When I haul my kids to the local pool this summer, I’ll be sporting a new swimsuit. With sturdy straps and sensible seat coverage, it doesn’t resemble anything you’d see on a runway. No whimsical flight of poolside fancy, this baby is built to withstand ultra-chlorinated kiddie pools and over-zealous laundering. Jelly fingerprints and sippy cup mishaps are no match for the industrial-strength fabric.
It’s a mommy suit, and I’ll wear it with pride. When I slip on this wonder of engineering, I’ll join legions of other moms slapping on sunscreen and proffering towels in suits built for endurance, not style.
I’ve been a bit reluctant in donning this mommy suit of armor (or is that Lycra?). I grew up lakeside, my shoulder etched with permanent tan lines from my swimsuit du jour. Most involved ruffles or sequins, preferably both. As a teen, I shed girlish tank suits and became a devoted fan of the two-piece. Bikinis suited my pear shape and showcased my still-flat midsection—one of my better features, in those days.
Sadly, I’ve learned that the pretty swimsuits of my youth aren’t built to withstand the pace of mom life. Like many of motherhood’s lessons, this one dawned slowly. My first inklings came after I spent several seaside afternoons sprinting after my toddler in a woefully unsupportive top. Need I say more? Soon after, I realized that my fashionable swimsuits were quite a bit of work. I was constantly adjusting my top and feeling up my own rear end for tactile evidence that my bottoms were still covering my bottom. Not pretty.
I knew change was in the air. That knowledge, however, was insufficient. It took a starring role in a peep show at toddler swim class to drive the point home.
One Saturday morning, I made the mistake of wearing a bandeau-style bikini to parent-child swim at the YMCA. Sporting a stretched-out old top in a pool full of wiggly kids sounds like a recipe for disaster, and it was: I inadvertently flashed the entire pool full of kids and their stunned parents when my top slipped down during the “jumping fish” song.
By the time I felt the breeze tickling my upper torso, it was too late to hide the damage from the extremely embarrassed dad standing five feet in front of me. Carefully avoiding all eye contact, I scraped together a few shreds of dignity, hoisted my top back to its rightful place, and swore to get a new suit, one better matched to my new station in life.
Function over fashion
These days, I’m approaching the world of swimwear with a new perspective. In the weary trenches of early parenthood, function trumps fashion. Any bikini matching the description itsy-bitsy or teeny-weenie doesn’t stand a chance in the chaotic world of the toddler pool. Suits designed to look good in a lounge chair require constant monitoring and repositioning, and moms can’t be bothered. We’re too busy monitoring and repositioning our kids.
Judging from the countless moms I’ve seen in near-identical suits, I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for sensible swimwear. Swimming with kids is no day at the beach; it’s grueling, hot, exhausting work. A mom at the pool is a mom in motion, and her swimsuit needs to stay in place even when she’s too busy to pay attention. That’s always.
Malia Jacobson is an award-winning parenting journalist and mom of three.
Her latest book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades.