There’s the matter of personal upkeep, of course. I do manage to shower every morning but my hair never gets blow-dried with the attention it used to and I spend about three minutes slapping on just enough makeup to cover the worst of the eye circles while small people circle me like sharks, fighting over who gets to hold the now-unused Kabuki brush.

I’ve been living in yoga pants and t-shirts and I know this isn’t a good idea, not only for the brief involuntary shudder that crosses the UPS guy’s face when he comes to the door, but because elastic clothing allows me to fool myself about my eating habits. “I haven’t gained a pound,” I think happily, tossing back another bite of the children’s uneaten peanut-butter-slathered banana bread, ignoring the faint groan of overtaxed Spandex.

There’s the ass-shaped dent that’s deepened in the couch, from where I sit during naptimes and late into the evening, typing into a glowing screen. Sometimes I get up and there’s a pattern from the cushion fabric printed across my thighs.

There are the spectacularly unsexy tasks of trundling around the grocery store or community play area or library with two children, alternately simpering over their good behavior and hissing like Medusa for them to slow down and use their indoor voices.

There’s my total inability, so far, not to get up and eat everything in the kitchen at 10 PM. I remember this from being on maternity leave, how I just really, really felt like I needed a reward at the end of the day. I find that I want a way to differentiate that oh-so-brief crossover into my time, and the best way I can think of to do that is with snacks. I’m aware of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, but this doesn’t seem to help me put the brakes on my foodhole during that little carb-heavy slice of time between finishing the last of my work and going to bed.

Which is all to say, I’m not feeling super attractive lately. And as I was watching Mad Men last night—while I sprawled on my butt-sagged couch gnawing on a fistful of Frosted Mini Wheats—I eyeballed Betty Draper’s beautifully curled hair and nipped waistline and immaculate household and I thought, what the hell. Maybe I need to take up smoking.


48 Responses to “Downgrading”

  1. C @ Kid Things on September 15th, 2010 12:11 pm

    And this, pretty much says it all. Except, those couch lines on your thighs come with a paycheck. Mine are there for free.

  2. Mimi on September 15th, 2010 12:11 pm

    If you figure out a way to stop the snacking after the kids’ bedtime, do let me know. I do the SAME THING, and I can’t stop either.

  3. Rach on September 15th, 2010 12:14 pm

    Hah! You. Are. Awesome.

  4. Beth on September 15th, 2010 12:17 pm

    Smoking, LOL

  5. Liz on September 15th, 2010 12:20 pm

    Oh, now you’ve done it. Advocating smoking. Tsk, tsk.

    I kid. I started working from home two months ago and … well. Yes. I showered and put on make up yesterday and JEANS instead of yoga pants and was so proud of myself I called my husband AND my best friend to tell them.

    That was a not a good moment, I think.

  6. Korinna on September 15th, 2010 12:30 pm

    Think of what you’re saving on drycleaning.

  7. cindy on September 15th, 2010 12:31 pm

    Betty has Carla to take care of the house and the kids. She has plenty of time to curl her hair just so.

  8. ZestyJenny on September 15th, 2010 12:32 pm

    Yes, well, Betty Draper has a nanny/housekeeper!

  9. Eric's Mommy on September 15th, 2010 12:32 pm

    I have put on weight since I have been home. When I was working I would pack a lean cuisine and some healthy snacks and that was all I would eat because it was all I packed. Of course I would come home starving! Now I can eat whenever and whatever I want, of course I only do that while my Husband is at work. So I try not to buy things that I know I love and will just end up stuffing my face with.
    The other thing that stinks is my Husband doesn’t get home until around 10pm and I HATE to cook. So dinner for my Son and I is pretty bad too.
    I also have to make sure I get ready like I used to when I went to work, not like I dressed up for work or anything.

  10. Jennie on September 15th, 2010 12:34 pm

    I have to say, it’s one (very small reason) I fear every permanently working from home. I do it one day a week and I eat worse that day than the four other weekdays.

    And I’ve got nothing else to suggest except working out, which you do. I feel that’s the only way I can allow myself a little extra snacking without losing control of my weight loss.

  11. agirlandaboy on September 15th, 2010 12:49 pm

    This is a green-popsicle moment, but I weaned from Frosted Mini Wheats to a half-and-half combo of plain and honey nut mini wheats and it has made all the difference (in my mind).

  12. Lori on September 15th, 2010 12:50 pm

    yes I go back and forth about this getting dressed thing. Do I get dressed every day and wear out my “nice clothes” or wear my comfy clothes and not spill lunch on my clean white shirt?

