The Prada Moms

prada handbagRecently, I was scanning through my draft files–you know, those posts you thought were good ideas but never published or never finished or realized really weren’t good ideas and so maybe it’s best they stayed drafts after all–and I came across one called The Prada Moms.

Years ago, back when I was freelancing and working from home, I would see these moms in Manhattan who were dripping in designer labels. Their hair was perfectly done, their nails showed no signs of housework (let alone diaper changes) and their perfectly trim, pilates-sculpted bodies were the perfect hangers for their size 0 Chanel jackets and $300 skinny jeans.

They sometimes pushed their own strollers, and sometimes walked alongside nannies pushing their Bugaboos, while they teetered on Jimmy Choos and talked on cell phones, popped out of salons, or simply shopped.

It often surprised me to realize they had babies at all, I mean where were their hips? You know, hips? Those things we moms tend to have?

The gist of my post was how how much these women annoyed the crap out of me.

Once you become a mom, aren’t you supposed to move on to some degree? Prioritize your kid over your shopping or your lunch dates or even your triceps? Was it really necessary to spend a decent four-figures on that handbag, when you have a kid heading to college one day?

Now, looking back, I think the only thing that was right about that post is that I never hit publish.

(Small favors.)

Wow, I must have been in a low place then, I thought, as I read the scathing condemnation that somehow flew out of my head, through my fingertips and into the keyboard.

And I was.

Money was tight, I was hustling like a crazy person to get work to support my family, I couldn’t fit into my prepartum clothes, and the sight of my triceps could have scarred retinas. I felt bad about myself. And yeah, I was jealous.

Not that I would want these women’s lives per se, but maybe just a little more free time to have lunch with a friend? Maybe just the personal trainer? (Not even a celebrity one–I’m not picky.) Maybe just a really expensive pair of shoes that I could buy without looking at the price tag first? Or even a place big enough for a second bathroom? I wouldn’t need every one of these things but…something? A little one? Throw me a bone, universe.

Of course I couldn’t see it then–I made some very convincing arguments!–but I’ve always said we all have a little sanctimommy in us at all times, and there was mine, in black and white.

I was mad at women I had never met–perfectly nice women, for all I know–for wearing designer clothes. I was mad at women for marrying wealthy husbands. I was mad at women for being thin or blonde or tall or tan. I was mad at women for leading what seemed to be charmed lives, despite knowing absolutely nothing about what happened behind closed doors when the nanny was sent home for the night.

I’m so embarrassed about it now. And it’s not that I’m rich or well-toned (God, no) or lousy with free time these days.

It’s that, more or less, I’m happy.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the soldiers of the so-called mommy wars. I once wrote that when you feel good about yourself, you don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what other people do when it doesn’t concern you directly. But you know, it’s not just mommies.

It applies to the hostile commenters on online newspaper articles; the trolls who spend their time arguing a point into the ground on a political website; the venomous hate-blogger who was outed years ago, went on a morning show to defend her site, and really seemed to have convinced herself quite thoroughly that she was doing some great public service for the world by publicly attacking other women she had never met.

It was me in 2008 when I was toying around with an alter-ego called The Etiquette Bitch.

Not that I still don’t get annoyed when people take up two parking spaces, or refuse to hold the elevator doors when they see me running for it. It’s just that I don’t chastise them loudly now. And I certainly don’t let them ruin my day.

So…personal progress. A little.

This week, Thalia came home upset about a girl in school who was “too cool to be nice.” She belittles other kids, she pushes her way to the front and center of the stage during choral rehearsals, she tells stories about her life that seem too good to be true.

“I’m going to tell you something now that most women don’t learn until they’re at least 30. Do you think you’re ready?”  My daughter’s eyes opened wide, excited to be let into some secret adult world before she had even turned 8.

