On “Mom Hair”

A couple months ago, someone on Instagram suggested I post a tutorial for my standard daily bun, and when I was thinking about filming that, I realized that I haven’t done a hair update in a while. Not a whole lot has changed since my last update, in terms of technique, though the products have changed, but I’ve definitely spent a lot more time thinking about how hair care fits into my identity as a mother.

The “mom haircut” is almost a Western cultural archetype, a symbol of a woman’s changing identity upon becoming a mother. Kind of like mom jeans for your head. Apparently the modern idea of “mom hair” hearkens back to the mid-90s, when politicians were desperate to win the “soccer mom” vote, but the idea that a woman should change her appearance when she becomes a mother has deep roots, at least as far back as the “separate spheres” philosophy that situated women at the center of the moral compass for a family. Interestingly, the bob haircut has gone from a statement of protest against cultural norms of a woman’s place (see Joan of Arc or flappers in the 1920s) to a sign that a woman is fitting into her designated role as a mom.

There is also the undeniable convenience factor. Many women find short hair much easier to care for, and of course, the reality of postpartum shedding means that long hair is a lot more visible when it falls out in clumps on the bathroom (and bedroom, and living room, and kitchen…) floor. And I’ve definitely experienced that in the last few months.

But I have personally chosen not to get a “mom” haircut. While the hair loss is striking, my hair is still thick enough that it’s difficult to style into a contained style if it’s shorter than my mid-back. So as far as keeping my hair out of tiny hands, my best options are long enough to put in a bun, or a pixie. And since I can trim my super long hair myself, rather than visiting a salon every 6-8 weeks to maintain a pixie, long hair wins out for me. So I’ve decided to keep my long hair. It’s currently down nearly to my waist, and while I’ve noticed a decrease in thickness as it sheds, it’s still pretty thick.

Elliot loves to grab at my hair, so I generally keep it up and away from him. My go-to style is a bun called the Nautilus Bun, which I originally learned from The Long Hair Community. It’s a simple, well-balanced bun that sits close to my head and doesn’t get uncomfortable or heavy after a whole day. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of bun. I can anchor it with a fork, stick, or a clip, and the construction makes it easier to fasten securely without being too tight. And it has a rather nice look to it. So that’s how I handle having very long hair around a baby. I do sometimes wear it in a braid during the day, and I always braid my hair at night, but I have to be careful to keep it away from curious hands. I posted a video of me putting my hair up in this bun on Instagram, but my favorite tutorial can be found here.

But how do I keep such long hair clean? Well, the most important thing to note is that most of my hair care takes place outside of the shower. I wash my hair 2-3 times a week, and I only condition in the shower once a week. This works for my hair, which is relatively sturdy, and that almost never experiences damage from dye or heat styling. I also condition my hair outside the shower, with leave-in conditioner and oil, so I can watch the baby and take care of my hair. Luckily, Elliot likes to watch me do my hair.

So that’s it. That’s how I care for my very long hair, even with a baby. I’ve kept up this routine throughout my maternity leave, including during my husband’s three out-of-town trips since Elliot was born. I really only need five minutes or less in the shower most of the time, unless I’m doing my once weekly deep conditioning, so it fits really well into my life. At this point, I think I might be seeing my hair loss start to taper off, too. I’m curious how others have handled the idea of “mom hair” in their lives.

Thoughts on Returning to “Normal” Life

It should come as no surprise to anyone that my life has changed in the last several months. For a while, I felt so irreversibly changed by the experience of having a child that I thought I wouldn’t return to this blog. But since returning to work, I find myself emerging from the haze of new motherhood and realizing that it’s time for me to find a way to merge my new life and identity with my old ones. Slowly, I’ve stopped seeing this as a complete change in identity and started re-incorporating my old loves with my new.

It was easy to see such a start transition. First of all, my nausea and food aversions ramped up gradually during pregnancy. Then, as soon as the baby came out, it was gone. I felt like a different person. Add that onto the perpetual hunger of breastfeeding and I was a bottomless pit, whereas for months I had had to avoid all kinds of things, simply because they didn’t play well with my pregnant body. There is also a mental difference. Beyond my postpartum depression, which I’ve discussed on my other blog, there is a certain ethereal sense of mental detachment that happens when your sleep schedule is so altered. I spent many weeks basically living my life around the clock, rather than having day and night. It was merely “upstairs” vs. “downstairs.”

And then there was the deep, unexpected sense of love that overwhelmed me from the first moment I saw Elliot. I knew I would love my baby, but I was unprepared by how all-consuming that feeling would be. I will leave it at that, mostly because I can’t find words to put to the feeling.

But then, after a couple months, something started to happen. I started to emerge. It began slowly, with a tea session. I spent some time to have a nice session with a new tea in nice tea ware while I was home with Elliot. And then, one of the early days that we sent him to daycare before I went back to work, I used my quiet free time to enjoy the backyard and have my tea outside, like I used to do each weekend. Finally, we got the news that my husband wouldn’t be taking a new job out of state, which meant that I would be staying in my job. I had spent so long trying to see myself as a stay-at-home mom because it seemed like we were probably going to move that I didn’t know how to cope with the idea that, yes, I was going back to work, and it would be for the foreseeable future.

I will be honest, I was not at all excited to go back to work.

But I had to. And the days of my leave counted down. I hugged Elliot a little tighter. The weekend before I returned to work was the hardest. And then that Monday came and I got up, did my morning routine, and got on the metro.

And I had a wonderful day at work. Being away from work has almost been like a reset. Motherhood has given me a limited willingness to put up with other people’s drama, so I take what I need and leave the rest, and it’s given me more clarity on my work. But even more importantly, it’s helped me see myself as something more than a mother. I’m not the “old” me, but I’m not entirely changed, either.

That has drawn me back to this space. I will still endeavor to keep the mostly specifically-baby-related updates on my other blog, but I am going to try to blend the two sides of this transition into one life, because I’m not one or the other. I’m both. I’m all of it. And it’s nice to be back.