the hard part

Are You a Silky Mom, a Crunchy Mom, or a Scrunchie Mom?

Photo-Illustration: the Cut; Photos Getty Images

Writer Amil Niazi’s monthly meditations on the highs and lows of parenting — and every feeling in between.

How do you identify as a parent? I’m some form of lapsed-hippie mom — I don’t ascribe to any specific philosophy, but I co-slept, at least attempted the cloth diapers, and I buy “organic” snacks, because I feel guilty when I don’t. On the other hand, I love watching TV with my kids, we’re not zealous about screen time, and my son is starting to know the McDonald’s menu a little too intimately. In TikTok parlance, I’m somewhere between a Crunchy Mom and a Silky Mom.

When I first became a mom, a lot of my good friends did too, so we got to transition into parenthood together. That meant not making any new parent friends right away, and my small, preestablished bubble didn’t require me to interrogate the type of parent I was or the type of parents I was hanging out with. Which makes it all the more exciting now that I’ve discovered — after yet another late-night TikTok scroll — a thriving world of parents on social media who are eager to define themselves as much by who they are as who they aren’t.

If on one end of the spectrum is the Crunchy Parent — the one who bought the aesthetic wooden toys and is still breastfeeding a preschooler, who tells everyone within earshot about their unmedicated birth — at the opposite end lives the Silky one. The Silky Parent buys the good, sugary snacks, eschews essential oils as a first line of medical treatment, and embraces screen time as a parenting tool. Consider the Silky Parent a long overdue corrective, or at least alternative, to other forms of parenting that seemed to dominate Facebook and parenting message boards in the last decade or so. It’s a natural conclusion after years of being told that there was a “right” way to be pregnant, give birth, and parent. Silky Parents are looking for something a little more messy and open to mistakes.

There’s a middle too. The Scrunchie Parent offers balance, a way to dip your toe in both worlds and take what you like from each, guilt-free, to pick and choose between “Trust your gut, Mama” and “You should really see a doctor about that.” If Gwyneth was the queen of the Crunchies, Julia Fox feels like she could rule the Scrunchies. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any celebrity equivalent of a Silky Mom, because inside every famous parent is an Almond Mom waiting to be rescued.

When I was a kid, the taxonomy of parents felt far more rigid and sparse. There were soccer moms, working parents, and the occasional hippie. While there was some overlap, for the most part, these were mutually exclusive. My own mom was a deeply tired working mom with hippie rising, gifting me a day planner in my early tweens that helped keep track of my moon cycle, which was especially helpful, because she was always at work. Even TV moms were one-dimensional — the spectrum was Maggie Seaver (a working mom ever struggling to balance career and family) to Carol Brady (devoted stay-at-home mom ever sacrificing her own needs for her family’s).

But by limiting the definition of motherhood, we elbow out the moms who don’t see themselves in more traditional representations of parenthood, leaving most of them feeling invisible. Now moms on TikTok are redrawing the boundaries of how they want to be seen and, as simplistic as it may seem, calling yourself a Silky or Scrunchie Mom is a goofy but easy way of broadening the definition of what parenting “should” look like.

Regardless of whether you choose to engage with these categories, the world is already deciding what kind of parent you are based on something as arbitrary as a passing glance at your snacks. Women in particular are scrutinized for every single choice we make as parents — and even the ones we don’t make. Every facet of motherhood is seemingly up for public debate, a judgment on how we stack up as people, and somehow it’s never good enough. You sleep-trained too soon, or maybe you shouldn’t have sleep-trained at all. You started solids too late or you weaned too early. You didn’t breastfeed enough or you breastfed too much. I was so hard on myself when I introduced formula with my first baby, because I was back to work full time when he was 9 months old and I couldn’t pump enough during the day to keep up with his feeding schedule. Then I felt picked apart by family and friends for continuing to breastfeed just past his 2nd birthday. I realized too late that the only boundary that existed was the one I’d made for myself.

By judging each other based on the rules someone else wrote, it’s easy to feel shamed. These labels — Crunchy, Silky, Scrunchie — offer an opportunity to shift those judgments, to position yourself as a parent on your own terms. By calling myself a Scrunchie Mom, I can reclaim how I’m perceived as a parent by owning and celebrating the parts of myself that would otherwise be seen as faults. Rather than failing as a Crunchy Parent, I’m thriving somewhere in the middle. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, so why not be the one who does the damning?

By taking ourselves less seriously, these lighthearted labels are more than just a way of explaining who we are. They’re permission to forgive ourselves first and find ourselves later — because it’s so easy to be full of self-recrimination when you’ve told yourself that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be. Be it Silky or Crunchy, telling our stories ultimately opens the door to a far richer understanding of the many facets of our own experiences — however you decide to hashtag yourself.

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Are You a Silky Mom, a Crunchy Mom, or a Scrunchie Mom?