“You don’t work”—A lesson in the dressing room of H&M

“You don’t work,” my five-year-old daughter said as hangers draped over my arm filled with blazers and black slacks in various sizes. 

“Now, why do you say that?” I asked while searching for another blazer. Did I want navy, rose, or gray? I couldn’t decide so I grabbed them all.

I haven’t worn business, business casual, or honestly, anything other than jeans, in years.

Working from home doesn’t require special attire and I haven’t purchased “work clothes” since we lived in Atlanta, GA in 2009.

My body was a different shape back then—before kids stretched my skin and years of breastfeeding rearranged the fat to new places in my body. The clothes from that era not only don’t fit but they are horribly out of style.

My high heeled shoes from that same time period have been chewed up by cobblestoned streets and deteriorated from neglect.

I needed new everything for a female entrepreneur conference in Amsterdam in three days—from my head to my toes—I needed a new hairstyle, blazer, slacks, and heels.

“Klack shoes!” My daughter squealed and I laughed at the appropriate term in Swenglish.

Yes, high heeled shoes make clacking sounds and “klack” means heel in Swedish.

I handed her a pair of black “klack shoes” and asked her to follow me into the dressing room.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying on clothes in front of a five-year-old fashion critic, then I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a lesson in humility.

Their eyes don’t lie as they scan every inch of your body when you undress, bend over, and redress.

Club music pumped in from overhead and she started bouncing up and down to the beat in her tiny corner of the dressing room.

The millennial club-like atmosphere of H&M was the closest I’ve been to an actual nightclub since she was born. Frankly, this version of a club was about all I had the patience for anyway.

“No, definitely not. I don’t like fluffy pants,” she declared.

The wide-legged navy pantsuit looked good on me, I thought, in fact, it looked great. It wasn’t “fluffy” it was “flowy” but, I had to admit that she was right. It wasn’t quite right—it was sleeveless and more appropriate for summer weather. March weather wasn’t quite conducive for sleeveless pantsuits and I’m mindful of how much skin I bare at professional gatherings.

“You’re right. Ok, let’s try another one.”

I zipped up a pair of stretchy black slacks, paired it with a pale rose shirt, and a striped blazer. I knew I had a winning outfit.

I looked good but I felt great. The comfortable stretch in the pants sealed the deal. I could wear these pants all day.

With the outfit selection behind me, it was time to address the elephant in the dressing room.

“Lucy, you know I work. I work harder now than ever before. Please don’t say things about how I don’t just because I don’t go into an office. I know you don’t want to hurt my feelings but it hurts when you say things like that.”

She looked down and I could tell she was sorry even though she said nothing. We’re still working on making public apologies.

Without counting being a mother and a wife (if you want to count those as jobs), I last counted 6 jobs and 2 volunteer efforts that I perform every week.

Writer, editor, publisher, marketing director of my existing KUA series and children’s books. I make all of the decisions regarding the technical logistics, supply chain, creative design, content, and marketing for the books.
Assistant editor of Slow Travel Stockholm
Crowdfunding consultant for indie authors—I’ve been so busy that I had to create a waitlist for more clients
Public health consultant for Emory University working with Africa CDC to develop the Institute for Workforce Development.
Writer, website developer, content generator, and moderator for four websites (two of my own, slowtravelstockholm.com, and one for the local women’s shelter)
-Head of marketing for my upcoming Kickstarter campaign for my debut children’s illustrated book.
Program committee volunteer for the upcoming Families in Global Transition Conference in Bangkok, Thailand
Volunteer with my local women’s shelter which entails monthly meetings and occasional visits to the shelter to support the residents

So, yeah, six jobs and two volunteer efforts in addition to my ongoing weekly participation in three mastermind groups related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and self-publishing. My weeks are jam-packed with work that fulfills me, challenges me, and enables me to work with amazing and creative people.

I think I deserve some new business casual clothes. It’s time for a bit of an update from 2009.

In order to handle the stress of my daily workload, I’ve been waking up at 5 am every day to exercise and journal my gratitude. This new habit meant that despite the vocal five-year-old critic in the dressing room, I felt confident about what I saw reflected in the H&M mirrors.

Transformation must first take place from within. The new clothes were just window dressing.

We headed to the register and I inserted my debit card—the one that pulled money from my solo account that I’ve earned from doing all of this “non-work”—into the card reader.

“Sweetie,” I told her as I punched in my pin code, “sometimes, you just need new clothes to match the work you do.”

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