Attempts At Adulthood

Mom Hair

Since I stopped working, my life has become a not-particularly-glamourous exercise in “how can I save money?” and my most recent attempt at saving money has been “cutting my own hair.”  Which people are often impressed by.  They will say, “Oh wow– that must be so hard, cutting your own hair!”  But it isn’t at all.  Cutting your own hair well is difficult, but cutting your own hair is simple.  The hardest part of the whole thing is just making small talk with yourself.

This is the haircut I attempted to give myself.

a a a b a

I’m not saying I succeeded. I’m just saying this was what I was trying for.

So I cut my hair, and it went well enough that people would say things like, “Hey, I like your haircut,” or “Where did you get that done?” and I felt good enough about it that I didn’t force myself to wear hats all the time.

And then a month or so ago I was at a comedy show with a friend who commented, “Hey, I love your haircut.  It’s very…” he paused for a moment, searching for the right word.  “Motherly,” he said.  “It’s such a great mom haircut.”



And obviously…obviously the hardest part of having a friend tell you that you have “mom hair” is having to kill your friend.  Especially if you have known him for a long time.  But it’s not as though he didn’t have options as to what to say.  I have a short, dark haircut that curls/flips out at the sides.  In fairness, YES, it can be considered a mom haircut.  But it can be considered other things, too!  Please feel free to say, “Oh, that looks great!  You have such a _____________________.”  And then say anything other than “motherly haircut.”  Some easy ones might be:

*          *          *

“You have such a Mariska Hargitay in 2004 haircut”

 She literally only has this haircut in this one picture.

She literally only has this haircut in this one picture.  Also, I look nothing like Mariska Hargitay.

Who doesn’t want to be compared to Mariska Hargitay, right?  She doesn’t have a mom haircut.  She’s a cop.  Or whatever: She’s an actress who plays a cop.  Actually, a great way not to get pigeonholed as a “mom” is to always wear your Mariska Hargitay “Detective Olivia Benson” costume because people will say, “Oh, she’s not giving up on femininity: She’s just dressed like that to intimidate sex offenders and violent criminals.”

*     *     *

“You have such a Lady Bird Johnson haircut”

aa ladybird

I’m going to pretend like I can’t see the resemblance, but I can see the resemblance.

Ok, so this is not my first choice, but I’d rather look like Lady Bird Johnson than be stuck in the amorphous “mom hair” category.  If you tell me I have a Lady Bird Johnson haircut, I will probably maim you but not kill you.  Yes, we both have dark brown hair.  Yes, it curls up at the bottom.   Fine.

*     *     *

“You have such an Inspector Gadget haircut”

 Inspector Gadget and I have the exact same haircut.

Inspector Gadget and I have the exact same f**king haircut.

“Hey,” my friend might’ve said.  “I love your haircut.  It’s very…” and he would have paused briefly before saying, “It makes me want to solve crimes with my brilliant niece and her intelligent dog.”

And can you really, truly understand the stigma of the mom haircut?  I am saying I would rather be compared to a 40-something-year-old male cartoon detective than be told I have a motherly haircut.  I don’t know if I could make this more clear.

*       *       *

“You have such a “Hugh Jackman as Wolverine” haircut

aa hugh

Similar, sure, but I’m a little more on top of tweezing my chin hair.

This falls into the same category as “you have such a Tygra from Thundercats” haircut in that yes, you are correct, my hair comes to two little points on the sides.  In a perfect perfect world would people come up to me and tell me my hair reminded them of large, anthropomorphized man-cats?  No.  But we left that perfect perfect world behind a long time ago.

*     *     *

“You have such a Water Buffalo haircut”

aa water buffalo

I’m not even sure this is an improvement anymore.  Just tell me I look like Mariska Hargitay in 2004.

*     *     *

It does not make sense for me to have long hair that I am never going to have time to wash.   When I think about having long hair, I think about it in an impractical fantasy– about having amazing, gorgeous hair, perfectly styled, while standing on the red carpet at the Oscars.  I think about a ponytail whipping behind me in the wind as my thoroughbred horse gallops across a field.  Long hair is beautiful if you have time to take care of it– a.k.a. if you’ve got thoroughbred horse kind of money.  It is decidedly less appealing when filled with Cheerios and matted together with children’s drool.   Sometimes I think I want long hair, but that is not what I want: What I want is to be a gorgeous 23-year-old with long hair and no responsibilities and my whole life ahead of me.  I cannot keep myself young by keeping my hair long.  Sometimes I think that I can do that, but I can’t.

