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What Happened When I Refused to Let My Son Tell Me How to Wear My Hair

For more than six months, my toddler has told me he doesn’t like it when I wear my hair up. I wrote about it last summer, when the comments first began and considered it back then to be an annoying but endearing obsession he’d get over by September. He didn’t get over it.

As soon as I swept my hair up into a ponytail or a bun, my son could see nothing else. He had to tell me, “Mommy, I don’t like your hair like that.” Sometimes he’d say it with a smile. Sometimes he’d be close to tears within seconds. Other times he said it like a freaky mechanical child doll. When I’d finally let it down again, his only response, every time, was overt relief.

“I like your hair like that, Mommy,” he’d say, as though letting my hair down just saved him from imminent death.  

This has gone on for several seasons now, but more notably, through an election and through the start of a new presidency during which women are being told to do or not do certain things with their bodies.

I don’t like to be told what to do with my body, and that includes my hair. I don’t want to raise children who think it’s acceptable to tell anyone what to do with his or her body, especially if it has nothing to do with them. So every time my son tells me he doesn’t like what I’m doing with my hair, it has felt more and more like an opportunity and experiment in resistance – my own minor, but concerted at-home version. 

I’m pretty psyched to tell you that, as of last night, the dam broke. Turns out, fellow parents, that resistance is NOT futile.

I struggled at first to find the right language to express why I didn’t want my son to tell me what to do with my hair. “I don’t care what you think I should do with my hair,” I’d say. “I don’t care what you do with your hair,” I’d try. “We don’t tell other people what to do with their hair or their bodies, right?” I’d offer, the answer totally obvious.

My son would just purse his lips at me.

I’d stare right back at him.

These showdowns felt both sweet and hostile. Neither of us wanted to back down, both of us cared what the other thought and felt, but were trying to prove a point. Man, it was intense!

No one told me how resolute toddlers can be, how sure of themselves, and how aware they are of what gets under their parents’ skin. But toddlers are definitely all of those things. Sometimes I think they fight – like certain people in Washington – for the glory of it. They fight because it feels good to wield their small, but mighty, power.  

Our battles followed the same script all through December. In the winter, I wear my hair down for warmth most days, so the battles have been fewer.

Until this week, when something different came out of my mouth. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier…maybe because it didn’t feel big enough or important enough, and everything feels important now, in light of the shift in public figure role models for our kids. So for the first time, I made our fight not about me, but about us, about the kind of humans we are and the kind we want to be.  

“No,” I said, “We don’t say mean things to people. We only say nice things to people. You can say, I like your hair like that, but you can’t say you don’t like it. That’s just not nice. And we don’t do that.”

My son got quiet and focused for a minute. And I wasn’t sure what he’d taken in because, within 30 seconds, he was asking me to read a book to him about tacos while he drew pictures of various Beatles on his Magna Doodle.

The next morning at breakfast, my husband dove into the fray. “No,” he corrected our tiny opining roommate, “What you can say is, Mommy, you can wear your hair however you want. THAT is what you can say.”

I don’t know if it was the actual things we said, or that we just didn’t stop calmly resisting him, but last night at dinner, he made it known that he’d heard us. I sat down, hair up high on top of my head, daring a certain someone to get after me.

That someone looked right into my eyes, appeared to take a breath, a steadying breath, and said blithely, “Mommy. You can wear your hair however you want.”

He quickly looked down at his plate, smirking, proud of himself, I think.  

“Thank you,” I said, from the depths of my heart, my hand on his arm and tearing up because I was proud of him, too. But I may be a little prouder of my own unwillingness to back down on something that feels so symbolic and important right now.

“You can wear your hair however you want, too.”

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.

The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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