I came across something mildly irritating this morning. (Clearly it was not mild enough for me to simply ignore it.) It was an “article” about “cool moms” and how Millennial moms are making motherhood look hip. Or something like that. Certainly, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. But the pictures included in the article appear to mostly consist of a bunch of well-to-do White women, some of which are celebrities, and whose life experiences are probably a far cry from the average woman who would be considered a “Millennial mom.” And I won’t even get into the incredible lack of diversity depicted in the article – especially in terms of race, and social and economic class.
Now it’s probably not the article in and of itself that has left a bad taste in my mouth – it’s fairly harmless – but the whole notion of “cool mom” as a category. I can’t imagine the “cool mom” phenomenon is restricted only to Millennial moms. But it is also highly doubtful too that it has existed across all time and space. My best guess is the modern-day cool mom as we’ve come to know her, is a product of twentieth century popular culture, especially coinciding with the rise of television. The sexual revolution and the women’s rights movements of the 50’s and 60’s and onwards, also likely played their role in defining this identity.
Now with the advent of social media, the cool mom is depicted as a woman who is cutesy, and fashionable, and probably “has it all” while also raising kids. She manages her kids meals, playtime, nap time, etc. while looking spectacular with not so much as a stain on her clothes, all curated and shared under perfect Instagram filters. I imagine that when her kids get older, she is the same mom who lets her kids drink (irresponsibly), doesn’t mind if her kids treat her more like a friend than their mother, and believes in limited discipline if any at all, for kids in general. (Or some other new-age child-rearing philosophy that amounts to the rest of the world having to eventually deal with adults, who clearly didn’t receive enough home training as kids.) She manages to be simultaneously a helicopter parent as well as “laid back and cool.”
Cool moms in this day and age make motherhood look easy and fun, (without any of the hard work and sacrifice that comes with it.) And every mother these days should aspire to be one, right? I hope not. And If so, gag me.
I don’t have a “cool” mom. Don’t get me wrong, I often call my mother (Dr. Mom, Dr. Mama Biaks, etc.) a bad-ass. She (along with my dad) raised five kids while getting all the degrees (Bachelors, Masters, and a PhD), and is one of the most hardest working people I’ve ever known. Most importantly, she is kind, generous, and truly good-hearted. Indeed she is also effortlessly beautiful on the outside, and you’d have a hard time not finding her looking her very best outside of the home – that’s a cultural thing I suppose. And hell yes, I’m going to fawn over her because she is my mother. But my mom is not “cool.”
Growing up, I thought my mom was strict. (Most African and especially Nigerian parents are.) My mom was strict about how I presented myself in dress, what I ate, who I spent time with, and what I did with my own free time. Some Americans might refer to her as a “tiger mom” but in many ways that is what many people in many cultures simply call “parenting.” And even though comparatively to the Nigerian culture I identify with, I would consider my parents fairly “chill,” discipline and obedience are the name of the game in parent-child relationships where I’m from. Not being cool, or being your child’s friend. And although I often refer to my mom as my friend now – it took getting into adulthood to understand what that ought to mean. Make no mistake about it – that lady still has the right to discipline me, even in all the glories of adulthood. And I would be a better person for it.
So what was having a not-cool mom like? It was awful sometimes. She wouldn’t let me perm my hair because of the harmful chemicals for the longest time – like all the other girls. I was definitely not staying out late anywhere. If I was spending time at a friend’s place, their family history from about two or three generations had to be made known. And if I had any serious interested high school prospects as per dating (I did not), I’m sure I would have got more lectures on boys than I would have ever wanted. And all of them would have ended with the classic Nigerian parent pidgin saying, “Don’t follow boyfriend. Follow your books.” I don’t need to translate that, do I? (Although by the time you’re 25, many parents will also start asking when you’re getting married. Side note: Thanks for not doing that to me mom.)
Anyway, while all of this led to some temporary humiliations and insecurities because I didn’t understand what my mother was trying to do, I’d say I escaped my teenage years mostly with a good head on my shoulders. Which is really, I think, all mothers really want. My non-cool mom taught me and showed me the most important aspects of being a person, and especially being a woman. Some of these include discipline, hard work, trying to create a self you like, standing for what you believe in, and funny enough, not worrying too much about whether people think you’re cool or not. It’s more important to be you know, honest and kind. While I imagine the two are not mutually exclusive – being cool and having these more substantive qualities – what we prize in any mother or any parent speaks volumes of us individually and culturally.
I don’t have a child and I won’t for a while. But from what I have seen, motherhood looks like a whole lot of labor – a labor of love – but labor nonetheless. It involves more sacrifice than most mothers would probably even admit. To add the dynamic of aspiring to be a “cool” one, seems a little, I don’t know, trite? Either way, if and when I do become a mother, I hope to be very much like my mom – not cool. But maybe everything else.
And to my dear mother: Keep being not cool. I know you just got a Facebook. But please stop there. No Twitter, promise? Oh, and I love you. Especially the non-cool parts of you. Because they are very much the reason for the best parts of me.