that coveted one year milestone.

The “breast is best” mentality is just one of thousands of different ways women are indoctrinated into believing that there is only one way to be a good mother. One picture perfect ideal woman who exists somewhere with her abundant breasts who loves breastfeeding her children and has happy and obedient children who sleep through the night as newborns. I’m sorry, but that is BULLSHIT. I have met hundreds of other mothers and all of us try our hardest to be the perfect mother and its nearly killing us all. We are missing out on being the happy mothers that our children want us to be because we are too busy being stressed about doing everything the “right” way. It has led to a motherhood culture of suspicion and judgement and comparison that further divides and isolates us from the very women we should be supporting.

Motherhood will always come with a portion of guilt. We care too much about our children and their wellbeing for us not judge our actions with scrutiny. However, guilt and judgement have become a cornerstone to the modern American motherhood experience and that needs to change. Rates of depression and anxiety in mothers is rising, and it seems like the only remedy we have come up with is medication. What really needs to be done is we need to alleviate the guilt and the judgement, from within and also from without. Until motherhood only comes with a spoonful of guilt instead of a dump truck, I’m afraid we as a society have left our mothers alone in the darkness.

Moving To the South, A New Yorkers Take

I moved to Charleston, South Carolina before the James Beard awards and the Travel Magazines had grabbed ahold of it. When I moved here, it was still a small town with a big history and only enough people to feel bustling, but never busy. This was 2010 and I had just made the biggest decision of my life. I had stood in the Milan airport, willing myself to muster up the courage to skip my flight home to the U.S. and stay in Italy without a plan nor a place to live. The fears of an unknown future got me on the plane that day, and thirteen hours later I found myself a new resident of South Carolina.

This world was more foreign to me than Italy had been. I had grown accustom to the rythym and fashions of Italian life and had never spent any real time in the American South. The heat, the humidity, the long southern drawls and the slow meandering gate of its people was strange and out of place with my fast walking busy NY self. I had to learn to slow it all down. I had to re-learn how to be polite (you wave at your neighbors when they drive by) and how to dress (for hot weather most of the year).

The charm of this place is easy to see. The blue herons that stalk the marshlands in the mornings, fighting over the small fish that get caught in the tide pools. The sun washed beaches that provide the background for an entire nine months of fun. The cascading spanish moss that trickles down from ancient crooked oaks, that unceremoniously line the busy throughways of my daily commutes. Charleston definitely won me over, and taking a little longer in the grocery store to stop and chat with the checkout lady is a fine trade off.

The style of this city is defined as well by the ease and joy of its people. When I first moved here from New York I declared loudly, and arrogantly that this city “has no swagger”. This came from a childish and pretty unfashionable twenty-three year old, who hadn’t yet seen that the style of the city was a reflection of its past and its values. The style here is clean-cut, conservative, colorful to the point of garish, and very very preppy. If you look behind the traditional southern aesthetic you will see that you can tell a lot about a city by how its native peoples dress. When I first moved here I would note the older gentlemen walking to their offices downtown in three-piece suits, wiping their brows with handkerchiefs before returning their straw brimmed hats to their sweltering heads. The average temperature here is near 80 on most spring and summer days and yet, style won out over function. After ten years living here I can actually say that I hope this does not change. With so many newcomers to the area we are flooded with “Yankees” and with that comes a homogenization of style and fashion. The old mixing with the new until you can’t quite tell if a person is a native southerner or just a transplant. So although I can’t really look at Lily Pulitzer with any affection, I can certainly hope she does not go missing from the crowd any time soon. What a weird place Charleston would be without its colorful ladies and dapper gentlemen.

Finding Your Personal Style

Falling victim to trends is easy enough to do. When we see bloggers and influencers rocking the latest and greatest, we want to emulate them and hopefully have some of that “cool girl” magic rub off on us. Unfortunately, trends come and go, meaning you are constantly chasing something unattainable. As soon as you master the art of styling bicycle shorts, some article will be posted declaring them over. Trend chasing aside, most of us wear what we have which boils down to the pieces we have kept over time, and a hodgepodge of other basics and pieces that have somehow made it into our closet over the years.

Creating in curated closet that adheres to your personal aesthetic takes time, but there are a few simple steps you can take to begin taking control of your look.

