I cradled my baby’s head gently in one hand and shifted the weight of her newborn body into my friend’s arms. “She started rolling on her side yesterday! It’s amazing. I can’t believe she’s doing it already. And she slept seven hours last night.”
I realized I’m gushing and stop abruptly, heat creeping up my cheeks. “But I know that’s all pretty boring,” I smile nervously and adopt a forced sarcastic tone. “We new parents always think our kid’s winning the baby Olympics, right?”
I wouldn’t have added that caveat or thought twice about my new-parent enthusiasm if it hadn’t been for a different visitor’s comment the day before. I felt painfully self-aware in my fresh role as a mother, and even off-hand remarks could dig deep into my newfound insecurities and nest there in my budding postpartum anxiety. In response to a similar moment of play-by-play about my baby’s accomplishments, this guest had laughed and said, “I always think it’s funny how new parents go on and on bragging about their babies. They’re not doing anything at all at this age, but new moms just go crazy.”
It wasn’t meant to hurt me, but it stung anyway and made me feel, well, crazy. Suddenly my postpartum cocoon of no makeup and nursing sessions looked awfully dingy—I guess I needed to get out more. How nuts did I look to the outside world, hair in tangles, spit-up stains on my stretched out shirt, recording wet and poopy diapers as they happened? The biggest announcements I had to share were about an infant’s nap routine and the new nipple cream working wonders for me.
By the time my friend started to respond, I’d already been down my spiral of self-doubt and back.
“It’s your job to be impressed,” she said, turning to look into my eyes. “Too many kids don’t have someone cheering them on and amazed at every little thing you do. You keep doing that. It’s your job.”
Her words rang in my ears for a while before sinking in. Whoa. Stop a beat. It’s my job. It’s my job. What a liberating thought—I can be a gushing, love-sick, impressed-at-nothing mom over my kids because it’s my job.
This simple concept has become the basis for a mothering philosophy that has served me well. It has helped me understand and embrace the glaringly uncool ethos of mom. No one’s looking to parents for their tips on what’s cool—we’re the definition of not cool. It’s not just our dad bods and our mom hair and our musical tastes. In fact, I don’t think it’s any of those style markers that epitomize our lack of chill. It’s our unreserved love for our kids that starts the uncool train.
Here’s the thing: coolness requires detachedness. Coolness requires that you could not care less. Coolness whips its effortlessly perfect hairdo around, buys craft coffee, doesn’t fangirl, stays chill, doesn’t love anything enough to compromise style points for it. Parenthood shakes this coolness right out of us because we’re suddenly the nerd in middle school who loves something so much we don’t care if everyone knows it.
Geeks are geeks because they love—unreservedly—books, games, A/V club, or drama enough that they’ll watch trends pass without ever changing out of their Tolkien cosplay gear. Parents are geeks because we love our kids so dang much we’ll sacrifice the money we used to spend on new clothes for the privilege of cheering on our offspring in a pee-wee soccer game. We’ll sit in the stands of a stuffy gym losing our minds over a five-year-old in a leotard. Fellow moms, you know it: we have no chill. And it’s because we can’t help the crazy, intense love we feel for our kids.
That’s why I’ve learned to tune out the little bit of shame I sometimes feel and embrace the silly, uncool ethos of motherhood. There are many opinions about how I should parent, but a particularly insidious one is that I should chill out with all the love. It’s the one that says, Just please stop talking about your kid, we get it, you think they’re amazing. It’s the idea that I should someone stop sacrificing for my kids because—hello—they’re not even that talented or special. It’s the mindset that rolls its eyes while I film first steps and treasure preschool finger paintings.
I get it. First steps aren’t all that unusual. My preschooler’s finger paintings are objectively unimpressive. But hitting record and tucking away poorly-drawn rainbows? It’s my job.
There’s an entire school of thought that will tell you to stop working so hard for your kids. It’ll encourage you to lock them in the backyard and to keep their egos small by reserving your praise. It’ll tell you modern parents are too permissive, too focused on our kids’ feelings, too loving. Stick to the basics, they’ll say. Don’t spend all that money or time or energy. Stay cool, moms. Get a little chill.
But don’t we all need a mom in our corner? Someone who thinks we’re all that and a bag of chips? Our real job is to be our kids’ advocates, to find them amazing for being only themselves. To be captivated by their personalities, enthralled with their faces, to sign up for the titles of head cheerleader and coach and tutor and advocate and friend and mentor and a few hundred others. This isn’t over-parenting; this isn’t spoiling or pampering our kids; this is what each and every one of us needs—someone who loves us unconditionally. It’s our job.
It isn’t cool to be the unreserved mom cheering in the bleachers. It isn’t cool to stay home with your kids or rush to daycare pickup after work instead of happy hour. It isn’t cool to trade Friday evening beers for bedtime stories and fleece pajamas. Sacrificing for your kids—doing your darnedest to provide them with a safe and loving home life—isn’t cool.
But too many kids don’t get that kind of love in their lives. Next time someone’s comment makes you feel like your cheerleading and advocating for your children is hopelessly uncool, put on your geeky glasses, pull out your pom-poms, and smile. Because of course we’re uncool.
It’s our job.