The Kids Are Alright: Meet the gothic mums defying parental expectations

Move over Morticia and Gomez – these gothic parents are raising a new generation of Wednesdays and Pugsleys, and they don’t care what judgements people around them may have…

The Kids Are Alright: Meet the gothic mums defying parental expectations
Rachel Roberts
All photos provided by the families

Are the ‘rawr-ing 20s’ truly in full swing? Just look around you: some of your all-time favourite bands are having a resurgence, there are new festivals dedicated entirely to nu-metal, emo and scene music, and Wednesday Addams is the new ‘it girl’.

We might only be three years in, but this decade is already rife with alternative culture on our screens, stages and beyond. Despite this perceived acceptance and mainstreamification of the alt. lifestyle however, a lot of people still don’t quite understand it.

One thing that folks are particularly baffled by is the idea of gothic parents. With parenthood often seen as a period of 'settling down', people often imagine a mother or father figure as someone who has somehow softened themselves to allow children into their lives. But not everyone feels the need to make such a significant change.

“I’m a sensitive person and most aesthetics feel like an assault on my senses,” Jamila Marriot tells us, an actress and model who shares her alt. parenting journey on TikTok under @jamilamarriott. She found that gothic styles gave her the most comfort to be authentically herself.

The sense of belonging Jamila found in the community has allowed her to explore the unconventional, and has made her a parent who thinks more freely. “My gothic persuasion has led to my connection with spirituality and witchcraft. It has helped me to feel comfortable following my desire to do things that are unconventional in the wider society,” she explains.

But when you don’t conform to society’s perceived notions of normality, and how a mum ‘should’ behave, you’re bound to draw in a lot of attention, and a lot of unwarranted feedback.

After going viral on TikTok for video skits she made with her daughter – now known online as ‘Gothic Baby’ – Reby Hardy knows a thing or two about the ups and downs of motherhood when you don’t fit society’s typical bill of a mother.

Having grown up in an apartment filled with antiques and old art, Reby fell in love with all things baroque, Victorian and macabre. She thought the all-white nursery she'd designed for her three sons prior to having her daughter Ever Moore was “boring”, but felt it was something she just had to do as a mum under the expectations of society. “The current, gothic nursery makes a lot more sense when you look at the rest of my home, and to be honest, it looks a lot less menacing in person,” she says.

The nursery, featured on many of Reby’s viral videos, is an all-black haven (minus the odd orange accent here and there) with a Victorian fireplace, and a large, tomb-esque mahogany crib. It’s packed with all things weird and wonderful – even a gothic tea party table and countdown clock to Halloween.

But with such quirky homes and out-of-the-ordinary style, most alt. parents have found themselves having to defend their choices on more than one occasion.

“I’ve only been a parent for four months now,” Karen Noria tells us, (known as @gothferatu on TikTok and Instagram). “I get a lot of people who are very harsh, including family members who’ve said to me, ‘Now that you're a mom are you going to stop dressing like that? You have to dress like a mom now.’ It’s like asking me to not be me anymore. I refuse to teach my child that others decide who you get to be.”

Horror novelist Emma Murray has even had parents prevent their children playing with her daughter due to her style. “I live in a relatively liberal city, so I don’t get too many side-eyed looks,” she begins. “[Though] a comment that hurt was when a mother wouldn’t let her child play with mine, and told me I should ‘be ashamed to go in public like that’.

“I don’t care if someone doesn’t like the way I dress or what I do, but when they punish my daughter by keeping their child from being her friend just because of who I am, that can be painful.”

On a much larger scale, Reby found herself being criticised on UK panel show Loose Women last December. Although she “trolled” her way through responding to their remarks that her alternative lifestyle was “toxic”, Reby says the comments made were hurtful.

“It really blew my mind and irritated the hell out of me,” she admits. “Mom-shaming is universal, but I feel like the alt. moms of the world could really relate to getting unnecessary and uneducated feedback.”

After the Loose Women episode aired, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation released a statement in support of Reby, and she has since donated money to the cause in return.

“I kept seeing Sophie Lancaster’s name being brought up in my comments, and my heart broke every time she was mentioned because that could have been my baby. That could have been me. That could have been any one of us,” she says. “I can’t imagine what her family has gone through.”

But as the gothic identity infiltrates the cultural zeitgeist, will this level of hatred and misunderstanding begin to shift? It seems most goth parents are divided.

“I think it will only make people accept goths on a superficial level. It's almost fetishising, like people liking you as a concept but not wanting to see your full personhood,” says Jamila.

Karen mostly agrees. “I think [Netflix show] Wednesday is great. With that being said, I think it can sometimes shed the wrong kind of light on gothic families… They expect our family dynamic to be ‘spooky and kooky’.”

“To me, the more the merrier!” Emma smiles. “I would love it if everyone could dress and present themselves however they wished without worrying about societal backlash.”

“Mostly I’m just thrilled at being able to find more mass-produced gothic themed decor,” Reby jokes, but understands why those of us who grew up being picked on for the way we dress might be a little defensive that our former bullies now find our style cool.

“I’ve seen more gatekeeping than acceptance of the recent popularisation of the goth aesthetic from the goth community, at least online, but I think that comes from the ‘outsider’ mentality. Like, ‘This is ours, we got so much shit for it and now it’s trendy?!’” she explains. “I understand it. But personally, I think it’s great because there’s less of an uphill battle to fight when it comes to inaccurate misconceptions about goth culture and a general ignorance about the people in it.”

Despite the occasional gatekeeper-y comment or passed judgement, Reby has found immense joy in documenting her daughter’s early years in such a creative way. Their family as a whole appreciates all things rocky and obscure, and she says that Ever Moore’s brothers are so proud of their quirky sister.

Some kids just adore a skeleton toy as much as a Barbie doll, and Emma’s daughter is already asking when Halloween will come again. “I love how my daughter isn’t scared of anyone because of their appearance, whether it’s how they dress, their piercings or tattoos, or anything about them,” she beams. “I already see that she waits to judge people based on how they act, not how they look.”

Perhaps a lot of people could learn from children like Emma’s. Prejudice is most definitely taught.

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