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The other day we had a family night out. The street in front of our house was filled with outdoor games and music, familiar faces and some new ones too. A woman I didn't recognize approached my husband and me, smiling pleasantly.

When she got close she looked at my 3-year-old son next to us and said, "Is this a boy or what?"

I looked down at him, with his long, golden hair and then back at the woman.

Is this a boy or what?

I didn't say the first thing that came to mind, which was that at 3 years old he was mostly or what these days. Sometimes he'd wake up a puppy dog. Other times a space explorer. There were days he said he had superpowers—super speed and super sneakiness specifically—and other days he said he was fine "just being himself."

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But she didn't mean that kind of or what did she?

It made me think about my dad. How he was almost 83 years old and a real Walt Whitman type of guy. A writer for most of his life, he lived two states away on a small piece of land on the edge of the sandhills, preferring the company of coyotes and crickets to actual people. We didn't get to see each other much anymore, except for sporadic facetime calls. But since my son was born I felt more connected to him than ever.

You see, my son bared an uncanny resemblance to his grandfather. It was in how they stood. How they walked. How they sat and considered the world. But most notably, it was in their hair. They both had the same long, wild locks except that one was silver and the other gold.

That was really what her "or what" was about. It was about the curiosity of a boy with long hair.

I remember when I was in labor at the hospital, I was pushing with my legs up in the air. The nurse in the room walked by the edge of the bed and happened to glance over. Almost immediately she exclaimed. "Oh, look at that hair!" She said.

"That what?!" I grunted back, confused.

"Your baby has a full head of blonde hair! It's a very old fashioned thing. We just don't see it anymore. Do you want a mirror?"

I looked at my husband and laughed as all the color drained from his face. I was sure it all had to be some sort of birth-induced fever dream.

"No," I replied, gritting my teeth for the next round of pushing. "No, I'm good."

It was about an hour later that he was born and I realized it hadn't been a dream—not at all. The nurse had been right. When she handed him to me and I carefully unwrapped his blankets so his skin was on mine, all I could do was look down and marvel at the beautiful, thick mat of yellow hair on his head.

I wish I could say from that moment on I had some sort of crunchy awareness about how important his hair was, but honestly, I didn't. When he was about 2 years old, I'd grown weary of the arduous bath time rinse-lather-repeat routine and I scheduled him a haircut.

The day of the appointment, we walked into the brightly colored kid's themed salon and I sat him on one of the chairs. The stylist put on the cape and as she began to snip, I could see the terror rise in his face. He didn't want this.

I leaned in close and held onto his shaking body as he screamed, trying desperately to comfort him. It wasn't the same sort of scream he used when I accidentally brought him the yellow spoon instead of the blue spoon at dinner. Or the scream he used when we shut off cartoons in the afternoon and told him it was nap time. It was a different scream. A primal one. An inexorably sad one.

The appointment only lasted 15 minutes but it broke both of us. He sat in his car seat, slumped over, heartbroken. I tried to hold up a mirror and smile—fain excitement to show that it was all going to be ok but he only shook his head. "It not me, mama."

At 2 years old, he couldn't verbalize it, but his hair was part of his identity as much as his legs or arms or eyes. And from that point on I knew that if it was ever going to change, it had to be his own decision.

By the time he had turned three his hair had grown shaggy and long again, dipping down past his shoulders. Sometimes I'd still ask—mostly out of curiosity—if he'd consider getting it trimmed. "Oh no, Mama. I love my hair like this," was the usual answer.

"Sounds good," was my only reply.

Was I reading far too much into a simple question? Did this woman standing in the street in front of me—this unfamiliar neighbor—have good intentions and simply want to make small talk? Or was she the kind of person who thought that the world was an easier place to understand if everyone had a little box to fit in? If boys were boys and girls were girls and there were none of the beautiful spectra of individuality that I'd come to recognize and appreciate in my own life.

I thought about all of these things and felt a sudden sadness for her and how small her world must be. Regardless of intention, it was a curious, trivial thing to bring up when there were so many better things to discuss.

