bearing children

Shoelaces: Do Moms Have Time for Them?

Next time we’ll consider whether babies’ shoes should have laces. Photo: Yagi Studio/Getty Images

We’re in the throes of a new season, and with it comes the desire for new shoes. In my second spring as a mother, I have an important footwear question: Do moms have time to wear shoes with laces?

Not long ago, I accepted what seemed like a forever of slip-ons. Picking at knots, coaxing laces into a bow, kneeling or, most audacious, sitting down for the entire process — the requirements of shoes with laces seemed infinitely at odds with trying to leave the house with a baby. What kind of a person can carve out the time? Not the mom of a young child.

Now that my son’s a little older, I wonder if I’m wrong. I want to be breezy enough to say that I don’t notice the process by which shoes fit themselves on my feet. I want to say I have no idea how long putting on a pair of shoes takes. But these are lies.

Through winter, I thanked the boots I wore — aggressively laceless, with a loop of fabric at the ankle to assist with easy pull-on, yank-off — for their service every day. With a dog leash in one hand, a teether careening in the other, and a baby wobbling in the carrier, putting on my boots could be an afterthought, one that no amount of chaos could unruffle. The process takes just seconds.

This spring, though, I’m hungry for new shoes, specifically the kind of white sneakers I’m pretty certain many women bought last year or the year before. What would it feel like, taking the extra bit of time to assemble myself for the public, to say to a world freshly infused with more sunlight, When it comes to my child, my hands are tied — but so, today, are my shoes? To my mom mind, the act of wearing shoes with laces has become elevated to a statement of self-assurance and dignity. Shoes with laces require some dedicated time, plus carry an increased potential for messiness and tripping. The mom successfully keeping her laces tied has got, if not everything, her footwear under control.

But genuinely, I’m not sure I want to make exiting the house any harder on myself. I don’t know if I should bother making the effort to communicate anything to a world that’s probably not listening to me anyway. Perhaps another type of slip-on, one I haven’t had in years, is the answer.

When it comes to moms wearing them, clogs seem to be a walking punch line about giving up. A mom who’s “let herself go” wears Merrells, or Danskos, or some other radical commitment to being unembarrassed. But I’ve noticed another clog category: the backless kind worn by very cool women, some of whom have got to be moms, who wear category-defying overgarments and have hair mussed just the right amount. What I can’t tell is if these women are comfortable — if so, they’ve got it all figured out — or hiding the fact they’re not. Either way, walking around in fashionable clogs seems like an appealing amount of danger, like your toes know your shoes might occasionally slip out from underneath you without warning.

But the learning curve for wearing cool clogs seems steep, and I don’t know how to walk a flat surface in backless clogs, much less climb a hill. Recently I asked a mom friend, a clothing designer by profession, if she felt like she had time for shoes with laces. “I know exactly what you mean,” she said immediately. “And: old-school checkered Vans. I’ve been thinking about getting a pair for that reason.”

What is the reason, though, exactly? I’m not sure it’s as simple as saving time, or submitting to some kind of parental-onset blurring of the self. Lately, I’ve been eyeing the shoes of moms with older kids, ones who probably haven’t carried a kid out the door in years. I see their laces, and I imagine what their lives might be like, with kids who walk mostly without falling and never need their mouths checked for things no one’s supposed to eat.

Last week, I did buy a pair of white-leather lace-up sneakers. After my son went to sleep, I sat on the floor and took my time lacing them up, then walked out the door, disappointed by the way I felt: the same as always. I didn’t go very far; the shoes look the way they did right out of the box. I’m pretty sure I could still get my money back or exchange them for fresh slip-ons, if that’s what I want after all.

Shoelaces: Do Moms Have Time for Them?