I read an interesting article today about a young woman who was coming to grips with the change in her identity from cool single to a mom of three and the different appearance that seemed to be expected of these two roles.
She had just overheard a conversation where other moms were verbally dissecting another in their group who had made some “far too youthful and trendy” wardrobe choices and the author realized to her chagrin that she had made similar choices that day. She was afraid to get up from the table she was sitting behind until this group moved on.
She then compared herself to the Amy Poehler mother in the film “Mean Girls,” who was the “cool mom” and desperately tried to blend in with her teen daughter and their friends and the author was horrified that she might be guilty of the same faux pas. It was a cute article and a humorous way to highlight something very important to consider as your sons and daughters get older.
Management teaches us many things about appropriate behavior, dress, authority and how those things go together to reach desired results.
I never saw any reason those lessons would not apply to parenting, dealing with teachers, PTA, school authorities or anything else. Like it or not, you are perceived to have the authority and credibility you dress for, act like you have, and convey in your continuing behavior over time. This can work to your advantage or detriment and it is totally your choice.
What kind of mom or dad do you want to be?
- The kind of mom who dresses well and appropriately and keeps a respectful distance between herself and her sons or daughters and their friends so that they know that although she is friendly and supportive, she is also a parent and someone they can go to if they need help. Her daughters feel no competition from her in relationships but can confide in her and receive advice if they want it. Her sons know that anyone referring to her as a MILF or anything like that should feel embarrassed. She is an authentic mother figure, even though she may be very attractive and keep herself in great shape, she saves the sexy apparel for nights out on the town with her husband. The kind of dad who may have kept himself in great shape, but does not compete with his sons or make inappropriate remarks about women. He provides a great role model for his sons and daughters on how to age gracefully. They dress appropriately and also keep the authority that allows their children to respect and come to them for advice.
- OR…The kind of mom or dad who has set a high standard on appearances and is very concerned with being and acting youthful and keeping a “friendship” with their children. She will often share clothes with daughters (leading to very inappropriate wear for the moms) and he can over-compete athletically with his sons. They will sometimes encourage a relationship that their child may want to end because they really like the boyfriend or girlfriend. These parents are prone to reliving some of their high school or college days through their children. Since the children feel that their mom or dad is trying to be one of them, they do not feel like they have an adult to go to when they have a problem or things are tough. They just have another friend at home instead of a parent, and they already have enough friends, thank you very much. These parents can actually be dangerous because they can make inappropriate decisions when it comes to alcohol, drugs, or teen sex, all in the interest of keeping that “cool image” they want to maintain.
These are generalizations of course and not all parents fit totally into either category, but over the years, you will begin to identify some of these behaviors and tendencies. By middle school (or even fourth and fifth grade) your children will have figured out who the “cool parents” are and where they can get away with things (even seemingly innocuous activities like forbidden video games or movies). It will be up to you to ask questions, make your views and opinions known, and also make it very clear what the consequences are if you discover that they are breaking rules you have both agreed on by “just doing it at someone else’s house.”
A parent’s job is never to be the “cool” mom or dad unless it is something constructive like taking them for ice cream with their friends when they are young or for a special outing with friends for a special occasion when they are older.
You should always the “cool” mom or dad only because you are consistently there for them, supporting them, cheering for them, encouraging them, but always respectful of their separate lives. Those are the lasting “cool parents” who have respect and love for a lifetime and become beloved mentors and cherished grandparents instead of scorned “wannabes” who “never understood them.” It is not always the easiest path to take, but it is the one that is worth taking.