Thursday, 22 November 2012

Guest Post: Can you still be cool while being a parent? What makes a parent cool? How to be a cool parent. Advice for alternative parents.

Back in July, Natalie of Winter Love fame invited me to guest post on the topic of being a cool parent. What follows is reblogged from her brilliant website - follow this link to see the piece in it's original format.

Hello there, lovely to meet you. My name is Sandi Darling: military wife to the unbelievably babe-alicious Lee Savage, mother to a one year old chaos-agent named Hunter, and a Brisbane based blogger. I started Milk Eyes as a way of connecting with parents who continue to embrace their unique style, using their alternative point of view and streetwise skills to raise smart, savvy and above all, loved kids. I didn’t have much luck finding this in real life (beyond the few friends I had that had become parents before me) or online, so Milk Eyes became the method by which I created a space to keep connected with all the cool stuff going on in the world, as well as being a place for me to share my thoughts on the amazing transformations parenthood has brought to my life

If there is one thing Milk Eyes has opened my eyes to, it is that all over this amazing world there are mums and dads remaining in touch with the subcultures they love, even as so many other aspects of their lives change to accommodate their children. I’ve found so many new cool friends as a result, including the wonderful Natalie who is currently taking some time out to get acquainted with the newest addition to her family. How exciting for her- and for me because I get to use this opportunity to connect with you even as Natalie is connecting with her little one! When Natalie approached me to write a guest piece I asked her what to write about, and she suggested something along the lines of “why your style doesn’t need to change when you become a mother" or how to stay 'cool'. This is a good question, and I’m not entirely confident I’m qualified to answer it, but I can try.

Whatever your style, once you have a baby you have less time and money to spend on yourself. You may feel a little weird in your skin for a while, post pregnancy. You might also feel a little out of touch with the lifestyle you led pre-bub. Doubts start to lurk in your mind, unhelpful thoughts about what other people will think of you: If you dress the same as you before strangers will think you are a reckless bohemian, irresponsible or worse: a selfish individual who focuses on their own wants above the needs of their kids; if you 'normalise' your fashion sense your friends will think all the hype about ‘babies cramping your style’ is true and exclude you, or push the idea of having babies of their own even further down their ‘to do’ list. Being dictated to by your ideas about every ones else's expectations is an unenviable position, but the worst part about being trapped in the throws of that emotional turmoil is that you honestly don't know what other people are thinking- unless they outright tell you, it's all in your head. I once heard someone say you wouldn't be so concerned with what other people think about you if you realized how very little they actually do.  In other words, some of the reasons you have for abandoning the style that previously rocked your world are phantoms, imaginary barriers of your own construction that take more mental energy to maintain then they do to abandon. What a delicious, energizing revelation!

But what about when those insecurities are realised? Let me share with you a story.
When my son was a few weeks old I took him with me to the store to buy groceries- as you do. As I walked in to the store a middle aged woman muttered under her breath “they’ll let any freak breed these days”. I looked around, curious to see who she was referring to with such venom and spite, but there was no one else around. 

She meant me. 

I mean come on, me? I have a degree and part of multiple degrees, I won an academic scholarship to study at one of the state’s best schools, I donate to charity, buy Australian made, train my pets, eat healthily, avoid television, pay taxes, don’t litter- I even polish my shoes! She hadn’t just implied that I was a freak either- she implied that because of how I looked I was also unfit to be a parent. I was shocked. Sure I had pink hair and tattoos- but I wasn’t a bad parent by any stretch of the imagination. This complete stranger looked at what I was wearing and made a judgement call on the kind of person I was.
Suddenly I felt small and stupid. Perhaps she was right, maybe it was time I grew up. I bought brown hair dye and when I got home I packed up all but the most banal items in my wardrobe, crying as I filled garbage bag after garbage bag with clothes that hours before delighted me as I decided on what to wear. To make myself feel better I took some time out to cuddle my infant son. He woke in my arms and looked up at me with eyes full of love and trust. In that moment I realized that Hunter didn't care one speck about what I was wearing so long as he had a full tum, a clean bum and the love of his mum to sustain him. I began to feel foolish- I had let a complete stranger make me feel like a bad parent because of what I looked like. As I rehung my clothes I consoled myself with the knowledge that phantom powered people who judge others based on appearance alone (instead of the calibre of their actions) are small minded and mean spirited- exactly the kind of person I would avoid if given a choice.
Looking back at the experience I would say that it solidified in me the desire to fight for my right to be expressive. I fight by being a conscientious human being and an attentive loving parent. My choice of battle armour is whatever the hell I want to wear. My style doesn’t make me a bad parent- it makes me creative, unique, interesting, exuberant, joyful, expressive, stimulating and different- but none of these things are bad qualities. Being judgemental, small minded, abusive, spreading hatred and fear- these are qualities that would make me a bad parent- nay, human.

For some people staying cool is about maintaining wild hair, clothes and makeup; using the experiences that image brings as an opportunity to teach their kids about judgement, prejudice and acceptance. For others it is a choice to not hide their tattoos orremove their body piercings, proud of the personal significance these thingshave at a time when every other aspect of their life is shared with or abouttheir children. For others still these matters of style are superficial and easily discarded like the shell of oyster, knowing that the real meat of the issue is deeper inside. This type of parent knows that conspicuous consumption isn’t the only way to stay true to their roots, they keep engaged in the culture they love by other means. Irrespective of their personal style, all of the parents described above are cool because they are keeping their inner child alive and well, even as they foster that same vitality and enthusiasm for life in their own children.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that being a parent and maintaining your cool aren’t two mutually exclusive states of being. Many qualities that make someone stand out from the crowd are the very same qualities that would deeply enhance the emotional and social development of their children. Your style doesn't need to change at all once you become a parent- let your light burn brightly, the love you radiate will illuminate everything around you and banish those phantoms to the ever retreating shadows. Shine in the knowledge that you look fine and more importantly you are a very fine parent indeed. Your child will bask in the glow that radiates from you, their little face lighting up at your approach. 

Let it shine,
Sandi D.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Great advice, heartfelt words. Thank you!


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