“That girl who thinks she’s too cool to be friendly? That’s because deep down, she doesn’t think she’s cool at all. She feels bad about herself. She is working very hard to make other people feel as bad as she does. You don’t have to try and win her over. You probably can’t. You can feel a little sad for her though because she is not happy. And you can remind yourself that you are so lucky that you feel good enough about yourself that you can friendly to everyone.”

Blink. Blink.

“But she acts too cool, Mom. She’s not nice”

Yeah, so…not sure she got it. But maybe one day, when she really needs it, she’ll remember it.

Or maybe we all just have to learn it in our own time.

Life is short. I don’t want to spend it being angry at things I can’t change, at people whose clothing size or whose relationships or whose child-rearing choices don’t affect my own life. I’ll fail sometimes, but I’m trying.

That’s the thing about nearing 45. (Gulp.) I want to do better.

I guess this is all to say: I’m sorry, Prada moms. Four years later, I’m sorry that I even thought the things I did. You go on with your bad Miuccia-loving selves. I hope your husbands are nice to you, I hope your shopping keeps dozens of people employed, I hope you’re so fit and healthy you’ll live to see your great-grandchildren, I hope your charity work fills your hearts, and mostly, I hope those babies of yours grow up to do lots of great things in the world.

If nothing else, may we both have that in common.


53 thoughts on “The Prada Moms”

  1. Lovely.
    Think I might might pin this to my forehead … er … bulletin board for those times I’m wallowing and the monster in my green eyes gets (way too) loose.

  2. I love this post. I love how you linked it to the stuff your girls are seeing. I’ll have to use that….

    Anytime I find myself going to a judgy place, I try to stop and ask myself what in my life I’m not happy about. Because if I’m happy with my choices, and that other person’s choices aren’t actively harming anyone… why do I care?

    Note I said “I try to stop…” I don’t always succeed!

  3. Some of it’s maturity, some of it’s time and some may just plain be the older our kids get the less we care what others do. I used to try and keep up with others. I used to feel bad about all the things I wasn’t and couldn’t be for my kids. Or all the things I couldn’t give them. Yet here we are years later and I feel more confident in my parenting abilities and my kids are wonderful and I guess I don’t care so much anymore? I did it in life and I did it online. Shrug. I’ve long since let it go. I yam who I yam as my son has starting saying.

    Or it’s possible we just get too tired and we need to spend our brain power elsewhere.

  4. So much good stuff to think about in this post. It’s particularly hard to avoid the mommy judgments because it seems like to admit that a mom who mothers very differently from you is a good mom seems to imply that you are then doing something wrong. Can’t we all just do right in our own ways?

    4 years in to this parenthood thing and I haven’t figured out how to keep the judgy-mcjudgerson thoughts out of my brain, but at least I’m getting better at holding my tongue (or keeping my fingers from typing).

  5. I love this post.

    I’m fortunate that in my job the vast majority of people I deal with are lovely, but every once in a while someone comes in bent on being defensive or manipulative or rude. I’ve had customers leave me in tears or in need of an angry walk around the block, but in the end I always come away thinking, “So glad I’m not them.” I agree you have to be in a pretty lousy place yourself to want to make life unpleasant for others. Your daughter’s lucky to have you to try and teach that to her early.

  6. I used to feel similarly when driving around my neighborhood here in LA and seeing teenagers driving $90K cars, while I wasn’t. It’s not that I even wanted those cars, it was more that I didn’t think they deserved them. Then I realized everyone is born into a unique situation that they have no control over, whether rich or poor or somewhere in between. Live and let live.

    1. Hey, it still may bug me. I don’t agree with giving a kid a $90k car either. I guess the question is, do you let it ruin your day? Do you rant about it? Does it take away from more productive things you could be doing instead? I like your observation about how everyone is born into their own situation.

      1. *This* is what I love about your post. It’s not a sanctimonious rant about “being judgmental” which I see everywhere, but it’s just saying that you’re not going to let this stuff crowd out better things in your life or waste valuable brain space. I love that you say xyz thing may bug you still. Because a lot of what I read says we’re not even supposed to *have* those thoughts in the first place.

