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What Does Your "Mom Hair" Say About You?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Your ratty ponytail thrown under a baseball cap could be telling the world more than "I'm exhausted."

mom hair

We all know the famous new-mom haircut. When I had a newborn, I got one myself: a short, low-maintenance pixie cut that allowed me to reduce my preening time and increase my diaper-changing time. I even went one step further than a simple cut and sacrificed my blonde locks for my natural brunette base, thus saving money and time in a colorist's chair.

There are other forms of "mom hair." Consider the perma-ponytail, a look that keeps tiny hands from pulling mommy's hair and keeps mommy's hands away from a blow-dryer. Then there's the all-telling baseball cap with the "McDonald's Employee" ponytail sticking out the back. We all know that signals a long night with a screaming teether.

But there is more than convenience and efficiency in our mom hairdos. Hair is our most obvious signal to the world of our internal state of mind. Hair can be linked to our moods and even our sexuality. When I look back at pictures of me in my short, dark crop, I shudder with memories of postpartum depression that went undiagnosed. After baby number two, with a little help from Zoloft, I stayed with long, blonde hair. Coincidence? I think not.

mom hair

Hair is linked to a woman's sexual attractiveness, and lack of attention to hair can also signal that sexual energy is being temporarily diverted to put the baby's needs first. The onset of motherhood can bring a shift in identity as women move from being Barbie dolls to Betty Crockers, all on the way to becoming fully empowered women. (Women without children encounter a similar phenomenon as they age and sexual attractiveness becomes less important than their ability to be creative, productive and nurture the world.)

It's perfectly natural for women to care less about their looks while they do the rigorous work of caring for an infant. I'm less concerned about the new mom with her hair in a frayed knot than I am about the "hot mom" who's wearing her baby as an accessory -- and ignoring the fact that the babe's sunhat has been covering her eyes for 20 minutes. Putting baby first is nature's way.

"Mom hair" could signal depression if it also includes a lack of hygiene and a lack of desire to primp, ever -- even once in a while -- for the man of the house. So look closely in the mirror today. What is your hair is saying about you?


35 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kari April 20, 2010, 4:04 AM

I can totally relate. When I was a mother of babies I had no bangs and my hair was always pulled back while it was wet and thrown into a clip! I also stopped colouring my hair and went back to being a brunette. Now that my children are a bit older 7, 5 and 4. I am blonde once again and am able to take the time to blow out my hair and sometimes .. even flat iron.

Melissa April 20, 2010, 5:01 AM

I think this is very true. I know when I first got married I thought I had to ‘grow up’ and play a new role of a serious woman. No more mini skirts and bright colors.

After about 6 months I realized that I didn’t have to be that person. I was losing myself to make others happy when there was no one demanding it of me.

I can see how with a baby a woman might feel the same way. That she has to change and lose her sexuality. Not true at all and will just make her unhappy and insecure.

With this life change I’m going to try to hang on to the fun, cool me. And be a great mommy!

just8 April 20, 2010, 6:32 AM

Sorry, I don’t agree. Some jobs require women to wear their hair up. What about gym moms. Flying hair looks silly and yucky at the gym.

VICTORIA April 20, 2010, 7:14 AM

I think it depends on the time and the activity we have to do. I’m a working mother and my schedule is very tight. I have to be at the office at 7 Am so it’s kind of difficult to flat iron my hair! Combine tasks is not as easy but when I have help at home then sometimes I can take time to look better! There is not reason to depress!

Jessica L April 20, 2010, 7:58 AM

To quote India.Arie - I AM NOT MY HAIR

Anne M. April 20, 2010, 7:59 AM

Mom hair ? Well… I always kept my hair long and always took the time to dry and place it… Does that make me a bad mom ?

mom of two April 20, 2010, 8:06 AM

I disagree I have two kids plus have my own daycare with 8 extra kids and I have always made the time to do my hair every day which includes a straight iron I also put make up on. I have a cute super fun hair cut always has and I get my hair colored every 10 weeks sometimes I’m blonde with hot pink streaks other times its darker with red streaks either way its cute sassy and fun just like me. Just becuz I had kids doesn’t mean I have to lose who I am.. Heck I even tan 4 times a week and get my nails and toes done.. Its just who I am

Rita April 20, 2010, 11:17 AM

Mom of two, I totally agree! I understand sometimes we just don’t have time, but I always, ALWAYS make time for my hair, clothes and makeup. I always say, first impressions count and you can’t make a second first impression!!! If I see a mom of young kids always in sweats and ponytails with no makeup, then I know she’s just not trying. I always make an effort to look good when I go out. I love heels and wear them whenever I go somewhere. I have a high-maintenance hairstyle, get a color and highlights every 2-3 months, and flat-iron whenever I leave my house. I believe it’s important to always look your best, you never know who you might run into! Oh, and I have a 9 year old and a 3 year old.

