My friend Crystal Johnson is a math teacher, a hair stylist, and a working mom, and one of the most pulled-together women I know. Crystal and I taught together for about four years (she teaches math, and I taught social studies and English) until a couple years ago. And she embodies what it means to have a sense of personal style that goes beyond working mom style to something uniquely her.
Here, Crystal talks about her insights on the “organized chaos” of being a working mom, how she figures out her working mom style and picks an outfit for work (and balances looking good with being appropriate), why teaching students motivates her to look her best (“the kids can tell when you don’t put effort into looking your best”), inspiring girls without showing it all, promoting natural hair… and learning to love herself.
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What is your lifestyle like, as a teacher and a working mom?
Two words: Organized Chaos!
As soon as my feet hit the floor, I’m off to the races. No slowing down for me. I wake up at 4:30 to attend 5am boot camp. (This is new for me but who has time to work out in the evening?).
I drop the kid [my daughter] off to before care at her school by 7 so I can reach work by 7:30.
Class starts at 7:45. I teach all day…except for when I’m planning, grading, or eating the healthiest foods, and at 3pm I split!
I pick up the kid at 3:40 and make it home to feed her, sign her agenda book, and complete homework.
3 nights out of the week I’m taking her to dance. She’s on a competition dance team. She usually dances from 6-9 during the week.
Upon returning home, I send her off to shower, unpack lunches, and pick out our outfits (or approve hers) for the next day.
Your working mom style is always so you. How do you pick an outfit for work?
“Does this show my butt?”
That’s usually what I’m asking myself [when I pick an outfit]. I don’t want to dress like a grandma, but I don’t want my outfit to be so fly that it’s a distraction.
“Professional does not mean boring.”Crystal Johnson, on her non-boring working mom style.
My style is simple, youthful, urban chic.
I like to wear things that I won’t see three other people in but I also like to be comfy!
It’s important that my shoes have support because I’ve crossed the 30 mark and my body punishes me when I try to be too cute.
Oh yeah…earrings… I ALWAYS wear my earrings. The bigger the better.Crystal Johnson, on her working mom style
Also, the kids can tell when you don’t put effort into looking your best. I do it for me but I also do it for them:
I want [my students] to know they’re worth having the best me and that includes how I present myself.Crystal Johnson, on why working mom style matters for her students
I want my girls to know that you can slaaaay with all your body part covered. I’m also very churchy. I grew up in church and I tend not to wear things “in the world” that I wouldn’t wear around he old ladies at church.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m at my best. Tired. Exhausted. BUT when I look the part, I can’t help but to step it [my attitude] up. I can’t say that I always “dress up” [for work], but I am professional and I put effort into what I look like and how I present myself. I want to be taken seriously. Kids notice if you put effort into how you show up. You have to ask yourself, do you expect your students put effort into their work and show up being their best selves?? I’d say so.
You’re also a natural hair stylist & big into promoting natural hair love. Talk to me about how that ties into your style.
The nappier the happier.
I’m all about people being able to choose how they want to wear their hair
…but I hate the fact that sometimes black girls feel the need to wear European inspired weaves in order to be cute. It’s so unnecessary.
For me, I believe that black women relaxed their hair to make it more “manageable” and to conform to what society says is professional and acceptable. MY HAIR IS ACCEPTABLE. MY HAIR IS PROFESSIONAL. JUST THE WAY IT IS!!!
I want girls to feel empowered to walk out the house fierce and fly being who they are without all the modifications.– Crystal Johnson
I’m still learning to love me. It’s been a process.
If I can help someone get there a little faster than I was able to then I’m happy.
Photos courtesy Crystal Johnson. Find Crystal on Instagram here.