Anyone else remember watching the cult classic, early 2000’s reality tv gem, John and Kate Plus Eight? Remember her “soccer mom” super short, spiky hair-do? In the rare case that you don’t recall the absolute phenomenon that was the mom cut that Kate inspired around America, a simple google search will bring you up to speed. At the time I didn’t understand the need for an intentional, two-inch, wash-and-go, no maintenance, finger-styled haircut. And well, let’s just say, 3kidslater, I absolutely get it! It’s Mom Style 101! It’s either the kids or the hair, one is getting CUT!
I consider myself a late bloomer in the mom department. I spent my entire twenties and a good part of my early thirties kid-less. I’m out here, living my best life, throwing caution to the wind, pre-occupied with my freedom, fashion, and faux lashes. As a DINK (Double Income, No Kids), I had little appreciation for the ungodly amount of free time I squandered. And I squandered plenty on my hair.
At the start of 2014, we built and moved into our dream home. Consequently, the happiness of new home/newlywed bliss resulted in a double dosage of great expectations, a twin pregnancy! I had a burgeoning career in higher education, my dream home and husband, and two baby blessings. Our life with two under two was great and brought quite a change into our lifestyle. But oh what fun was waiting around the corner… Not even a full year later, we were expecting another bundle of joy!
As a “just fell off the turnip green truck” new mom to three babies I was struggling! Maintaining “the look” (read: straight hair) for work and business affairs was tough. I barely had time for bathing myself (let alone hair) after tending to my little ones! And completing the entire procedure to wash, dry, and style my long locks was miserable. The simplicity of getting my hair styled at the local hair school during both pregnancies was priceless. So I became a weekly client, entrusting the students with my mane for blow-outs.
As you may know, during pregnancy, our hormones are in overdrive and our hair follicles flourish. I don’t recall losing a strand of hair during pregnancy, in fact, it seems as if they doubled. However, the constant heat styling ravaged my curls, leaving me with heat-damaged locks. With a head full of frizz, on many days this mama resembled a much different family member, “Cousin It!”
Reflecting upon those postpartum days that blended with nights, I must admit, I am thankful to have had a flexible career, coupled with a hands-on husband. My household help and flexibility allowed for my beauty maintenance runs. It was truly a Godsend that I had those moments to myself, to get away and take care of me. It was absolutely “self-care” during a time when, as a twin mom, I needed it most. I understand that most moms don’t always have those moments to slip away to tend to “mommy.” This is why I appreciate the support that I had during postpartum. However, even with the help of a stylist providing hair-care, it was still a challenge to maintain.
I am a “naturalista” and have been passing on the perms since 2008. It was invigorating to “go natural” back then, when none of my peers made the same choice. It’s much more prevalent now to see women of color embracing their natural curls. However, when I “big chopped” in over 10 years ago, there weren’t many resources and individuals on hand to provide insight and support for caring for my natural texture. So I put on my big girl panties and winged it! Trial and error were key in caring for my natural kinky curls on my own. And though I’m generally up for a challenge, this was out of my realm. Add working in a traditional, southern, professional setting, and I’m sure many women of color will attest. There’s definitely pressure for us to maintain our hair’s straightness.
Throw in the fact that for three straight years I experienced a unique family situation. We were expecting twins, nursing, and then expecting Baby Joie. I chose to wear my hair mostly straight or blown-out for a couple of reasons during that time. One of the reasons for craving a shorter length was for simplicity. It was easier for me, wrangling with babies day in and day out, to slip away occasionally and have a hairstylist tame my mane. I found that straight hair lasted longer. “Natural” curly styles require maintenance and it’s all all about the shape. With infants, there’s a lot of time in and out of the bed, nursing and trying to catch Z’s where you can. It was much simpler to lounge around with flat, straight hair than to be constantly re-fluffing flattened curls and coils.
I remember being pregnant with Baby Joie in July in South Mississippi. Raging hormones and hot flashes plus weight gain multiplied by the MS Gulf Coast humidity equaled a trip to the stylist’s chair one last time (or so I thought). Just before the third baby arrived, I had my coif cut into a lob (long–bob). It was stylish, but the maintenance for medium length, thick, natural hair was time consuming. I wore this style until it wore me out, and I was back in the chair for those scissors months later!
As I write this blog, it’s forcing me to think long and hard about my hair and the choices that I made throughout the years concerning these threadlike strands growing from my scalp. In as such, I’m forced to really evaluate what hair truly means to me as a black woman in America. There’s a popular book and movie, Nappily Ever After, that accounts a black woman’s struggle with her image. Her challenges are manifested namely in reference to her long, glorious mane, and how she allowed the restrictions of her hair stye choices to negatively impact her life. To think of the frivolity of being bound by one’s hair is a laughable, yet very real concept for many women. And here I write, knowing that I have fallen prey to the man-made, conceptualized standards of hair and beauty in America and around the world.
They say when a woman cut’s her hair, she’s about to change her life. Things happen that are beyond our control daily, but the test that separates the victims from the victors is how you move forward from an obstacle. Around Baby Joie’s 9 month birthday, she was involved in an accident which left her badly burned on her face, arms, and head. It was a very challenging time for my family, nursing our precious baby back to health while simultaneously caring for her not yet two-year old siblings. Proper burn care is a tedious task, but through the grace of God, we were able to take great care of our little one while getting her health back on track.
Now lets regroup. Mother to “Irish Triplets” plus life happens, multiplied by a tragic event equals what? With our lifestyle, this mama’s time was accounted for in more ways than “three.” Consequently, a simple answer to this equation emerged. The time had come for a trip to the stylist for new and improved hair, and most importantly, a new and improved me! My stylist was hesitant when I walked in requesting to CUT IT ALL OFF, but she reluctantly acquiesced. We settled on a short and sassy, ombre colored ‘do!
Pragmatically, a weight was lifted from my life, as I no longer spent countless hours on hair maintenance. Yes I made the occasional 20 minute barber shop runs, but I was now free. This gave me back time with my children, time in the gym working on my fitness, and quality time with my husband. The positive results were endless.
Figuratively, it symbolized a renewal in my life, a moment in which I bucked the status quo, or what I like to call “The American Nightmare.” I chose a look that I wanted for myself, to suit my and my family’s needs. I chose the path of nonconforming. The path that I walk along embodies a vision of beauty that I am proud to exemplify for my daughters, and is in stark contrast to the standards that are fed to them through their cartoons and baby dolls.
Some call it a brave, visionary move – to buck tradition in the face of a corporate America standard who promotes business women who resemble Barbie dolls. As for me, I call it a mom style, easy, convenient, and true to myself, coils, kinks and all!