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Odd Mom Out: In Defense of Nerdy Parents

Posted on September 14 2010 1:00 pm
Suzanne Venker, a.k.a. "No Bull Mom," is an author, blogger, and speaker. You can find her at

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I wish I could bottle up all the parents I know who raise their children the way my husband and I raise ours and live together in one giant community. Like the Amish do. Or polygamists do (minus the polygamy). If we did, parenting would be so much easier — and infinitely more fun.

I haven’t always needed a homogeneous environment to be content. Despite my Protestant, white-collar Midwestern background, I spent a decade living in Boston and New York. There, I worked or lived amongst (and with) black, Jewish, blue-collar, and gay Americans. I taught in almost every variety of school, and I used to chat it up pretty regularly with a homeless Rastafarian who hung out below an apartment I once occupied.

Today I live in a city-like Midwestern suburb, rather than a suburban bubble. I like my local 7-Eleven and the everyday guys down at the body shop. They’re smart, traditional-minded folks: FOX news is plastered on the corner wall of their waiting room and a copy of the Holy Bible sits on the table next to Popular Mechanic.

So no, I’ve never had any particular need to stick with my own kind. But being a mother in the 21st century has left me little choice in the matter.

I’m not suggesting all parents need to do all things the exact same way — naturally, the dynamics and likes/interests/personalities of families differ. I only mean that parenting in America has become a bona fide obstacle course, where moms and dads routinely fight a culture that does not have their children’s best interests at heart.

In her excellent book, Bringing Up Geeks, author Marybeth Hicks highlights this phenomenon. In the opening pages of the book, she describes a conversation she had with an average, run-of-the-mill, 21st century mom.

I’m standing in a circle of mothers, chatting about — what else? — our kids. At some point in the conversation I admitted that my children are geeks. I said this to be funny, but it’s true. My kids know it. Most everyone who knows us knows it. And we’re okay with that. But one mom in the circle was shocked. ‘Oh, noooooo,’ she comforted me. ‘Your kids are very popular! Reeeally. Why would you say such a thing?

Hicks explains to the mother that she likes and is proud of the fact that her kids are geeks (a term she uses caustically and defines as “genuine, enthusiastic, empowered kids”), but the other mother insisted that Hicks’s kids are not geeks. This exchange signifies a deeply rooted modern phenomenon: the desire of today’s parents not to parent their children but to befriend them — and make sure everyone else does, too.

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