Sylvia April 20, 2010, 12:02 PM

I agree with Ann.I kept my hair long & styled unless it was too hot and even then it was only pulled back in a loose ponytail. Funny thing was I was depressed & under going counseling. Generalizations are like stereotypes they just help others to find a hole to peg others in.If you care you sense when something isn’t right. If you don’t care then it’s none of your business.On various days & times I can fit any astrological sign.But science shows me they only exist if viewing them from earth.So isn’t it a little silly to judge by what is seen?

Charles April 20, 2010, 4:01 PM

Great job Wendy!!! :)

Bren April 20, 2010, 8:33 PM

Seriously?? In this day and age when life is so complicated and hectic are we really reading and writing articles that seemingly find yet one more thing to judge the Mothers of this world on!! The job of a mother is the most important, demanding, tiring, chaotic, challenging job in the world, we judge women based on their size, and looks, instead of their characters, or even their job performance thereby adding more stress on what is already the most stressful thing a woman will ever do. Instead we should be writing about supporting woman in their roles as mother and not devaluing them by judging looks and materialistic garbage.
In doing this too we are teaching our young daughters a horrible lesson and causing them to judge themselves instead of helping them learn to have a higher self esteem. What is wrong with our media/writer’s etc. Give me something to read that helps me be better at my job of mother, wife, co-worker, friend, sister, aunt..woman!!! Something like how to eat healthy when you have no time..or how to save money on my grocery bill…not this kind of junk that judges on looks rather than character, work ethic, and job performance. Pleeeasssee!!!! All you great mothers out there..when I see you …I don’t look at your hair and say “ponytail” OMG she must be depressed or not care. No, I watch how you interact and care for your children, and if I am lucky I might even get to chat with you and develop a new friend.

alleycat April 20, 2010, 10:25 PM

Thanks Bren!

M April 20, 2010, 10:44 PM

I agree with Bren! Although I must say I am frustrated with my hair and lack of time to do it. With my schedule, the only time I can even take a shower is at night after my little guy goes to sleep in which case I put my hair up in a bun and that’s how it stays until I go out in public and then I put on a headband or a hat. I love my hair when I have time to blow dry it out but that has only happened a handful of times since he has been born. I was actually hoping this was going to be an article about hair do ideas without cutting it all off. My hair is pretty long so it takes time to dry it out. I want a hair do I can make time for but not at the expense of cutting it all off. So in the meantime, it will stay in a headband or hat and I’ll spend more time with my little one.

Leannibus April 20, 2010, 11:22 PM

Okay, c’mon ‘just8’…who gives a rip what you look like at the gym? You’re supposed to be a bit sweaty and “yucky”.

Mom of One April 21, 2010, 9:05 AM

I disagree because I think it is personal choice about what is a priority. I have always been a non-primper for the most part.

I primp for my husband on our date nights and when we have charity balls, etc. to attend, but when I am performing life’s daily chores, digging in the garden, grocery shopping, playing with my 3 year old son, cleaning my house, etc. I see no need and have no desire to put on makeup and do anything other than put my hair in a high ponytail. When I was an attorney working at a large law firm before becoming a stay-at-home mom, it was a low ponytail and a little mascara and lip gloss. It doesn’t mean that I am not trying…it merely means I have placed my priorities on something other than my looks because I am perfectly satisfied with the way I look makeup or not.

And, for those out there who think I’m short-changing my husband, my husband constantly tells me that while makeup makes me look “like a Hollywood starlet” he actually prefers me without makeup because “anyone can look good with makeup, but it takes a real beauty to look good without it.”



M April 21, 2010, 5:24 PM

To “Mom of One”- I don’t think you’re short changing your husband. My husband is exactly the same. In fact he HATES when I wear any make up of any kind. I feel very fortunate to have a husband that loves me in my natural look.

Camille April 22, 2010, 3:30 AM

This is the second time I’m commenting because it looks like my first comment (posted as CamilleO) got removed. So I will repeat that I think it is very SAD, VERY SAD and ridiculous for you to put the notion out into the world that your dark, shorter hair was a sign you were depressed. You have bought, hook, line and sinker into the notion that your value is tied to your long blonde hair. You’re setting a terrible example for other women, putting out articles like this. Being in shape, clean and well-groomed is good enough for men and should be good enough for women, too. I have toned down how I feel about this but your whole article makes me sad. You looked like a classy lady with your shorter brown hair. I hope hair coloring companies didn’t pay you to spread their hair-paranoia garbage. And please don’t delete this one.

Skeets April 24, 2010, 9:28 AM

Sorry to say this but your hair looked thicker and more healthy when it was brown. Your going to end up like my mother in law who has very thin hair from coloring it blonde all her life.

Bababooooey April 30, 2010, 11:45 PM

You have 2 ugly daughters who are black

dieta japoneza December 27, 2010, 6:05 AM

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