  13. H on September 15th, 2010 12:54 pm

    I’ve worked at home for 14 years (for a large company, and I’m tied to laptop and phone all day) and am a stress eater. A bad moment leads immediately to a trip to the pantry for carbs or the refrigerator for whatever is in there. At times, I catch myself SHOVELING food into my mouth with no concept of how much I’ve actually consumed. It still happens after all these years but I’m more aware of it and am better at dealing with it. You will figure it out too – realizing you do it is a major step. Also, I learned that forgiving clothing is BAD BAD BAD. I need a little reminder at the waist and thighs that the bag of chocolate chips is best left unopened.

  14. Pinkie Bling on September 15th, 2010 12:56 pm

    That ending made me cackle. Also, I feel you on this in many ways. I’m exactly the same on weekends, and the “know what I’m doing and why but can’t stop it” eating thing is ridiculous up in here.

    I’m excited for you to start CrossFit. I toy with the idea myself, and am looking forward to hearing what you think about it. I just signed up at a gym literally two blocks from my house. I have very little excuse left!

    Leah, what’s a “green popsicle moment”?

  15. kim on September 15th, 2010 1:07 pm

    taking up smoking…hahahahahah :)

    If you’re still managing to put on a bra every day – then I think you’re ahead of the game. :)

  16. katie on September 15th, 2010 1:16 pm

    chew gum, brush your teeth a lot?

  17. Thursday on September 15th, 2010 1:19 pm

    UPS guy? Pah! I work as a gardener and came across one of my gardening clients in the local general store a while back when I was on my way to have lunch with a friend. When I said hello, he totally ignored me so I repeated it. He looked blank for a moment then said “Christ, sorry, I didn’t recognise you not covered in mud”. I have also been in the same store crowded with people and, in disgust, caught wafts of horse manure which I then realised was emanating from me. I go out the door like this. All the local people know me like this. My shame is long gone.

  18. sooboo on September 15th, 2010 1:24 pm

    I chew gum like a fiend to fend off the need for treats. My husband says I’m keeping the gum industry alive. Working in an office was harder with the holiday snacks, donuts in the break room and huge decanters full of candy on the receptionists desk. At home I don’t buy stuff that I love. I usually wear jeans around the house which are slightly less comfortable. It makes me aware of any weight gain and puts me in work mode.

  19. SJ on September 15th, 2010 1:28 pm

    OMG. Yes! YES! Yeeeees!

    That’s me totally agreeing with you 100% on the whole “I’m not feeling so attractive these days” and no, I’m not saying that YOU aren’t attractive (because oh why yes you are) but um, I’m in the same boat! I just recently starting working from home and have been fumbling around with trying to get my ducks in a row and it’s safe to say that my appearance has gone to shit. I can’t stop myself from gazing into the pantry off and on through out the day and randomly eating stuff, oh JUST BECAUSE I CAN. I stand in my closet and look at all my ‘workplace clothes’ but yet can’t bring myself to actually put them on because stretchy waistbands are so much more comfortable. I’m working on it, day by day, but damn if you didn’t nail the transition from working in the workplace to working in the home on the mother-freaking head.

  20. Sonia on September 15th, 2010 1:35 pm

    Oh I SO get it. I am now working outside the home part time, in a women’s boutique. I now get the reminder every morning I work, via my jeans. It’s a good program for me…avoiding muffin top. ;) So now the challenge is not BUYING EVERYTHING in my store, lol! When I was at home full time, I lived in sweats and really didn’t pay attention to my face-stuffing.

  21. Laura on September 15th, 2010 1:48 pm

    Can’t wait to hear how CrossFit affects all this. Soon, you’ll be Paleo. ;)

  22. Gretchen on September 15th, 2010 1:53 pm

    I award myself with “Yoga Pant Weekends”… meaning, I get to wear yoga pants ALL WEEKEND, starting Friday at 6pm. But, that usually means that I also make myself do something active, like go for a hike, or go frisbee golfing or something of the like.

  23. mixette on September 15th, 2010 2:01 pm

    I was reading the testimonials on the website for my local CrossFit and there were an awful lot of people who were saying it gave them just the bit of structure/comaraderie/routine they needed. I’m signing up for the basics (yay!).

    All re: freelance clothes, there is a big area between “corporate appropriate” and “slob” that you can explore! I live in cute shorts with cool tops (in my opinion) that I would never get away with at a real job. Also, if you’re open to resale clothing in order to save $, find a Goodwill in a very nice neighborhood. I get tons of JCrew, Gap, and other good stuff at my local, plus if you can go on the not-weekend it can be a nice mini break in the day

  24. H on September 15th, 2010 2:19 pm

    Back to say – yes to the gum. We buy gum in bulk (pail-like tubs) and it helps me stay out of trouble.

