The worst thing you could have called me at 18 was a conformist. It was the mid-’90s, when I, like every other “alternative” girl, costumed myself in Doc Martens, little girl barrettes, and slip dresses. To complete the look? Rainbow locks curtesy of Manic Panic hair dye. I didn’t realize that in an effort to be unique, I was expressing my individuality in the same way everyone else was.
Twenty years later, I’ve given my life over to the comforts of being a conformist. Why the 180? Because I’m a parent. When you have children, caring for them, being with them, feeding them, bathing them — everything takes time. And while I used to love falling down rabbit holes of researching, I can only do so many things with my time. And at this point, I’d rather do other things, like sleep.
Sure, I could go to websites, read reviews, and talk to salespeople, but if my cousin has already done that and chosen a booster seat for her daughter, why would I bother doing my own research when I can take advantage of hers?
Before I had a stroller, I asked my friends what they used. Oh, the orange City Mini? If it was good enough for them, it was good enough for me. I even bought my car because I knew a lot of people with Honda CRVs and hey, they liked it enough; I probably would too. Most people I knew chose silver…guess what color my car is.
It’s crowdsourcing. All I have to do is write a Facebook status or post on a message board, and I get a dozen or two suggestions.
I buy the same food my friends do. Your cabinet is filled with Annie’s macaroni and cheese? So is mine! My children have the same toys as other children. A mountain of Melissa & Doug? Of course! We even read the same books. Sandra Boynton is the greatest, isn’t she?
Of course, some things work for my kids that don’t work for my friends’ and vice versa, but for the most part, we buy the same things because we need the same things. We all need strollers, car seats, clothes, shoes. We give each other advice on bottles and books. And we tell each other what we don’t need. A wipe warmer? No thank you. A pee-pee teepee? Now you’re just trying to spend money.
I have to admit, conforming isn’t just easier — it’s comforting. The world of parenting is full of questions but has no answers. Afraid of screwing up our children, we constantly wonder if we’re doing the right thing. By doing something someone else has tried first, you at least know that the path has been forged and it’s not too strange.
I don’t need to be a special snowflake anymore. Of course, I want to express myself. A natural brunette, I pretend to be a redhead (although I’ve moved on to real hair color instead of the vibrant hues of the towel-staining Manic Panic). I don’t want to disappear into the cookie-cutout suburban life, but I can be my own person and still use the same baby walker as my friend.
There’s nothing inherently right about making things harder for yourself. You don’t win an award or a prize for swimming against the current. I never thought I’d love being a conformist, but then again, I never thought I’d be a suburban stay-at-home mom. Fresh out of college in the Midwest, I moved to New York City. With stars in my eyes, I was convinced I would conquer the world. That (obviously) didn’t happen, but something great did — I got married and had two beautiful children.
As I’ve gotten older, my definition of success has changed. I no longer need to be the center of attention, commanding a room. I no longer yearn for fame. Instead, I want my children to be safe, happy, and healthy. One way I do that is by giving in to the conforming aspect of parenthood.
Now that I’m a parent, I’m a conformist. And I’m more and more comfortable with the label — in fact, I embrace it — as life goes on.