  7. I love your honesty.

    I’ve been an angry person. It didn’t make me feel any better to tear others down, even just inside my head. Accepting what I couldn’t change and working to change what I could – that’s what made me feel better.

  8. i love this! i can so relate to both the feelings before and also having come a far way. i still get all wrapped around sometimes when it comes to work, though.

    i once had a colleague who i felt was always one step ahead of me. it was SO frustrating. one time i got so annoyed at something good that happened to her that i sat my envious ass down to write a list of what she had that i didn’t have. things that mattered. real things. i couldn’t come up with anything. nothing that i knew for sure. i had fabricated it all. plus, sitting down like that made me realize how lucky i am. though i still get wrapped up sometimes, it helped. so do posts like this. reminders. thanks for that.

  9. It’s true. It’s so true. Early in my parenting days, when things were at their darkest, I cancelled a play-date with a woman because I knew she had a lot of money and I couldn’t bear the thought of being faced with her reality and how different it was from mine. Today, she’s one of my closest friends. I almost missed out on that because I wanted to hold her good fortune against her.

  10. When I’m feelin’ judgey, the rich just can’t catch a break with me. If I’m in a nasty mood and see someone who is obviously wealthy and smiling, I’ll think “Smug, self-satisfied jerk” or if I see someone who is obviously wealthy and not smiling I’ll think “Miserable person who can’t even appreciate what you have”. Just goes to show, I guess that being judgemental is a loser’s game.

    It’s interesting, though, how it’s pretty socially acceptable to make snide comments about people with money. For example, I was in a meeting once and a woman shared with the group how when she was in high school, she hated the rich kids. People just nodded and let the comment pass. I have to wonder how the response would have been different if she would have said that she hated the poor kids at her high school.

    1. You bring up such good questions. I think it’s still considered okay to attack “the majority” or the privileged – white people, pop music, Dads, lawyers, rich people.

      I remember a story once where my friends were in a Rolls Royce (long backstory) and it broke down in Manhttan. The way they describe it, the number of people who gave them the finger, spit at them and screamed HAHAHAA SERVES YOU RIGHT was astounding.

  11. This was lovely. When I find myself thinking “It must be nice…” (in a tone that’s not nice at all…), that’s when I know something in my life needs adjusting.

  12. So true that we are inclined to be judgemental and harsh in the very arenas where we are the most uncertain! I am feeling comfortable with most of my decisions these days, and hence have gotten mellower – but couldn’t help a snarky “looks like someone’s been spending a lot of time on pinterest” when we received a truly adorable birthday-party invitation. Truth be told, kids parties make me anxious and I’m always afraid nobody will come, and I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to quit having them. I feel bad about that part of me, though, so out comes the mean girl! It’d be good to remember to question myself when I feel that strong, nasty, judgy reaction – what is it that I’m feeling bad about, exactly, and is it realy worth hurting someone’s feelings to vent about it?

    1. Yes but it’s true about Pinterest! (Is it snarky if it’s true?)

      And you’re not alone Kristen, I hate throwing parties too. Speaking of which, I have one to plan. Maybe I shouldn’t put it off until the week before? Just thinking out loud.

      1. Lady, let me help you with that party.

        P.S. I think a big part of growing up is recognizing what feelings are the Real Feelings and which feelings are Indicator Feelings.

        I’ve found that Jealousy is just an Indicator Feeling, a feeling that shows me where I’m feeling something negative in my own life. Judgement and Snark and Annoyance are all indicators too.

        (Hilariously enough, my Real Feeling is almost always Fear.)

        1. Helen Jane YOU actually gave a brilliant presentation about channeling jealousy, at mom 2 in 2012. Do you have a link to that? It has always stayed with me and it’s so relevant.

  13. I think we become a bit less judgmental as we get older, something about aging allows us to see the world through others eyes. More secure? More understanding? A bit wiser? I am not sure, maybe a bit of each.