  1. Purge!! Take every single thing out of your closet. Throw away anything damaged, stained, ripped or so worn out it can’t be passed along. Donate everything that does not fit, you’ve had for years but only have worn out once, bridesmaids dresses, anything you have owned since before college, and anything you would not buy for yourself today.
  2. Get Inspired! Find a celebrity or style influencer who you admire and has similar hair and skin tone to yours. Get inspiration from the colors and silhouettes they are often dressed in. Make note of their general aesthetic and see if that is the kind of vibe you want in your own style. If not, keep looking until you discover someone you can use as an inspiration source.
  3. Know Your Body – This doesn’t mean just knowing your shape (pear, apple, hourglass etc.) it means knowing what parts you like to show off and where you would rather be modest. If you aren’t comfortable in a garment, that insecurity will shine through, regardless of how hot you may look in it. Modesty does not have to mean boring! nor does showing a lot of skin have to look cheap. If done right, you will always leave the house feeling sexy and sophisticated.
  4. Choose an aesthetic – This is the first real step in building a wardrobe that reflects who you are and your outlook on life. There are tons of different aesthetics so start a Pinterest board and just start collecting images that appeal to you. Over time you may notice a commonality between them. Those will be your key words. Don’t forget, just because you like how something looks on a model or another friends, does not mean it will be right for you. This will come with practice and time, but soon you will know if something just looks good or if it will serve your image.
  5. Pick a few key words – What do you want your look to portray? strength? femininity? do you want to look bold, or minimalist? come up with three or four words that will encompass your style. Mine are Bold, glamorous, modern vintage classics. These aren’t set in stone and you can still experiment, but having a core focus will help when shopping for new clothes.
  6. Start Building – Once you’ve narrowed down a direction for your look and a few style inspirations, it’s time to start slowly adding pieces to fit your new aesthetic. Start with basics, things you will need to layer into looks, items like a leather jacket, a structured blazer, and a cute pair of flats is a good place to start. Start to pick out elements that your favorite fashionistas wear regularly. For me, for example, I love a wide belt and you will see me mix and match them with tons of outfits to give it that 50’s flare.

The important thing when you begin this style evolution is to know that part of finding yourself is trial and error. You wont get it right the first few times you try something new, but with practice you will begin to refine your specific style until it comes as second nature. What is also important to remember is that you are allowed to change, to grow, to switch up what style defines you as you grow and redefine who you are as a person. For me that means some days I am colorful and cute, while others I feel more myself in neutrals and easy silhouettes. Staying stylish means staying true to yourself, and as long as you do that, you are headed in the right direction to timeless style.

Let ME Introduce Myself

Hi, and welcome to my blog!

This is not my first attempt at blogging. In fact, if I really search through my archives I could probably find five different blogs I’ve started throughout the years. Most of them dealt with food, because at many points in my life I envisioned myself as a successful food write at some point. I imagined living in New York City (a stones throw from the town where I grew up) and working somewhere prestigious like Bon Appetit or The New Yorker; alas, life had very different plans for me. I graduated culinary school in Italy with all the young hopes and dreams of any artistic ingénue and quickly set off to become the next big thing in food. Looking back, my naivety was adorable and laughable.

I had never wanted an ordinary life and the kitchen held for me the mystery and grit one might imagine on a pirate ship. That’s what we were, pirates of the night. A ragtag band of dirty, sweaty, and foul mouthed laborers working together for hours on end. I was almost always the only female in the kitchen and with that came the constant dodging of gropes and unwanted sexual innuendos. I did not mind however, the better I could hold my own with the boys, the more they welcomed me into their club. I was part of the crew. I truly believed the kitchen and the food world was my one way ticket to Neverland, and it was intoxicating. But, much with all the best laid plans, things went askew the minute I met Matt. He was a recently divorced and down on his luck financial planner who drove a Lexus and wore Polos with his khakis. He represented everything I had so far rejected, a genuine nice guy, clean cut, with a good job. When we got together, my insane work schedule was a constant problem. I would pour myself into bed well past midnight and work twelve hour days six days a week. For a man who wanted a wife and family, this was not going to work.

An ultimatum came into play pretty quickly and I had a choice to make. Follow my cooking career or jump head first into this very new relationship with a man I had barely started to date. Always the daredevil, I jumped, and we have been living happily ever after. To say my life changed drastically is an understatement. Sometimes when I look back at my past self I can hardly remember the girl I was. I never had a real sense of style and got by mostly by buying all my clothes from Forever 21 or rocking my older sisters hand-me-downs.

After having two kids and entering my late 20’s I had a self-care renaissance, I stopped drinking as much and began working out consistantly. I dropped 20lbs and really started to be proud of my body for the first time in a very long while. This newfound confidence spurred me to do a giant closet edit and get rid of all the bar-hopping and jouvenile clothes of my youth. I was still holding on to clothes I had had since middle school! I was a grown up now, and I wanted to look like one. With two kids growing, my needs for my wardrobe evolved from stretchy clothes I could easily remove my boobs from when they were newborns, to an adult wardrobe with a focused sense of style. I found inspiration from a few fashion mavens I could see myself in, Olivia Palermo was my first real fashion icon inspiration. From there I added a few fashionistas to my Pinterest roster including Blaire Eadie as well as some retro fashion gurus. I began mixing patterns, and silhouetes until I found my sweet spot: somewhere between Blair Waldorf, Amal Clooney, and Audrey Hepburn.

The great thing about having multiple passions is you are never bored. As my interest in fashion grows, my deep and lasting love affair with the culinary arts is always there to bring me back to my roots. Nothing gives me more thrill than dressing up and eating at a fabulous restaurant, but I am just as at home in my own kitchen with a glass of wine and some fuzzy slippers. Since moving to Charleston and adopting the true southern lifestyle, my place in this world is still growing, and so is my sense of fashion. I am so excited to be starting this blog to share with you my southern lifestyle, my sense of personal style, my family, my adventures in the kitchen, and my family’s overall zest for this incredible life. Never boring. Always stylish.