So I’m adjusting to having a motherly haircut.  Which has nothing to do with the haircut at all, really.  Because I had this exact same haircut from age 21 to age 26, and no one ever commented that it looked motherly.  Because when you’re 21, it doesn’t.  It looks like a young girl’s short haircut.  I had short hair for years because even before having a kid, I never looked particularly great with long hair.

 It's not flattering on everybody.

It’s not flattering on everybody.

I am not adjusting to having a mom haircut.  I am adjusting to being a mother.

And so when my friend approached me at the show and said, “It’s such a great mom haircut,” what I heard was, “You are old.  You are old and outdated and you will never be young again.  Do not bother buying pajamas that are not flannel and from the L.L. Bean catalog, and do not bother buying clothes that are not shapeless and from Kohl’s, purchased with a 30% off coupon.  For the rest of your life you will get visibly excited about ads for any detergent promising to be “tough on stains!”  You will never again go into a bar and laugh and drink with friends and then at 2AM decide that you are all going to go to IHOP and get pancakes for no reason.  You will no longer travel to other countries and stay in hostels and meet new and interesting people.  Do not do things on your own anymore, ever.  Do not ever have anything interesting to say.  Dissolve into a haze of Desitin and grilled cheese and eventual PTA meetings.  Cease to enjoy life. 

Except that he didn’t say any of those things.  He mentioned that I had a “motherly” haircut, and I inferred everything else because having kids was, in my mind, synonymous with all of the above statements.  I felt like motherhood was something that took over your entire existence, like an all-consuming virus.

 The symptoms include short hair, bad cardigans, and walking listlessly through Costco.

The symptoms include short hair, bad cardigans, and walking listlessly through Costco.

But in fairness, motherhood hasn’t been as bad as I was nervous it would be.  It is hard.  Yes.  Parts of it are very tiring and very hard.  But I still do things on my own four or five days a week.  I have my own life in the evenings that does not involve the baby.  I do not stay out drinking until 2AM, but try, once in a while, to make it till midnight.  I have managed to not care at all about coupons or brands of detergent.  I feel, most of the time, like a normal person.

Or maybe using the word “normal” is pushing it.  But I don’t feel like a caricature of a harried mother, which was what I had dreaded more than anything.  I’m busy but doggedly optimistic.  Occasionally confused.  Determined to figure things out.  Bumbling but well-intentioned, with relatives who look out for me.   Maybe those things have always been built into my personality, or maybe they emerged once I had a kid.

Or there’s always the possibility they come with the haircut.

aa gadget in


*          *          *

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 Give me time.

Give me time.

45 Responses to “Mom Hair”

  1. lindsaymurdoch117

    I know the feeling, it doesn’t last forever. Several years, yes, but not forever. My kids are 5 and 7 and i have grown my hair long again, and after doing a fair bit of not enjoying life, now that they are more independant I find more things to enjoy. Hang in and keep up the funny!
    You’ll slog through, we all do 🙂

  2. Kika Wintermute

    Hey “Ugly Volvo” mom, this is so funny! I was going through bouts of laughs as I read your blog today!
    Unexpectedly funny comments and comparisons. The self deprecating humor is great!

  3. kevinjcarter

    My mom used to cut my hair when I was a kid. We weren’t poor. But she did it anyway. One day she cut my ear. It bled the way ears do when cut. I always ran from her scissors after that. I think your blog is funny, and you are brave and wonderful to read about. I bet you manage not to cut your own ear when you’re cutting your own hair. You seem quite savvy that way.

  4. about100percent

    I had that haircut when I became a new mom. But I wasn’t nearly as adept at cutting it myself, so I let it grow. Now I’m at that awkward age where I’m wondering if maybe my hair is making me look like, well, an old hag.

