Mom Strength

By Anna Mitchael

What the cool women are flexing

Last month I walked around with pictures of different haircuts in my purse for two weeks. I would take them out at different times of the day and imagine my cut shorter, spunkier. I pictured soft waves. I wondered if brand-new bangs would send me careening over an emotional edge I didn’t even know about.

After conducting a poll of friends, family and a rather nice stranger at Hobby Lobby, I felt I had prepared enough. On the day of my appointment I marched into the salon, dropped my purse in a hair-free zone, dropped myself into a swivel chair, took one look at my hair that had lived in a bun, ponytail or braid for most of the last three years and totally forgot everything I had planned to say.

“Do anything that will make it look better,” I pleaded with the hairdresser. “Just as long as you don’t make it look like mom hair.”

Mom hair. Could there be a worse fate?

Yup. How about mom hair paired with mom jeans? Mom shoes. Mom purses. Mom jewelry. Best of luck with resurrecting yourself from the shame of driving a mom car.

When I switched my beloved leather weekender bag for a small suitcase I could wheel while also chasing a child or hauling whatever might be required for a “relaxing family weekend away,” I heard the slightly judgy voice in my head (why is the voice in my head so harsh?) commenting, “Of course it was only a matter of time until you got the mom suitcase.”

At this point in the cultural conversation, you don’t need context to know what a kiss of death the “mom” adjective can be. It automatically erases 10 degrees of coolness from the object in question.

Ads tell us to ditch the mom uniform for a night so we can transform into the sexy creatures we are meant to be. Sure, some of the style blogs preaching fashion across the internet have mothers as fearless leaders, but even then the message is that being a mom is a hurdle to overcome. It sounds something like, “You are a mom, but never fear — you don’t have to look like one.”

I get it. There are days when compromise is the only way out of the woods. I am on an eternal search for a lipstick that erases extreme fatigue and softens the look of just having landed toe-first on a Legos spaceship.

But when I was at the salon, actually looking at myself in the mirror as I made fun of mom hair, the ridiculousness of the situation overwhelmed me. There I was, a mom, degrading being a mom. All because I’ve started to believe the hype — that there is one road to beautiful, that there’s nothing attractive about being the woman in comfortable clothes, dressed to chase children and (hopefully) dodge Legos pieces.

I’m not trying to suspend reality and pretend I am a style maven. This is not a pointless call to band together and start a fantasyland where sneakers look better than stilettos and the hips that bear children are also the ones designers want on the runways.

What I am suggesting is that, at the very least, we stop making fun of ourselves. Congratulations to the women who do it all — work and raise six kids and look really hot and stand on their heads while eating organic granola. But for the rest of us, there doesn’t have to be something inherently uncool or unattractive about what we prioritize.

Just think of all the things we spend our time strengthening instead of our wardrobes — strength, kindness, patience. On the best days, wisdom.

The word “mom” doesn’t have to be a synonym for fugly. Once we believe that, maybe others will, too.