When Mom Goes ‘Back-to-Work’

For the past few weeks, the focus has been on back-to-school shopping for our kids, but what if it is mom who is about to make an even bigger ‘back-to’. Heading back to work from maternity leave can be just as daunting, especially if you need a new wardrobe to go along with your new transition.

Megan is experiencing this right now. She has two children ages three years and one year old, and works as a part-time pediatric Physiotherapist in the school system.  Megan has been on maternity leave for just over a year with her kids and has been working on her post-partum recovery (some pre-pregnancy clothes fit but she is not yet at her ideal size).  Megan jumped back into work at the end of August, but before she did, she needed to refresh her wardrobe with pieces that fit her body at the size she is at now. 

Megan needs clothes that will work for casual days with the kids, meetings and office time, front-line PT work (which involves pushups and somersaults), and date nights — let’s not forget about those!  She recently went back-to-school shopping for herself and invited me along for a second opinion on her choices.

That’s what friends are for!
Enlist the help of a friend who will give an honest opinion.  Friends don’t have the same emotional connection to YOUR clothes so can often help make faster and more objective decisions.

Out with the old (and out of style)
Megan went through her closet and edited out anything that didn’t fit, was worn or damaged.  She consulted me and her style-savvy baby sister via text message to get a second opinion on questionable pieces.

Find your inspiration.
Megan put together an inspiration board on Pinterest.  We looked through it and identified what pieces she already has to replicate the general styles, and made a list of what pieces she would need to fill the gaps and complete the looks.  List in hand, we planned out our shopping strategy, because you need to make it count when you have precious shopping time without kids.

Get shopping.
We hit the streets!  First stop was to get the most daunting task out of the way – pants shopping!  Megan and I are both afraid of pants and we are not alone.  It is hard to find a good fit without spending a fortune which is a critical factor when you’re in transition. 

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TIP: Working moms should consider their work setting and roles when determining a good price point.  Maybe those $200 trousers are a great fit, but you don’t really want to paint and play on the floor in preschool in them. If you’re in a corporate setting, $200 might be worth it in the long run though.  Higher-priced “quality” pieces are not necessarily worth the extra money, so estimate the cost per wear before you shell out the big bucks.  Megan found 5 pairs of work-appropriate pants that FIT right now for an average cost of $30.  Even if she rotates through them only for a season, she will get her money’s worth.

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Megan found several other pieces including a basic white button-down, layering tanks, black and white tees, and a hoodie that I deemed cute and acceptable, but she is under strict orders never to wear it with running shoes.

Tell me what you want — what you really, REALLY want!
We hit the “splurge” shops.  Megan has some favourite ‘guilty pleasure’ (higher end) stores.  She also had her eye out for great boots and at the 11th hour (well, it was 8:56pm with the mall closing at 9) she spotted a great pair in a quality brand that will last for years.  They can be worn with a wide range of styles from casual to dressy and, most importantly, she feels fantastic in them. 

The Outcome

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This pretty top can be worn a few different ways. Also, every mother has a laundry basket in the background, right?

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Red pants are surprisingly versatile. Go ahead and do a cute half tuck with your button-down.

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Teal skinnies and a striped cowl dressed down and up.

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Black pants and white top are not-so-basic with lace, pops of colour, layered accessories and a nude shoe rather than predictable black.

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A neutral palette with interesting details, layers and textures came together in my favourite ensembles of the night.

Megan can mix her new pieces together in so many ways, and existing pieces and accessories in her closet will add even more mileage! 

No matter what “transition” you may be going through, taking some time to focus on you can legitimately ease the process. Whether that time is spent editing your closet, refining your style, remixing your wardrobe, shopping, or even just stalking Pinterest for new inspiration for your old pieces.  A grounded, happy, and well-dressed mama makes for a grounded, happy family.

Nicole Rowan
By day, Nicole is a mother to three awesome kids ages 9, 7 and 4, and a pediatric Occupational Therapist to hundreds of other people’s kids. She could be accurately described as an award-winning OT who loves to have fun while doing good, hard work. By night, Nicole is *the* thrifting style blogger of Edmonton and two-time Yeggies nominee, sharing her love of thrifting and other spirited adventures!
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