Is this a boy or what?

I smiled.

"You know?" I replied. "He is a boy or what." And with that I kindly nodded and turned, walking hand in hand with my son over to the bubble machine.
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Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life

I am broken.

It has happened again and I am breaking even more. Soon, the pieces will be too small to put back together.

The negative pregnancy test sits on my bathroom sink like a smug ex-lover. I am left pleading, How could you do this to me again? I thought it would be different this time. I had hope.

We are still trying. It has been 11 months and 13 days and there has been no progress. No forward momentum. No double solid lines. The emptiness of the space where the line should be mocks me.

I am broken.

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No amount of planning and scheming and effort is enough. I am not enough because I cannot make a chemical reaction happen at the exact moment it needs to happen. I cannot do what I want but oh how I wish I could.

It almost happened once. Two months ago, I felt different. Sore breasts and aware of the world like never before. I felt not empty. The blankness had been replaced by someone. I was sure of it. And I was late. Six days late and I thought this is it.

I didn't rush to test because I didn't want to jinx it. Or perhaps I just didn't want to let go of that string of hope. Without evidence that you're not actually here, I can pretend that you are.

So I waited. And I Googled early pregnancy symptoms and I kept an eye out for red spots I hoped I would never see. I finally couldn't wait any longer and decided the next morning would be the test.

But when I woke up, I knew it was just me. The feeling I had been feeling was gone and I knew, just knew, what I would find.

This test had words instead of lines. 'Not pregnant' it blared loudly, obnoxiously, insensitively.

I am broken.

It was four in the morning and I stood in my tiny bathroom apartment silently sobbing. Alone.

Perhaps you were there for a brief moment, but then you were gone.

I stared again at the stick.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

It was taunting me now.

I wrapped it in a paper towel. Walked down three flights of stairs to the front of my building and threw it in the garbage can outside.

Later, when my husband woke, I told him I was wrong. There was nothing there after all.

And I mourned. All day long, I mourned. While I walked to work. While I said hello to my co-workers. While I answered questions and pretended to smile and tried not to think of the broken body I was living in.

The next day the blood arrived. Furious. Both of us infuriated it was there once again.

Can I keep doing this?

Am I broken?

Will I get to the point where I just… stop? Stop hoping. Stop praying. Stop wishing. Stop. Trying.

Am I broken? Or can I keep going?

Life

One of my biggest jobs as a mama is to create a foundation for my kids to become trailblazers and problem-solvers. It's not an easy task. I'm constantly wondering what type of person they'll become and how I can ensure they'll be awesome citizens of the world. For me, part of raising and encouraging future leaders starts with exposure—the more I introduce them to notable leaders in history, the better they can envision their own future.

This is why I love when brands create inspirational clothing and accessories for kids. And this month, Piccolina, a lifestyle brand for littles, added an exclusive Black History Month capsule collection to their trailblazer tees series and they are too cute for words.

The Black History Month line honors heroic leaders like Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Katherine Johnson and Rosa Parks on colorful tees. It even features illustrations by emerging artists of color like Monica Ahanonu, Erin Robinson and Joelle Avelino who are, in my opinion, just as important.

In addition to the tops, the collection features art prints that coincide with the shirts, making this a perfect addition to any kids room—and even mama's office. Perhaps even more exciting are the price points: The limited-edition tees retail for $28 and framed art prints are $60.

Maya Angelou trailblazer tee

Maya Angelou trailblazer tee

This cotton tee features a portrait of the award-winning author, poet and civil rights activist and is the perfect way for your little one to celebrate her inner storyteller. A portion of the shirts proceeds benefit non-profit organizations that support girls' education and empowerment, such as the Malala Fund and Step Up.

$28

While I'm not sure what type of person my little ones will become, I'm certain that introducing them to leaders will help them have greater self-confidence and reinforce that they are competent and resilient, too. And what mama can't get behind that? Now the hardest part is deciding which ones to purchase.

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