  5. pieterk515

    Great post!! And mom’s are great, just ask any kid…To guarentee great replies , always ask their opinion once their favourite dinner is served or after handing over their Christmas presents…

  6. jennifer

    I drive the van. I wear minimal, if any, makeup. I have the clothes and the Skechers. But Mom Hair is my biggest fear! Pre-motherhood, I had an adorable pixie cut to go along with the cute, fashionable clothes I would wear to work. But, I’m terrified to go back to that cut. Add to that my being an “older” mom, and I’m afraid I run the risk of looking like a grandma!

  7. Jaci

    I also do not find long hair flattering on me. I think short hair looks great on almost everybody! And it only takes me 12 minutes to blow dry and look fancy with a clip. It took me that long to put my long hair in a ponytail. And don’t forget, Hollywood is making the pixie cut cool again!

  8. Rachel

    I am a new Mom with long hair….and your haircut definitely looks easier. Mine lives in a ratty little nest atop my head now. I think the scalp grease and dandruff and rat’s nests are starting to imbue it with a life of its’ own…..some people affectionately call this style a “top knot”, or so I’ve been told. So that’s what I call it to try to sound classy. Because “The Bun I’ve Had In For The Past Week” just doesn’t sound quite as nice.
    [I looove your blog, by the way! hilarious.]

  9. Peta-ann

    Hallo! I love this! I cut my own hair too and I kinda liked it, then when I woke up the next morning it was sticking up like a mowhawk and my 6-month old looked at me like I was a stranger, so i took the scissors to the bathroom and cut it even shorter! It was practically a spike! Something that was cool in the ’80s. I sent a photo of myself with my new haircut, holding my baby, to my sisters in Sydney, single and long hair (same hair they’ve had since teenagers) and one said “oh, no I like it longer) and the other said “it was so easy, manageable and motherly”. It’s not bloody easy at all, it takes me twice as long to style it coz my hair is dead-straight and I burn my fingers on the curling wand trying to give it a bit of a wave!!!!! I can’t wait to read more from you, I am hugely grateful my friend shared your 10-month old Christmas list article with me. Merry Christmas.

  10. Debbie Bullington

    I love your haircut! It’s fun and flirty! Loved reading your post too! I’m a mom of 3 and they have all grown up and moved to their own homes and now I have 4 grandkids…it goes fast so enjoy it while you can!

  11. Mo

    I have always had long hair, and I totally missed the opportunity to have young chick short hair…and now I’m a 32 year-old mom and CERTAIN that I will DIE if I go short and someone calls me out on my mom-do. I won’t though. I will come to grips with that soon. I’m sure.
    (*you are awesome!*)

  12. swoodsonsays

    I had this haircut before I was a Mom.. (as evidenced by my out of date gravatar-thing) and now I’m itching to cut it off again. This is making me reconsider, as well as laugh.

  13. Meetzorp

    My problem is when I go for a Sue Perkins haircut, but end up with a Hugh Grant haircut. The dividing line between the two is amazingly easy to step across.

      • Kate

        Dang it dang it dang it. This made me laugh, but then I got worried and googled them both to refresh my memory and compare their hairstyles. Not only do I have Hugh Grant hair now, I’m fairly confident that I’ve had Hugh Grant hair for at least the last several years – and that’s on its good days. I’m sorry, I have to go do some soul searching now.

  14. Kali

    I don’t know how I found you- divine intervention I’m sure. My family just relocated & I had to sell my business & am now learning how to be domestic. When we went down to one income, one of the things that had to go was my cute pixie haircut that required maintenance every three weeks or I’d end up looking like a wookie at a craft fair. So mine has grown out into the existential ‘mom-cut’ bring along with it existential crises. Feeling sexy like somewhere between ladybird & a waterbuffalo. Thank you a million times. I might follow you to the ends of the earth. You’ll recognize the tribal ‘do.

  15. mamafoosa

    just stumbled across your blog and love this 🙂 and your hair. very impressive. i couldn’t even trim my bangs but now insist on cutting our 2.5 year olds hair. he’s constantly sporting a mullet. anyhow, more power to ya

  16. light474

    I also cut my hair to save money. Now that we have another bundle of joy, I’ve found that hair cuts and getting nails done are luxuries that aren’t in the budget. Keep on writing and helping this Momma feel better about all the joys that go into motherhood.

