After I gave birth to my son almost nine months ago, everything in my life completely shifted. My furniture slowly but completely rearranged itself around baby gear. My marriage became this new, alien thing, so much fuller and more meaningful, and also so disrupted by the fact that my body was no longer my own.
Yet there was another change, which at first didn’t feel quite as significant: My hair.
My mother warned me that, with the hormonal shift after the birth of my baby, I would lose a lot of hair. She shared horror stories of her own hair, falling out in clumps. But I was nonchalant about it all; there were so many more important tasks at hand. That is, until I began to shed.
Hair littered the corners of my room and it clogged my drains. It was embarrassing — I left strands of DNA wherever I went, all over a stranger’s couch or the office furniture, and I wasted precious brain space worrying about whether or not I was legitimately going bald. But, more than anything, each falling hair seemed deathly. Any one of those pesky strands could snake itself around one of my baby’s tiny, delicate limbs and cut off circulation. (This may sound dramatic, but it happened to one of my cousin’s in front of my eyes, and saving his little baby fingers as the color drained out of them was one of the scariest moments of my life.)
So I decided to take matters into my own hands, or rather, hand them over to a professional: I made an appointment at a hair salon.
And, thus, I joined the legions of post-natal women who have embraced the much maligned but time-honored “mom cut.” For years, tabloids and reputable publications alike have been filled with mentions of this libido-killing cut, most notoriously sported by Kate Gosselin of the reality TV show Kate Plus Eight. Allure urged us to just say “no.” The New York Times ran a scathing article on how to avoid the frumpy ‘do (and helpfully added that you can distract people from your extra postpartum pounds with your long hair. How sweet).
But arguably, no one has taken on “mom hair” (alongside “mom jeans,” which are actually making a major comeback) quite like SNL, which parodied the cut, explaining that it will basically erase any personality you previously had and turn you into a seashell soap-loving zombie.
Of course, there’s a reason that “mom hair” is so ubiquitous. It’s generally low maintenance and unobtrusive, and, as moms, that’s exactly what we need. As Cheryl Wischhover explores in a piece exploring the phenomenon and its roots, this need for practicality is both applauded in moms and simultaneously mocked and reviled.
As women, we’re told that long hair (yes, primarily of the straight kind, and primarily on the head of white women) has a Samsonian power — the power to make us more pleasing to the eye, more soft, and more feminine. Ironically, we’re often taught this by our own moms, who create precious and loving rituals out of brushing our hair. And once we chop that long hair, we are suddenly undesirable, even invisible.
But the truth is, just like Samson, chopping off your hair can reveal… well, whatever. It’s basically bullshit. Hair has power, yes, but sometimes, a haircut can be a glorious, self-affirming act.
And so, it was time for me to take the plunge. When I was visiting my family in Israel, I went to the hairdresser — the very same person who chopped my mom’s long red curls into a pixie cut, which she wore throughout my childhood. I asked the stylist for a short, more drastic cut.
It was a stylish, bob-like cut, with bangs. Admittedly, the bob is having one heck of a moment right now: according to an InStyle article, the bob with bangs is a timeless haircut, and they called this bob on Mandy Moore (not a mom!) the haircut of the year. (And, yes, the bob with bangs is for curly-haired ladies, too!)
Yet, when I first looked in the mirror, I hated it. With my hair blown out, I thought that I looked like a mushroom. I worried that my son wouldn’t recognize me — apparently, as a kid, I had freaked out when my mom first debuted her newly-shorn hair. Fortunately, when I came back home, my baby was still overjoyed to see me, and my husband — surprise! — still found me attractive, even though I had thumbed my nose at some age-old notions about femininity.
Back when I was a teen, and into my 20s, whenever I was feeling frustrated, or heartbroken, or sick of being in my own skin, I would get a haircut. I would have my hair bleached, shaved, cut asymmetrically, dyed neon orange — whatever felt the least like what I felt like at that moment.
But this is different — this feels like the most “me” haircut I’ve had in years. Once the blowout wore off, my hair was suddenly vital and wild. I love it. And, at least while at the time of writing this piece, I have still fully retained my personality, and I own precisely zero baskets filled with faux fruit.
Now, for the first time in my life, I have a haircut that feels perfectly me — a celebration of what I have become. I am a mom, something I’ve always wanted to be. It’s hard and frustrating, but it’s also meaningful and rewarding. And, yeah, it’s great having a haircut that I don’t have to think about, that lets me parent more easily. I love being a mom, and I love my “mom hair.” I mean, if it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s definitely good enough for me.