    1. Great points, I think so too. It’s one of the stark difference between my 30s and my 40s.

      As for my 20s…don’t get me started. At least I was having fun?

  14. It takes a big person to look back at a part of themselves they are not proud of and own it like this. This was very honest and I appreciate that. If only more people would reflect this way, and try to change things about themselves that they regret, maybe we’d all be a little nicer to each other. And I love how you tried to instill that understanding in your daughter – I hope you’re right that even though she might not get it now, maybe she’ll remember what you’ve said when something similar happens in, I don’t know, middle school. Because if I remember middle school at all, this WILL happen there. A lot.

  15. I swear sometimes that you live in my head! Are you secretly my inner monologue?

    There are a couple of Moms in our after school activities that seem to go out of their way to point in a passive aggresive way about how much greater their kids are than everyone else’s. They basically eavesdrop on innocuous conversations about our kids and insert themselves with a “well MY kid does…” and do their best to start a one up game. And I’ll admit, for a while I got sucked into it. And then I wondered why I’d go home on those days feeling sucked dry. The conversations were so pointless and non-productive and looking back I don’t even know why I bothered. Honestly…what do I have to prove? Nothing really. I think they do it because they are not as happy with their lives or themselves as they want everyone to believe.

    The moral of the story is I finally realized how to diffuse those situations. I usually smile, nod and change the subject. And I do my best not to even engage them to begin with, which is kind of sad because I hate to feel like I’m purposely avoiding conversations with people (one of whom I actually have to spend a lot of time with because of our kids’ activities).

    1. Good diffusion technique! Sometimes don’t you just want to stop them, look them in the eye, say “It’s not a competition–I’m sure your kid is wonderful” and then give them a big hug? I have that (admittedly weird) fantasy sometimes.

      1. I hate to say it, but recurrent fantasy has a lot more to do with duct tape!

  16. I love this post! You really nailed it on the head. When I’m not doing well, I really do turn into the green-eyed monster. It makes me feel worse about myself because a modicum of self-awareness came with my kids about what comes out of my mouth. Listen closely, they repeat it all back including attitudes! A lot of gratitude can usually get me back on to higher ground.

  17. Well said. A friend has a daughter who is 8 and despite her best efforts to eat healthfully and be active, she is quite heavy, the biggest girl in her class. This child has amazing intuition and kindness, and has often said astute things about kids who are mean to her, pointing out that they are not feeling liked and she thinks she could offer her own friendship to them as a solution. Agreed: this is not something most of us understand until well into our 30s.

  18. we’re going through a bit of a rough spot right now because my husband lost his job last fall, he found something temporary for a few months this spring, but in a month or so, that will be done too. I definitely have these feelings, particularly with certain people I work with… especially one, when she complains about how tough things are and how much work she has to do I just fume inside since her husband is an MD and they go on month-long vacations. We haven’t been on a vacation in three years.

    Anyway, I really do appreciate this post as a good reminder that it’s really just my insecurities and worries (and my need for a break!!) and that I really shouldn’t let something so petty as this ruin my day. And after all, my husband is SO much better looking than hers. 🙂

  19. Liz, thank you so much for this, I’m so glad I saw it. I recently came to this realization too, that back when I was making people laugh with my long-ago-abandoned blog, Momtrolfreak, I was actually doing it with such vitrol and cattiness tha tit was only perpetuating my own ill mood. I wasn’t happy then, and ocmplaining about other parents or my husband (no ew) and somebody else’s kids etc etc was a funny way to vent all that sadness and anger. A dear friend I’ve known since high school recently visited and said I am back, now, to who she knew in high school: sweet, kind. She said she was happy for me when I was blogging and finding success in that arena (she was following it from afar, living abroad) but she was sad to see how angry I’d gotten. I’m glad that I found a way to get right with myself (as you have). Yay for not being angry at strangers for no reason! xoxo

  20. There’s an element of maturity at play. You begin to realize jealousy is always directed at surface elements: She’s skinny. She has great hair, she has money.

