Being a new mom can really get to your head. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting (to say the very least). Not that I thought it would be easy peasy, but any mom knows that you can never really prepare for motherhood. We all have different stories of bringing life into the world. Mine included having a baby 10 weeks early, and being in the hospital myself after being diagnosed with preeclampsia that reached severe status within two days.
After my C-section, my room was suddenly full of strangers from a lactation consultant to a hospital social worker consuming me with a checklist of tasks that I had to complete before I could even think about bringing me and my baby home. At that point, I had a breakdown thinking, This is overwhelming. This is stressful. How am I going to do this? This is just... a lot.
Six months later, those thoughts really haven't gone away.
You wonder if you're doing a good job while you try to provide cruise ship-like entertainment for your little one 24/7 - and the nagging "mommy guilt" is more than difficult to shake. Sometimes all it takes is hearing someone say, "You're a great mom" to give us the strength we need to keep going. But when we don't get that reassurance from others, what stops us from giving it to ourselves?
We spend a lot of alone time with little humans who can't communicate back with us. This leaves plenty of room for self-deprecating thoughts. A turning point for me came when I was scrolling through Instagram stories and saw a set of affirmations from fellow new mom Aisha Howard, who welcomed her beautiful baby girl in December (can we just salute the moms that are super vulnerable with their journey? It's so brave!).
As much as I love affirmations, I never thought about doing them for myself and my life as a mom. Ever since, I've been doing my best to replace negative, self-consuming thoughts with positive statements that are true. With these affirmations, we can all start to conquer motherhood like the super-sheroes we really are.
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1. "I'm doing a great job."
Because you are. You will never be perfect, but that's the beauty of it all. It's so tempting to scroll on Instagram and see other moms with their capes on doing it ALL and wonder if you're depriving your child. You're not *insert air hug here*. The most they need from you is love, compassion, and affection. You're giving them that, so give yourself a break.
And no matter what you (and your little one) look like at the end of the day (because let's be real, it can get rough), just know you did your best, and that's more than good enough.
2. "I deserve grace and compassion."
"..And I'll give it to myself first." Working from home with a baby is more than challenging. From spit-ups to diaper blowouts between emails and to-do lists, it can be overwhelming. But whether you're balancing life between loving on baby and Zoom meetings, a stay-at-home mom, or a full-on working woman, motherhood is not for the faint at heart.
You deserve grace, you deserve compassion, you deserve a break, and it's OK to provide it to yourself before anyone else does (or even knows to). Remind yourself that you were made for this and that you can do it with this affirmation.
3. "I'm an amazing mom."
That's it. That's the affirmation. Like the others, it's short and sweet, but powerful enough to switch the ongoing gears in your mind to a positive mindset instead of a negative, self-defeating one. Ultimately, it all boils down to the fact that you're such an amazing mom. Even though it might mean the world to hear that compliment and affirmation from others, sometimes we have to channel our inner mirror-rapper Issa Dee and tell ourselves with confidence and certainty that we are simply amazing mothers.
We give everything, including our actual selves, to our child(ren) as we pour out our energy and love daily. It might not always look the way we hoped and dreamed during our pre-motherhood life, but it's still nothing short of amazing.
4. "Needing a break doesn't make me a bad mom."
I think most new moms are realizing that a break is needed sooner than we're ready to take one. I'm literally in talks with my husband right now about putting our little one in daycare a couple of days a week. At the same time, there's this tugging feeling of whether I'm really ready to put her in someone else's care (especially a stranger *cringe*) for hours at a time.
But whether it's all day or just for an hour or two, you have to give yourself permission to need and take a break. It doesn't mean that you're careless, it means that you understand you have can't pour from an empty cup. So take the break, sis. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you for it. And you'll be refreshed and recharged to continue being an amazing mom.
5. "I'm the best mom for my child(ren)."
You were made to mother the children you have. It's one of the handful of purposes you were born for. However you became a new mom, through childbirth, adoption, surrogacy, you name it, you are the best person God has chosen to serve as the miraculous role of being their mom. No one else can do it but you. No one else is graced to do it.
Each child has their own story, challenges, and the journey that they'll experience, and God saw fit for you to be the one to help lead and guide them through it all. It really changes the perspective when you realize you were made for each other and gives you the confidence and strength to live, think, and speak accordingly.
6. "I cherish this time."
Because it goes so fast... so I've heard a million times. When we first brought our daughter home from the NICU, we received compassionate and empathetic eyes from every parent who noticed how exhausted we looked from sleepless nights and early mornings. But in hindsight, those first couple of months flew by.
As tiring as it can be, I know I'll miss these days that she actually wants me to hold and kiss her and overwhelm her with affection. So in the overwhelming times, I'm reminded with this affirmation to cherish it (and every phase of life we get to experience), because once it's gone, we can't get it back.
