Unconventional moms break the traditional roles of motherhood, but that doesn’t mean they don’t make excellent mothers. My own mom dabbled on the side of the unconventional mostly because she was ahead of her time. I didn’t realize this until I got older and became a mother myself, which is probably why I turned out the way I did. I became “that mom” — the one who wears the weird shirts and the cool shoes, the one the kids want to talk to, and the one “who let her daughter dye her hair pink.”
Being unconventional doesn’t mean you break with all tradition. In fact, we grew up with several traditions, especially around holiday time. My mom and I still appreciate and pass along things like etiquette and good manners to our children. We insist on thank-you notes and shaking hands and giving up seats for elderly. My parenting is unconventional in part due to my upbringing, my reaction to the cards I’ve been dealt, and the choices my husband and I have made because both of our children have congenital and chronic illnesses. We want to give our children ample opportunities to make choices, to make mistakes, and to make their lives great — which is the goal of every parent. I know I’m unconventional in my parenting, but I’m okay with being a bit outside the box.
Wondering if your mom is unconventional? Here’s a list of qualities to look for.
1. She doesn’t expect perfection.
This is a big deal. We live in a world where everyone has to win and everything has to be the best. Of course she hopes you’ll succeed and she’ll be your biggest cheerleader, she just won’t push you to win, win, win at any cost. You don’t have to be the best. You just have to be you, and that’s good enough for her.
2. She lets you experiment.
Life is an adventure. You have to stick your neck out a little. You have to experiment. Sometimes the results are good, sometimes not so good. Like the time you poured dish soap in the jacuzzi to make bubbles and ended up with a foamy disaster. Or the time you thought you’d test your independence that first time your parents went out of town and, well, you know the rest. But experimenting also gave you the courage, skills, and knowledge you still use to this day. You can thank your unconventional mom for that freedom.
3. She looks pretty in party dresses, but can still rock graphic tee’s and Chuck Taylor’s.
Her sense of style may not fit the usual “Mom” mold, and maybe she teeters on the embarrassing side, but like it or not, her unconventional fashion is no statement at all. It’s just her being her, and that in itself is a statement you should be proud of. What’s she’s doing is raising you to like yourself and be proud of yourself (to borrow a phrase from Bridget Jones’s Diary) “just as you are.” I’m proud of my collection of high-tops and retro t-shirts, but love to put on the fancy stuff too.
4. She’ll never be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. Or maybe she will, simply because it’s hot outside and you’re both hungry.
The point I’m trying to make is that she’s no stereotype. If she’s doing anything that fits a mold, it’s probably an accident or because she’s choosing it for another reason — that reason is usually you. She loves you and no matter what she does, against the grain or not, you’re her priority.
5. She’s not afraid to pursue her passion.
Yes, you’re her priority, but she’s not afraid to go for an opportunity in life. She’s just really good at making it all work out. Though your schedule may look like someone dropped ink on a checkerboard, be sure your mom’s got it (or at least, really good at pretending to have it) under control. My mom was a registered nurse who did the night shift to make it work for us. With three kids, our calendar looked like the cat threw up on it.
6. She lets you dye your hair, get piercings, or dress differently.
Though this isn’t always the case, unconventional moms are usually way more lenient in the “get your freak on” department. This is especially good for teens exploring their inner selves. My mom didn’t love it, but she didn’t ground me for life when I graduated high school with purple hair.
7. She talks to you about the taboo stuff.
That’s right — I mean the stuff other parents don’t want to talk about. Sex, drugs, alcohol, STDs, birth-control, whatever. She’s so willing to talk about it that your friends come to her for advice. It’s almost embarrassing, but it’s also cool at the same time. It’s better to talk to Mom than to Google. Trust me, you get all kinds of weird YouTube videos and then viruses and it’s all downhill from there.
8. She not only listens to you, she hears you.
It’s great that you and your friends can talk to your unconventional mom about the taboo stuff, but what’s better is that she’ll actually listen to you. She doesn’t try to force her opinion down your throat. She doesn’t instantly judge you or try to change your mind. She hears you and then helps you figure out what you need from her.
9. She wants you to fail.
Read carefully: She wants you to fail. She doesn’t want you to be a failure. Failing is okay because you can learn from it. She wants you to use that moment as a tool. She wants you to improve and grow from that situation. Like the time I failed organic chemistry in college. Mom was right — I learned from that experience and even changed my direction in life thanks to that one failure.
10. She doesn’t believe in doing things “by the book.”
That’s because she wants to frustrate the hell out of you. Because doing it the normal way is boring. Because you need to figure it out for yourself. Yada yada. Whatever her reasoning is, you’ll appreciate it in the long run. Especially when you get to college and get thrown into group projects and have to use your own brain to think outside the box. All that experience fending for yourself will come in handy.
11. She doesn’t gossip.
She won’t sit around the coffee shop talking about other moms or kids.
12. She doesn’t need money.
We’ve been rich, we’ve been poor. Mom found ways to make life cool either way.
13. She loves you differently from your siblings.
Say what you will, but it’s true. Unconventional moms have different relationships with each child and aren’t afraid to admit it. It’s not that they love one more than the other, it’s that they’re comfortable loving each child in his or her own unique way. Just because my brother gets a day with my mom doesn’t mean I have to get a day with her. Her gift to me might be something else.
14. She loves you unconditionally.
No matter what you say or do, unconventional moms love their children… to Venus and back. (You didn’t expect me to go all traditional now, did you?)
Featured photo credit: anton petukhov via flickr.com