    Along the way you learn people are icebergs. What you see is 10%. What’s unseen are the sleepless nights, the difficult marriage, the fertility struggles, health issues, wretched childhoods. The moment it occurs to you that we ALL struggle, it’s easier to give each other a little grace.

  21. I registered in a rage after seeing STFU Parents for the first time. Then I realized I would be heartbroken if my kids grew up and created something like that, so I would be no better creating something that was essentially the exact same thing.

    Karma eventually takes care of everyone, so now I try to just be the best me I can be. With the occasional reactionary smughipster entry that just stays in my head 😉

  22. There must be something in the air these days, because my son came home from first grade with a similar comment about a boy who just couldn’t be nice on the field. According to my son, “even when I hit the ball farther than him, he has to say that it wasn’t a clean hit, or something like that.” I think your response was better than mine though – I didn’t ever expect to see the behavior in boys (I knew it was rampant in girls). How lucky Thalia is to learn the secret at such a young age!

    On a separate note, if you’re really approaching 45 (which I find almost impossible to believe), please share your secret! There’s no way you’ve spent too much time fretting about jealousy, because you don’t have a wrinkle to show for it!

  23. I just went through more than two years of financial devastation. Many times, if we ran out of milk on Tuesday, we weren’t going to have any milk again until Friday when I got paid.

    Being poor sucked so much but it gave me many, many gifts. I grew up in a barely middle-class family. I heard lots of negative messages about rich people. I spent a lot of years getting hung up on it. I’d start a friendship with someone and then find out that they had money so I’d backpedal. Why? I felt bad about myself. I felt unworthy.

    Now that I’ve been pretty poor and fought my way out of it on my own, I’m so damn proud of myself. I’ve found that I’m capable of so many things. I see rich people and I don’t resent them, I think “I could get there if I really wanted to. It’s all a matter of choice and priorities.”

    I recently had dinner with a wealthy friend of mine (the girl has 13 bathrooms in her house, no lie) whom I hadn’t seen in three years. I realized that for the first time ever, I didn’t sit there thinking about how freaking rich she was. I told her what had been going on with me and I mean I told her ALL of it — right down to having to get financial assistance at daycare and how proud I was the day that I walked in and told them that I didn’t need it anymore. It was just my friend and I, talking the way that two friends do.

    So YES to what you said above — so much of this has to do with inner happiness and self worth. Once my life got stripped down the bare bones and I had to reinvent myself in a way that made sense to me, I found that I had so much more love for everyone else.

    Also? It’s great to hear that you’re happy these days. 🙂

    Thanks for another excellent post, Ms. Liz.

  24. This post is so timely. I was just sitting at gymnastics the other night watching my daughter and I noticed that three of the moms I see each week all had these matching checked bags. I knew that one of them was married to a doctor and that the others were well-off. I figured it was a designer bag, but had no idea what designer. They were Louis Vuitton–Damiere Ebene bags. Gorgeous bags. I had a moment where I was envious–not for the bag but for the ability to afford the bag (without looking at the $1500 price tag).

    It’s moments like this that I have to check my own self-worth and it’s hard, but it is those moments when we are least unhappy with ourselves that we judge others. Thank you for the reminder.

  25. I very distinctly remember when I was 8, I once cried to my mother about a popular mean girl in our school who loved to put other kids down. My mother said that the only way she could feel good about herself was to make other people feel bad, and she asked if I really wanted to have a friend like that. At the time, I got it, and it empowered me, but I still really wanted to be popular, like that girl was. Thalia gets it, too, I’m sure. And I have a feeling she will distinctly remember your words, too. If you haven’t read How Full Is Your Bucket, it’s a good one that covers these exact issues. Thanks for this very gentle but powerful reminder to be the kind of person I want to be.

  26. Oh, I love this post. It makes me feel fierce and fired up.Like I want to pin a copy of it to my neighborhood mailbox so that others can read it and realize how much less exhausted they would be if they just stopped caring about what other people have and they don’t. We all have one life. They are not all “fair”.