  25. dregina on September 15th, 2010 2:39 pm

    Do you ever stop and think about where all the pressure to “look attractive” is coming from – the idea that it’s unacceptable to spend any time looking like someone who has things to do OTHER than tend to her appearance and body night and day? There are 10,000,000 companies out there vying for our dollars, and they rely on being able to make us feel anxious and “not-enough” so that we will go out and buy what they’re selling – whether it’s clothes, make-up, fitness classes, etc, etc, etc. I know you are excited and enthusiastic about unplugging from the corporate grind – but the corporate grind doesn’t end at the office door anymore. We are all constantly being told we are not right/not enough by the marketing and advertising culture around us. We go out and work and work to earn enough money to buy the things that will help us “belong” to the group we want to depend on. It’s emotionally taxing and soul deadening. I just want to put out there that the voice in your head constantly telling you that you aren’t doing it right/aren’t enough may be more of the problem than anything else.

  26. Lisa on September 15th, 2010 2:47 pm

    Oh yes, constant chowing is definitely a danger of working from home. I try to only keep healthy thing in the house, because if there are cookies, I will eat them all. Working at the computer for hours makes me want to chow mindlessly too- gum is a good idea, and sipping tea. I also try to make time to go for a walk or bike ride every day I can. For eating late at night, I keep stuff like Rice Chex around- has carbs, but is at least low fat. I brush my teeth early some night too, to discourage the snacking. All this doesn’t really make me lose weight, but I haven’t gained!

  27. victoria on September 15th, 2010 2:49 pm

    I saw a woman splitting a botle of wine with her husband at lunch the other day, while she was breastfeeding, and thought “Who does she think she is, Betty Draper?” Then I remembered Betty would never have breastfed.

    When you figure out how to unwind without snacks at the end of the day, please, let us all know! (And thank you so much for living your life courageously, and for writing about it.)

  28. Judy on September 15th, 2010 3:49 pm

    Ha, at least you are dressed enough not to sear the eyeballs of the UPS delivery guy. You should see me on weekends. I hurry and do the shopping and other errands on Friday night, so I can spend two glorious days NEVER GETTING DRESSED! I get up, shower at some point (sometimes my morning shower is at 3:00 p.m.) and then put on a fresh nightshirt. No shoes, no bra, no makeup, very short hair uncombed. I totally vegetate. Otherwise I couldn’t face five days a week in a law firm at the age of 68.

  29. Jennifer on September 15th, 2010 4:55 pm

    Haaa, Judy on September 15th, 2010 3:49 pm is my hero!!

  30. Shann on September 15th, 2010 5:44 pm

    Hey Linda,

    De-lurking here to say, I am with you on the “end of the day reward” thing. Ours was a glass of wine when the kids went to bed. I had to stop when it was every night and I really kinda felt I *had* to have it. Now it’s a Friday/Saturday night thing. Still irks me, but better than the alternative ;-)


  31. Carrie on September 15th, 2010 6:10 pm

    I notice I do dress better in the summer–I guess my summer clothes are more comfortable? Now that it’s getting chilly again–sweats and sweatshirts again.

    I do still control what I eat for the most part by not buying a lot of snacky stuff that I like. But I do go through phases…. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that I gained weight this summer, when all last winter–while I was sitting on my rump in my comfy clothes blogging and fruitlessly searching for jobs–I didn’t gain a bit.

  32. maggie on September 15th, 2010 6:10 pm

    I am loving your posts lately because it seems that we have switched places! I have been at home for six years, and recently started working full time again. Your descriptions of the day to day reality of being at home are so very fresh in my mind! Hang in there! It really is a different world but one in which you can slow down and smell the Godiva!

  33. Jenny on September 15th, 2010 6:13 pm

    That reward of food at the end of the night? That is EXACTLY how I ended up gaining 15 pounds. Not to be all scary or anything, but damn if that didn’t hit home with me. I had some time to myself for once and nachos sounded awful good and I deserved it! Now I deserve a swift kick in my jiggly ass.

  34. Mico on September 15th, 2010 6:14 pm

    It’s hard to stop the habit. So I started buying tons of fruit and making sure I had “healthier” snacks like hummus and carrot sticks ready to go.

    And when I’m at the store I will not let myself buy even one bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies because I know they will last in the cupboard for about 10 minutes before I polish them off.

