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The psychology of the ‘mum chop’

Ladies of the law, I see you.

You (we?) have worked long, hard and tirelessly to be taken seriously in the workplace.

In fact – if my late night Wikipedia research is anything to go by – we have been working since at least the French Revolution to be taken seriously in the profession.

This means that, since the late 1700s, we’ve toiled against calamitous odds to embrace our inner Rosie the Riveter1 and tenaciously face the patriarchy of what has historically been quite an inhospitable environment for a pretty, little head.

And we did it because despite those calamitous odds and inhospitable conditions – plus sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads2 – there was something in us that whispered, and called, and hollered, and SCREAMED that we were more than ‘just’ a woman.

Yes! We were more than just a pretty, little head with fluttering eyelashes and cheeks ever-so delicately blushed by broken capillaries (ladies pinch; harlots use rouge).3

That’s right! We were brave. Ambitious. Passionate, patriotic, and pioneering. We challenged the judiciary, governments, and other esteemed members of the profession to accept us as their colleagues, peers and equals. We never gave up no matter how hard the fight; and we did it all whilst raising a family, keeping the house from burning down, and pinching the absolute bejeebus out of our cheeks because you never know when the ball and chain might get a wandering eye for another bit of exposed ankle.4

Make no mistake: it is the shoulders of these remarkable foremothers that we stand on today. We owe them our gratitude, our respect; and our commitment to continue their legacy as unforgettable, unstoppable, unchallengeable forces of nature in our own rights, so that our daughters and granddaughters may one day fearlessly tread the trails we have only started to blaze; and never again have to prove that they are more than just a pretty, little head.

So, yeah.

*clears throat*

Anyway, I got a haircut.

It’s nothing too exciting – it’s just a bob – but I’m going to go ahead and call it what it really is: the mum chop. Because it’s basically the same haircut almost every new mum seems compelled to get at some point.

Yep, the ‘chop’ is the haircut we get following a relentless campaign of internal, overpowering, random (or are they?)5 urges to cut off our hair, and DAMN IT, CHARLIE! We fight those urges as valiantly – and for as long – as we can. Sure, we get a Pinterest board cracking, throw a few pins on there, maybe even screenshot that pixie that treads dangerously close to the ‘I want to speak to the manager’ haircut; but the motivation to leave the house and actually do the thing after six months seclusion on your own personal Survivor: Baby Island, remains relatively low.

And even though we complain about them being frumpy, and lumpy, and nowhere near as cute as they used to be, we actually really do love our messy mum-buns!6

But eventually the lure of all the exciting, dynamic, unrealised potential locked away within one, epic, new haircut becomes too much and one day out of nowhere (or is it?),7 we make the damn appointment, throwback that complimentary glass of champagne, squeeze our eyes shut, and somehow involuntarily command the hairdresser to “just do it!”

And in the aftermath of the highs and lows of my own ‘chop’ journey, I can’t help but wonder,8 what makes so many of us do the ’do?

(Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this.)9 Maybe we’re craving some kind of drastic change after a couple of years of feeling our frumpy oats, and it’s either this or a bedazzled eyepatch?10

Maybe it’s because we’re hot and frazzled and exhausted and the baby keeps grabbing at our dishevelled, dangling strands and we keep going to yelp but we don’t want to frighten the baby so we end up squawking for a split second before clumsily trying to cover that up with a smile that disturbingly resembles Jack Nicholson?11

Or maybe – just maybe – it’s a small, benign, and entirely superficial way to start reclaiming a precious sense of control. And after all, whilst I’m not technically a psychologist,12 I reckon feeling a bit more in control amidst the swirling chaos that is new motherhood is a very good thing.

Even if we do it by going and getting a pretty, little head.

Footnote:
1 Some lady at the Revolution probably. Ref: Wikipedia. Accessed: after one too many wines.
2 Wikipedia, et al.
3 That’s ok, all the more ½ price Priceline bronzer for me!
4 Not shaming. #freetheankle.
5 That’s ruddy mysterious.
6 The hairdo, that is.
7 Ibid, at 5.
8 I was going to make the Carrie Bradshaw reference eventually.
9 The writer does not undertake to actually go anywhere with this.
10 Wear an eyepatch Brett. Wear a funky, funky eyepatch.
11 For me, it’s Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman – because my makeup routine basically now consists of stiff-arming the toddler whilst I shove my face in whatever hasn’t been thrown, smooshed or cracked already by the toddler in question.
12 Not in the western sense anyway.

Sarah-Elke Kraal is a Queensland Law Society Senior Legal Professional Development Executive.

This story was originally published in Proctor April 2020.

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