  27. Just yesterday, I went with a tech to observe some phone repairs. First job was in subsidies housing, with lots of people out of work and place looking little run down. Tech had to ask for access to garage (the phone box was there) and upon opening, I could see hundreds of bikes of all sorts piled up, filling garage to the ceiling and all the way to the door. I said nothing. The owner could have had bike repair business – but that did not LOOK like business. Since it was nothing that affected me, I said nothing. Besides, I based it on looks and overall condition of the owner apartment and 15 minutes that we spent with him. I did not ask any questions, I did not say anything to anybody.

    But that place could have had my daughter’s bike. Or my neighbour’s. Should I keep judgement to myself?

    The second visit involved wealthy neighborhood across the street. Woman opened the door and tech explained he was coming to repair her phone line. She looked straight at me and started explaining her troubles with phone. Tech asked additional questions, woman again responded to me (I was completely silent all the time, just peering over tech’s shoulder). She would occasionally glance at the tech, but she always talked to ME.

    The tech was black. I immediately jumped to conclusion that she is prejudiced, but I only saw her those 20 minutes of repair, not sure if there was something else occurring there and so on.

    And now I’m thinking that not saying anything was not right. I feel like I’m missing the big picture if I don’t say anything in such situations, even f they don’t impact me directly at that moment. Like I’m part of the collective responsible for world sliding over into worst place, because I did nothing – I did not judge and speak up when I felt I should. I feel like Martin Niemöller, and I still want to speak up – even if it comes from judgey place. I just have to be very, very mindful about my motives – is it to make world a better place or to get-back-at? And I’m still searching for the fine line when to speak up and when to shut the hell up and make sure it is not impacting my perspective. And I don’t find that easy.

  28. I cannot think of how many times I saw someone who had something I wanted and I felt jealous and then I chastised myself for it. It’s not that I begrudged them of what they had. It’s that I really wanted it too. I find that it’s often hard to be truly happy for what you have. At least it’s always been hard for me. It’s something I’m definitely trying to teach my children to do different. To be grateful and not take things for granted. To not be upset when someone has something you don’t. Sometime I think one of the best part of having children is learning these lessons all over again.

  29. You may have given Thalia all she needs in life now – you are spot on….people who belittle others are deep down miserable themselves AND I am pretty sure that it never stops. Let’s ask our moms?

    We always attack the person that resembles something we (think) we want.
    A few years ago, I probably would have written a post centered around those god damn working moms who were winning awards and had not let their own career goals slip while sitting at home. You wanted free time four years ago. I wanted my life back.

    Now, I am happy for you, me and everyone else.

  30. I haven’t read all of the comments yet, but just in case nobody has suggested it, check out ^Have You Filled a Bucket Today?^ by Carol McCloud. There are several versions – the one we have is the one with an old man and a little boy walking down a sidewalk and holding buckets that are overflowing with rainbow-y stars and such. It costs about $12 on Amazon and is worth every penny.

    We talk a lot in our family about being bucket fillers and not bucket dippers…it’s been a great way to help our oldest (now 6) child understand why some people are mean – to her; to others – and why she always feels so much better when she is a bucket filler.

    Shoot, who am I kidding ? It helps ME to think about it in those terms, too!

  31. Great post! I always find it sort of comforting when I think back to times like this in my life, and realize how much I’ve moved forward

  32. WOW. What great post! You’re right, the difference is that now you are happy. I’m happy for you that you were able to reflect back on your un-published writing and realize how much happier you are now =) We all have good and bad days and I’m glad that your days are a lot better now-a-days =) Cheers!

  33. I had this the other day- gorgeous blonde, thin, great shoes, omega watch, “the” pram (the one I wanted but was too sensible to buy etc. jealousy everywhere! Then I realised it could be me, I could be her if I made different choices (less sensible with money, more sensible with ice cream…) & I felt better! (& resolved to buy a really nice watch!)

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