Once upon a time, baby clothes printed with pithy phrases extolling cuteness referred to the cuteness of the baby. But on a new crop of cheeky onesies that I discovered while out shopping for my nephew, it is all about the mommy.
With phrases like “If you think I’m cute, you should see my mommy,” on Amazon and “My Mom’s a Fox,” at Target, these onesies direct your eyes to the attractive little number pushing the cart, not the one in it. There is even “She’s not a cougar, she’s my nana,” at the Los Angeles boutique Kitson.
I can’t help but find it all a bit gross. (Not that grandma can’t be sexy, but does she really need her new grandson to advertise it on his tiny chest? A time and a place, ladies, a time and a place.) At Walmart you can customize a onesie or fleece romper with a “cute” relative’s name. Their example is “If you think I am cute, you should see my Aunt Barbara.” Looks like the cult of female hotness has struck again, this time with a strange Freudian twist.
I get that these onesies are supposed to be funny, and intentionally provocative. But still, I doubt that they would ever be purchased ironically for or by a mother who was self-conscious about her post-baby body. No, these cheeky baby clothes are for moms who self-identify as cute or foxy, and want a little piece of the admiration bestowed on their newborn. To be fair, there is an “Is my dad a hunk or what?” onesie. But since dad’s hunkiness wasn’t just put through the ringer of pregnancy and childbirth, there is no symbolic victory lap going there — just a questionable sense of humor that will probably go over best with his brothers from the fraternity.
I think it is great that it isn’t a zero-sum game between sexiness and procreation. You gotta love the women who feel foxy during and after pregnancy, and the men who find them that way. But still, pregnancy and post-pregnancy has, for the most part, remained elevated above the foxy ambitions that have bled into an ever-increasing range of a woman’s life from the teenage years (think Miley Cyrus pole-dancing) to the mature years (aforementioned cougar phenomenon), during which women are now subjected to the same hot-or-not standards that used to apply only to women in their 20s.
Unfortunately, when it comes to new mothers, achieving said hotness comes with a few more risks. A study by the Royal College of Midwives that came out in the UK recently showed that two-thirds of new moms feel “a degree of coercion to slim to their original size as soon as possible.” And the UK’s Daily Mail reports that more women are starting crash diets immediately after pregnancy, which isn’t good for them or their babies. Stateside, there have been reports in the last few years about how celebrity moms’ rapid post-baby weight loss has been making non-celebrity new moms feel bad about the way they look.
The problem is that while the new mom might look cute, there is a chance that the road there has left her without enough energy to properly care for a newborn or to produce a healthy supply of milk, should she choose to breastfeed. Not to mention that there isn’t much room for the emotional stress of obsessing about one’s looks when caring for a newborn — the sleepless nights and lack of “me” time are plenty distressing on their own.
These onesies show that the pressures put on celebrities to return to their pre-baby bodies, no matter what “miracles,” healthy or unhealthy, get them there, now applies to all of us. This shift makes me realize that my post-pregnancy vision, which involves dressing like my high-school ceramics teacher in long, flowy, earth-tone layers is now perhaps, sadly, a bit nostalgic.