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The scientific reason why wearing leggings every day could make you a better parent

It's all about reducing decision fatigue so that you can focus on what *really* matters, mama.

The scientific reason why wearing leggings every day could make you a better parent

“Mama, I love the bumpy part of your hair."

That makes one of us. The messy bun has been my morning style since the day my son was born. It makes me feel hopelessly lazy and unstylish. Last year on New Year's Eve I vowed to break out of the bun and get dressed, but, well, you know how New Year resolutions go.

However, that hairstyle may actually be a sign of success. Cognitive research suggests that my autopilot mom-style might be making me a better parent.

In a 2012 Vanity Fair profile of Barack Obama, Michael Lewis shares how the then-President streamlined his decision-making: “You'll see I wear only gray or blue suits," he said. “I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make."

Barack Obama is not alone. The world's tech pioneers opt for even simpler wardrobes. Steve Jobs wore black mock-necks. His successor Tim Cook favors blue button-downs. Mark Zuckerberg wears gray t-shirts.

These are not lazy people. They are decision-makers who don't waste cognitive energy on what they want to wear. Zuckerberg even claims that his shirts help him help more people: “I'm in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life." He frames his wardrobe not as a style choice but as a moral one.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, all of these global leaders are trying to avoid what scientists are calling “decision fatigue."

John Tierney, science reporter for The New York Times and co-author of “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," describes what happens to our brains after a day full of decision making. We may not actually feel physically tired, but choice after choice begins to wear on us:

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket, and can't resist the dealer's offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can't make decision after decision without paying a biological price.

That price, Tierney notes, is not a physical one, but a mental one: We start to make shortcuts. The first shortcut is to make impulsive decisions, like eating a Costco-sized bag of chips or buying more plaid toddler shorts even though if you looked in the closet, you'd already see 12 pairs in the next size up.

The other shortcut is to do nothing, to make no decision at all. Think of the home improvement project you've been researching for months but are unable to make any progress on because you can't choose a paint color.

Mamas are some of the most decision-fatigued people out there. Just think of the decisions that happen before lunch: Whether you have time to work out or shower before the kids get up, what to make for breakfast, what to pack in lunches, whether the weather requires coats for the kids. If there are errands to run, it's what kind of pasta shape the kids will accept this week, what brand of toothpaste is on the best sale, and whether or not you have enough toilet paper.

Perhaps this helps explain midday social media confessions like this one: “DD is finally sleeping, but I'm too tired to figure out what to do." By nap time, moms spend as many as eight hours making decision after decision after decision. The science of decision fatigue may mean that we literally can't decide what to do.

Decision fatigue could be part of the reason that so many women claim they never have anything to wear. Think about when you're most likely to do your own clothes shopping. It's probably at the end of the day, after hundreds of decisions big and small. That's at least how I'll excuse the yet-unworn pale beige romper hanging in my closet.

Yoga pants or leggings are often snarkily dismissed as a mom uniform, but wearing them may actually reduce decision fatigue (which can make ripples throughout the entire day). Taking the decision work out of getting dressed leaves your mind that much freer to contemplate all of the decisions you'll need to make today.

Art Director Matilda Kahl may be the most recognizable female proponents of the work uniform because she has worn the same work uniform every day for five years. She was initially nervous about her uniform (white silk shirt, black slacks, blazers for cold weather) because she feared what people might think of her style. Then she realized that the work uniform was hardly a novel concept: “There's a group of people that have embraced this way of dressing for years—they call it a suit."

Realtor Renata Briggman has found similar success with her work uniform (white blouse, black slacks, red belt when she feels like accessorizing), which by her estimate has saved her a full work week per year of deciding what to wear.

One problem mamas might notice in these examples is the white shirt. That might work out during winter when it's all washable paints and play dough, but there isn't enough Oxiclean to make up for summer puddle stomping. Still, Kahl's and Briggman's uniforms are good models for parents: neutral hues, fitted-but-comfortable tops and pants and a variety of outer layers.

Once Kahl found the perfect silk blouse, she bought 15 of them at once. That kind of expenditure probably doesn't work for most of us, but we can all adopt the broader concept of finding something that works and sticking with it. For me, that's a slowly-growing collection of black textured base layers that let me feel well-dressed without ever having to use an iron, dark jeans, and the same loafers in every obnoxiously loud color they come in.

I don't yet have enough copies of the uniform to wear every day. That's okay, because I'm not yet ready to do a Marie Kondo-style closet clearing. Besides, I need clothes for when I'm not at work, too. I have found that uniform days are better days. I have more energy for all of the day-to-day decisions that come with parenting, and some special ones too, like what meal to let my 3-year-old make all by himself or how to turn the inside of the house into a giant yarn-based spider web.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have kids—so here’s what I did

We asked our three most pessimistic friends who have kids whether it's worth it or not

As told to Liz Tenety.

Around the time my husband and I were turning 30, we had a genuine conversation about whether or not we wanted kids. I was the hesitant one because I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's just hold on. Okay, let's talk about this. Because we love our life. We like traveling. Is this what we want?"

My husband said, "Let's ask our three most pessimistic, crabby friends who have kids whether or not it's worth it."

And every single one of them was like, "Oh, it's unmissable on planet earth."

So when I got pregnant, I was—and I'm not ashamed to say this and I don't think you should be—I was as connected with the baby in my belly as if it were a water bottle. I was like, I don't know you. I don't know what you are, but you can be some gas pain sometimes, but other than that, we're going to have to meet each other and suss this relationship out.

But all the cliches are true that you just know what to do when the baby comes out. Some of the times are hard, some of them are easier, but you just gotta use your gut.

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