Dressing For The School Run: Are Pajamas OK?

Thursday is World Book Day. In honor of this event, the head teacher at my daughter’s school has invited all of the children to come to school with their favorite bedtime reading, dressed in their favorite pajamas.

She’s also invited all of the staff – and even the parents – to do the same. That’s right. The parents can come to drop off in their pajamas.

My first thought upon learning this was:  And this is different…how?

As a freelance writer working from home, I often show up to school in some version of my PJ’s. And happily so. Wearing whatever you please is one of the many perks of the freelance life.

But apparently, it’s not for everyone. A head teacher in Belfast recently imposed a ban on parents showing up to school in their pajamas, which he described as “rude and slovenly.” As he pointed out, ‘People don’t go to see a solicitor, bank manager or doctor dressed in pyjamas, so why do they think it’s okay to drop their children off at school dressed like that?’ This was shortly after a supermarket in Wales imposed a similar ban in its store after too many women (it’s always women, isn’t it?) showed up to shop for food in their PJ’s. (Yikes! I just did that this morning!)

While my initial reaction was to get the government out of my closet, I did end up giving this matter a bit of thought. Clearly, the head teacher in question  thinks that those of us who come to school half asleep are evincing some sort of disrespect towards the school, its teachers and the rest. But I’m not sure it’s quite that simple.

A lot of it is just laziness, convenience and the fact that – for many of us – just getting out the door most mornings in a semi-timely fashion is a major triumph, let alone properly dressed.

But there are other things going on as well.

One reason one doesn’t “overdress” for the school run – OK, one reason *I* don’t do it, except when it’s a new school – is that in not dressing up, I’m also trying to signal to other parents that, some days, I’m really not ready for prime time. Translated: “No, I don’t want a coffee. I don’t want to chat. I just want to go home.” (I’m reminded of a friend who once confessed that there were some mornings when she’d just like to show up at school in a Burqa. Amen, sister. I mean, praise Allah.)

But, of course, there are lots of mums who show up for the school run in their perfectly orchestrated sweater sets ready to take on the world. And their put-togetherness is also often a social cue designed to convey something to their peers.

I’m also aware that by not dressing up for the school run, I’m sending precisely the wrong message to my six-year-old tomboy daughter. She insists on wearing sweat pants, a hoodie (with zip!) and some sort of clashing, striped non-turtlenecked shirt Every. Single. Day. But how can I possibly harangue her for looking like a slob when I look like something that the cat dragged in? (“But Mommy, you haven’t combed your hair yet either…“)

All of which is to say is that even the seemingly trivial choices we make every single day are loaded.

And so I think it is an interesting question to ask:  When we dress to take our children to school, whom are we dressing for (assuming we aren’t on our way to a proper job): Ourselves? Our peers? The kids? The teachers?

And should there be a minimum dress standard in place?

What do you think?

Image: Pink Pajamas by DCVision 2006 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  • Reply Patti

    March 1, 2010, 9:06 pm

    We are primarily dressing for our kids, setting a good example. We need to teach our kids that getting dressed and ready for the day makes us feel ready to take on anything.

    Just the act of putting shoes on in the morning instead of the fluffy slippers, makes a huge difference to our readiness for action.

    It also gives the message that you respect others and your self. If the teacher can get dressed nicely for the day to teach your child, why can’t you? It’s just plain good manners and self-care.

  • Reply Kim

    March 2, 2010, 1:30 pm

    I think it can also give a positive message to young girls though. By dressing in your PJs you’re also conveying to your daughter that you’re happy and confident with who you are, which is such an important thing!

  • Reply Shelley

    March 2, 2010, 2:18 pm

    I can’t say much on this topic given that I walked to school alone and dropped a step-son off to daycare on my way to work. I will say, however, that as a child I was always very conscious of how my parents looked when they were with me at school. This may have been because they were much older than other parents (and OK, a little ‘different’.) Also, because I felt my peers would make judgements about me based on how they say my parents. May or may not be an issue for your kids, though, it being 40 years later…

  • Reply Lindsey

    March 2, 2010, 3:36 pm

    Funny – today is pajama day at my daughter’s school too. She skipped off in her pjs happy as a clam.
    I wear my own pjs, or a version of them, most days to drop off. I think mandating what people wear is absurd and ridiculous! If my daughter learns from watching me that I don’t particularly worry about being “done” every morning – well, I am okay with that lesson!

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 2, 2010, 3:38 pm

    oddly enough I saw an (american) teen on the bus today also clad in PJ’s. I asked him why and he said it was “school spirit” week at the American School in London and you could wear whatever you liked- yet another interpretation!

  • Reply C.M. Mayo

    March 2, 2010, 3:59 pm

    Workout clothes– that’s the trick. One can always looks like one was just at / about to visit the yoga studio… namaste…

  • Reply delialloyd

    March 2, 2010, 5:21 pm

    oh i use it all the time. namaste right back atcha!

  • Reply Booksnob

    March 2, 2010, 6:28 pm

    PJ day at our school too this week….what’s up with this???

    I am with C.M. I switch from pajamas to work out clothes and a baseball hat. (can’t lose the midwesterner in me).

    I figure if they think I am going to exercise, I somehow get a hall pass….and sometimes it actually *motivates* me to exercise : )

    Sadly, it never really occurred to me the modeling for my kids. Long ago, they learned that they need to urge mama out of bed to get going….

  • Reply rachel

    March 3, 2010, 2:08 pm

    I’m distracted from topic by my envy of Booksnob (great moniker) – at 11 and 13, it is I who do the dragging out of bed! And I no longer escort to school, but my (vague) recollection is that I was way too intimidated by the sweater set set to turn up in pj’s – but although I’m all for modeling, and would love it if I could convince my kids to wear somewhat less casual clothing, I have to cast my vote for Wardrobe Liberation – in that morning rush hour, whatever works!

  • Reply Daryl Boylan

    March 3, 2010, 3:49 pm

    I think I lived in a simpler time, when pink pajamas issues simply did not arise. However, I’m sure I must have dropped off kids at school in bad weather with pjs under a long coat, like many other of my contemporaries. I doubt any of us gave it a 2nd thought — certainly the schools didn’t.

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