For those urban chic mommies who detest the label of “soccer mom,” don’t despair. It isn’t a dirty word, after all. A soccer mom is a mom who is involved in their kids’ lives, and the trademark minivan just makes that easier. There is a bit of a darker connotation to the term, though. It has replaced the term “yuppie” in our cultural vocabulary. There are also a lot of expectations of moms nowadays, and a soccer mom is one who is always on top of everything, supposedly, who makes all the other “normal” moms look bad. Moms need an identity apart from their children’s activities and interests. We need to be there for the kids, but not at the expense of our own identities. So.. how do you avoid being a soccer mom, even if you drive the minivan?

Avoid the cookie-cutter label. Be yourself. Are you into couture? Flaunt those Choos. Do you like tattoos? Ink it up, baby. Are you an all-natural, organic eco-goddess? Be all you can be. The bottom line is, be yourself in all your glory. Tell your silly or corny jokes. Wear blue eye shadow (well, maybe). Don’t worry about what the other moms say about you: think about yourself, and your kids. Most kids would rather their moms be themselves than try to be some uptight, high-functioning, multi-tasking machine. Sure, they might be embarrassed a little if you show up to the PTA wearing Converse sneakers and a nose ring instead of a twinset, but in the future they’ll be glad you set the standard for them as individuals.

Set realistic expectations. Schools assign children mountains of homework and half of it requires mom-work, too. Dioramas, term papers, scale models, costumes, etc….it’s enough to drive someone crazy. Then, to make it worse, are all the extra-curricular activities, where if you don’t volunteer you feel like you’re being looked down upon. What is the answer? Be realistic with yourself and your time. Promising the moon if you can’t deliver it only makes you look bad in the end, and it disappoints others. So, analyze your time commitments and do what you can. Bring boxes of store-bought cookies to the fund-raiser bake sale if you were too busy working and playing with your kids to bake some yourself—and don’t feel guilty about it! So what if you can’t chair the school’s recycling drive? Collect your house and office recyclables and know that you did your part, and that’s more than many can say.

Join forces. You would be surprised how many other moms feel the same way you do. Check out the other ladies at the next parent-teacher conference, and you’ll see the envious, hopeless glances they all cast on each other. Guess what? They’re freaked out, too! Find a couple of other moms and band together: carpool each other’s kids, take turns bringing snacks, etc. One is the loneliest number, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Get rid of the bumper stickers and the Raffi CDs. Please. If you’re out and about, don’t let people cram you into a box because they see your “My kid kicked your kid’s butt…” bumper stickers. And no one, repeat, no one, can be cool with a console full of kiddie music. Reclaim your minivan. You’re the driver, after all!