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7. "I understand that to be my best, I have to take care of myself."
It seems impossible. Days go by before you think, "Wait.. when was the last time I showered?" Taking time to enjoy a long bath or a trip to the nail salon seems like it's out of the question, but like the flight attendants tell you on the airplane, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before trying to help anyone with theirs.
I remember our first flight with our little one, they made sure I knew that I had to help myself before I could try to help her. That was a tough pill to swallow in the rare event a mask would be needed. But the reality is, we can't pour from an empty well. And there's nothing wrong with taking time to fill up.
8. "I am strong."
Motherhood can make us feel like we're falling apart. Before venturing on this lifelong journey, we had it all together or at least felt like we did. We didn't have another human life to constantly look after and protect. Now, we find ourselves feeling inadequate as we try to balance it all. But the truth is, your strength is what helps you.
No matter how little of it you have, you use it daily to be the mother and woman you were born to be. It doesn't always feel like it, but you're strong and capable. On those days your strength is depleted, speak this affirmation and hang on to your second wind.
9. "I can do this."
Take a look back over your journey of motherhood. No matter how long it's been, you'll realize that not only can you do this, but you have been doing it. Life can be a blur as you learn to take care of your little one, yourself, and everyone in your household. But you can do it because you already are.
Remember that you were literally made for this. It's one of the amazing reasons you were born. And after you reflect (and give yourself an "I did that!") and say your affirmation, take a well-deserved break.
10. "I'm not alone."
You can also add, "It's OK to ask for help." Motherhood can be a lonely journey, but the truth is you're not by yourself. The more I talk to moms, whether they're new in the game or have years of battle scars, the more I realize we're all in this together. If you don't have family or friends you feel like you can lean on, I feel for you.
Still, there are ways you can connect with other moms from local Facebook groups to apps like Peanut that help you build relationships. You might feel lonely at times, but just know you're not alone. You got this!
11. "I am exactly what he/she needs."
If (and when) you find yourself wondering if you're fit to be their mom, know that you are, and this affirmation helps you remember that. As new moms, and as moms in general, we can easily obsess over every small decision that we believe will determine their long-term path. We question if we're doing the right thing, if we're the best thing for them, and even if there's someone else who could do the job better.
You are the best thing, and there's not someone else. You're the woman who is most fitting to nurture and care for your child as their mom. Yes, they will have other influences in the forms of aunts, friends, cousins, etc., but there's nothing like the bond they'll have with you.
12. "I'm more than a mom."
Life doesn't stop when you become a mom. Yes, your time is entangled with diaper changes, feedings, and going through multiple baby outfits a day, but you're still more than that. Being a mom is a major part of your life, but it doesn't have to be your life. Whatever your job or career is, it's vital to keep pursuing your passions so you don't lose yourself.
I'm not an expert (and already see my six-month-old as my new BFF), but I feel like part of the reason we get overwhelmed is that we don't take time to indulge in things that excite us. It might be because we don't think it's OK or mom guilt is on 100. It's perfectly normal to be consumed with your children, but you need a life of your own too.
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Charmaine Patterson is a journalist, lifestyle blogger, and a lover of all things pop culture. While she has much experience in covering top entertainment news stories, she aims to share her everyday life experiences, old and new, with other women who can relate, laugh, and love along with her. Follow Char on Twitter @charjpatterson, Instagram @charpatterson, and keep up with her journey at CharJPatterson.com .
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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French Curl Braids Are Summer's It Girl Hairstyle & Here's How To Wear Them
There’s just something about the summertime that makes a Black woman want to break out a fresh set of braids. Maybe it’s the ease of waking up and knowing that of all things on your to-do list, doing your hair isn’t one of them. Or maybe it’s the versatility that comes with the braided tresses that inspire you to want to try out a new style.
While traditional knotless braids and box braids have taken the crown for the last few summers, the word on the hair streets is that there’s a new style that’s stealing the show.
French curl braids have become the latest and most fly braiding style to take over our TikTok ‘’For You” page. What makes the style stand out from traditional box braids with the straight, dipped ends is the unique curly braiding hair that is used to achieve a bouncy spring to the ends of each braid. You might even recognize the look from OG-braid queen Brandy, who rocked the style so effortlessly in her 90’s sitcom Moesha.
The style has since found new innovations in the hands and creativity of Black women (as we do) to take on different styles, layers, and colors that are versatile enough to wear for any day party, graduation, wedding, or poolside you might find yourself at this summer.
Get Inspired by the Best French Curl Braids Inspiration & Styles:
The French curl braiding hair comes in packs of pre-curled synthetic hair, which has been praised for its lightweight yet voluminous look that truly makes a statement.
And if you’re looking to switch your style up for the summer months ahead, we’ve put together the best French curl braiding looks to add to your moodboard and, hopefully, your summer hair lookbook.
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