    Seriously, the only thing that works for me is to not let that sh*t get into the house.

  35. Karen MEG on September 15th, 2010 6:19 pm

    You made me laugh with this! On the yoga pant front, have you tried lululemons? They make the ass look REAL good regardless of what shape it’s really in – mind you, they cost an arm and a leg, but for what they do for the butt, totally worth it as far as I’m concerned. They were standard issue when I was working/staying at home (and still are for that matter).

    And I was snuggled into my coma couch watching my PVR’d Mad Men episode last night … smoking, heh…

  36. Mama Ritchie on September 15th, 2010 6:21 pm

    For a while I was posting pics of the “work outfits” I chose on flickr’s Working Closet. It began as a way to make fun of myself, comparing my yoga pants and glasses and wrist guards to my stylish friends who actually left the house to work. But then, I was inspired to get dressed every day in clothes that I *didn’t* sleep in the night before, and it became fun. Maybe we should start it again – the Working-at-Home Closet!

  37. Mama Ritchie on September 15th, 2010 6:31 pm
  38. Faith on September 15th, 2010 6:59 pm

    It’s like you have x-ray vision.. except that instead of broken bones, you’re keenly focusing on the imbalances in your life. It’s a good thing – some of us just go on in ignorance until the problem becomes almost unmanageable. You’ve made some major strides in getting part of your life just the way you want it to be, and you’ve certainly fixed the fitness part of your life before, so I’m confident you have it in you to figure this out. And you say this move wasn’t brave! Ha!

  39. Anonymous on September 15th, 2010 8:59 pm

    I work at home too and my goal every day is pretty simple: to get showered and dressed *sometime* during my workday. Usually it ends up being 2:30 pm and I say to myself “oh crap, I better get showered and dressed before my son gets home from school!”

    You’ve probably seen this but here is graphic evidence in comic strip form of what happens to social skills and hygiene (and etc) when people start working from home. All of which I can totally relate to:

  40. Anne on September 15th, 2010 9:05 pm

    I telecommute every day and the time I save on driving helps me fit in a spin class or a run. I have been able to workout 6 days a week and am in the best shape I’ve ever been. Staying home and wearing yoga pants does not equal out of shape lazy.

  41. Pete on September 15th, 2010 11:34 pm

    It took almost 2 weeks after I started working from home to get into a routine. I felt kind of lost at first.

  42. Tia on September 16th, 2010 5:33 am

    Oh god, you are funny!

  43. Her Ladyship on September 16th, 2010 9:16 am

    Ah, the wardrobe of a person who works at home. When I first started doing that, I had also just moved to Texas, which was undergoing a particularly hot summer. So after some trial and error, I found a muumuu (for serious) was the most comfortable thing to wear around the house. I knew that had to stop when my husband went to do laundry at the end of a particularly hot week and all I had to contribute to that week’s wash was a pile of underwear and one (ONE) muumuu.

  44. Maggie C on September 17th, 2010 7:11 am

    Well, you are wrong – what you have done is BRAVE! I have been wanting to leave my workplace for 10 years, thats 10 YEARS, and am too scared to JUMP so in my eyes you are very brave!

  45. Kristin H on September 17th, 2010 10:54 am

    Hang in there. This feeling of being unmoored will pass, it really will.

  46. yaya on September 17th, 2010 10:59 am

    I love the comment of “the feeling of being unmoored will pass”, I need to take that to heart! I have been an at-home parent for 3.5yrs and it is EXACTLY what you described in this post most days but every single time I get down on myself for doing absolutely nothing or feeling like the most unmotivated sloth on the planet I am reminded that if I worked I would be PAYING someone to do the job I already do (of watching my kiddo). Some days are mind-numbingly benign but other days are righteous. When it is quiet in the house at night and I watch my kiddo sleeping I know that when he is 20, 30, 40 years old I would probably give anything to have these days back and so I concentrate on the righteous days…as much as I can :-) You rock mama, balls of steel I tell ‘ya, for making all the big changes lately…

  47. Dregina on September 17th, 2010 12:46 pm

    I cannot imagine looking at Betty Draper and thinking, ” I want her life.”

  48. Laura on September 23rd, 2010 1:48 pm

    Hi, I just came across your blog. Funny! Well-written! Thanks!

    I particularly appreciated the recent description of your “parenting style,” i.e., “alternately simpering over their good behavior and hissing like Medusa for them to slow down and use their indoor voices.”

    This is the same concept I use with the dog, (with some modifications, of course) and I like to call it “Nazi Poppins.”

    Waldport, OR

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