I’ve always regarded with no modicum of suspicion the term “hot mama.” What exactly separates a hot mama from a regular hot person?

Ah, yes. Now I remember. You can spot the “hot mama” a mile away because she is wearing a mother’s very own type of combat fatigues. Her hair is coiffed in such a way that it is impossible for a toddler to yank. For the first many years, her earrings are never, EVER hoops. If there are multiple kids who are not yet in preschool, 90 percent of her wardrobe will be wash-and-wear fabric. And no matter the ages of the children, the smarter of us hot mamas know to dress in the same color as whatever we’re serving for lunch.

Oh, there are occasions when we might wear white pants or a silk top or a tantalizing, chunky necklace. Those are called dates. As much as “What Not to Wear” might suggest that a mom-on-the-go should opt for a light-colored linen walking short, a fun silk top and some bold jewelry, we don’t see Stacy and Clinton offering to spend hours over our laundry sink with a bottle of Spray ‘N’ Wash, or to take our toddlers to the emergency room when they decide those fun cocktail rings would make delicious appetizers.

Of course, we can’t talk about maternal fashion faux pas without discussing that staple of tastemakers’ ire, the “mom jean.” Now, I’m not saying that our waistbands should touch our ribs. But in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “Crack is wack.” Low-rise jeans are all fine and well, and I’ve seen moms wearing them. Just not moms that ever bend over to play with their kids, or pick up a diaper bag, or put a kid’s shoes in the bottom cubby at daycare. (Well, at least not after they’ve mooned an entire roomful of other moms their first time out with the baby and immediately thereafter made a trip to the mid-rise jeans section. My apologies, Westbank Public Health Unit.)

And even for those hot mamas of us who spend a lot of time at the gym, motherhood changes us. And by “us” I of course mean our abdominal tone. The skin is only meant to stretch so far, my friends. Even with hundreds of hours of ab-sculpting classes, things never quite snap back. Your abs may return to their pre-baby form, because they’re muscles, and that you can work with. Skin? Not so much.

When you take a balloon out of the package, one side sticks to the other. It’s nice and flat and taut. Now give the balloon a good stretch this way and that way. Then blow it up to capacity. Let it sit around for a good long while. When that balloon deflates, it’s not going to be flat and taut. The sides aren’t going to stick together. It won’t be a pretty new-balloon shape. It’ll be a used-up, stretched-thin, flippity-floppity round thing that only in the vaguest of ways resembles a nice new balloon.

That is exactly what happens to your belly. No matter how much you work out, your skin is just a little bit (or perhaps a lot) thinned out, deflated and droopy. Skintight jeans and a crop top? Not gonna work unless you are a mom who also happens to be 16. Even supermommel Heidi Klum relies on airbrushed abs.

But perhaps the biggest impediments in looking good (not just “good for someone who’s had X kids”) are time and sanity. You see, shopping requires both. And shopping with kids saps both.

Believe me, you may begin your trip to the mall with the goal in mind of finding the perfect jean. (The road to mediocrity is paved with the best intentions.) But a few potty breaks and messy snacks later, and you’re simply hoping to find a really great jean. Your kids peek under enough fitting room doors, and you modify your goal yet again — you just want to find a pair of jeans that fits as well as your old ones that were destroyed by projectile Tylenol (not the clear kind that you buy, but the kind that contains the dye of a thousand red Sharpies and mysteriously appears in the back of your cabinet when you are weak and desperate).

Then the kids begin playing hide-and-seek in the clothing racks and licking mirrors. You notice it is two hours past naptime and that someone — you can’t tell who because there are too many of them and also you have neither slept nor eaten in four years — smells ever so faintly of poop. So you go to The Gap and grab something — anything — in what you think is your size. When you arrive home, you realize it is “reverse fit.” As in the reverse of what anyone should wear, ever.

But after that shopping trip, would you take it back? Would you? Or would you find a way to cover the gigantic butt parachute and the fact that the waist rests at your fourth rib, and rock that almost-mom-jean like the “hot mama” you are?

You see a hot mama. I see a shirt that will camouflage sand, poop, and most food. It’s a winner!

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