  17. Robin Craig

    I found myself in a similar position recently when I cut my own hair. I did such a bad job that most people didn’t bother to comment. My neighbor, however, told me that she loved the blunt edges and that people can get away with all kinds of weird haircuts these days. Made me feel awesome.

  18. Carolyn Dietrich

    I found your blog through a friend of a friend on Facebook today. My husband and I laughed together at your 10-month-old’s Christmas list, then I read this entry. Your writing is superb! Endearing, truthful, and laugh-out-loud funny (the water buffalo haircut!), I just wanted you to know that your writing is a pleasure to read.

  19. Jana Schneider-Dixon

    I have almost always had short hair, and I mean REALLY short. I often just use the clippers on it. Good thing is it takes 2 minutes to take care of in the morning….bad thing as I get older it makes me look even older. Oh well, I am a grandma as well as a mom of a preschooler, easy/practical is more important than looking young!

  20. Jenny

    Right after bringing home my baby (first and only), with my mom visiting, my neighbor goes: oh, you and your mom look so much alike! you even have the same haircut!

    Not just a mom cut! MY mom’s cut!

    Needless to say I treated myself to color and hair excitement as soon as possible…only to see several new moms in my Facebook feed also dying their hair wild colors…making it the new mom do??

    I am now trying to make peace with the facts that: 1) I can no longer afford wild color, or really any color; and 2) I suspect that when you become a mom, all hair becomes mom hair, because it is on a mom. And like you said, my anxieties about being perceived as a “mom” are all about my fears and not necessarily about anything anyone else is thinking.

    Thanks for your great post!

  21. Steph

    Two words for managing long hair and mothering: dry shampoo.

    I can go a whole week without washing my hair! Variations on wearing down for two days, then sock buns or teasing the top and pinning it in a half-up ponytail thing. Messy buns are very hip right now. It’s amazing.

    I think about short but I know it’s actually much more work. And there’s the whole mom-hair thing.

  22. MamaCassi

    I found your blog through the brilliant christmas list. and haven’t stopped reading! this one had me giggling like mad. i’ve always had long hair. like elaborate bun and twists, and curly long hair. even though it’s still long, it’s a ponytail. it’s a frizzy, sometimes partly curly, sometimes strangely stiff looking ponytail. w/ waterbuffalo frizzies that curl up from my temples.

    my husband says- wear it down! then when it’s down (no equipment or time to style it) he says ‘what about that cute up do you used to rock?’ oh yeah, we’re stuck.

    if i could find a part, or some semblance of curls, or keep it out of my face but still relaxed, well, we’d have a winner.

    meanwhile, rocking the messy buns. trying to wear them higher b/c i tend to rock the rigid ballet teacher bun at the neck. i’m a little tense w/ the 5 kiddos….

  23. kristin

    don’t try and save $ by cutting your own hair, that’s just wrong. I found a woman at the mall who does my hair for 20 bucks (plus tip) instead of the 50 + bucks I was paying…it took a few trips and soso haircuts with different stylists, but I finally found this one and get compliments on my hair, ALL THE TIME! Save on cable, or shop once a month at Aldi’s, but don’t cut your own hair!!!

  24. Is

    I’m 33, and Mum to a five year old boy with a severe disability. When he was born I had long hair with a nice fringe, which required a fair amount of product and styling. When I was a teenager it was a cute pixie cut. Now days it’s shoulder length but worn up in a pony tail EVERY SINGLE DAY because it’s just bloody easier, frankly.
    Like a previous commenter I’ve noticed a few Mums in my facebook newsfeed with radically coloured hair (blue, pink) and part of me wants to be 18 again too! I know how they feel. I’m sick of wearing my hair in a pony tail every day, but I too fear Mum Hair (that’s the Australian version of Mom Hair)…
    God, I love your blog, by the way.

    • theuglyvolvo

      As we speak mine is slooooowly creeping back toward my shoulders. It can’t grow fast enough.

      and thank you. I’m glad it’s enjoyed!


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