Not only does the Internet offer up things that make me laugh and give me the opportunity to see what complete strangers are doing with their lives and décor, it helps me feel connected to the world on days when I don’t see any other adults. The Internet has also introduced me to the concept of the ‘Sanctimommy’.
A sensational mash-up of the words ‘Sanctimonious’ and ‘Mommy’, a Sanctimommy exists to tell the rest of us exactly when and how we’re screwing up parenting, without sparing our mediocre mothering feelings.
Let’s say you entered a picture of your family enjoying a picnic at the beach for an online competition. “Oh cute”, chimes in the Sanctimommy, “but I can see a bottle of bought sunscreen on the blanket there – it blows my mind that people rub toxic chemicals on their precious baby’s skin. I make my own from organic oils. It’s time consuming, but I actually love my children so it’s worth the effort. Those sandwiches are clearly made from refined flour – are they even homemade?” Suddenly, your happy family snap has become a metaphor for your failings as a parent.
In the same way that my grandfather used to listen to talk back radio just to wind himself up, I often find myself reading comments’ sections in the full knowledge that I’m just going to get all huffy and nostril-flarey about the outpouring of judgement from mothers who think they know best. Sometimes, ignoring the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” advice I dish out to my kids, I’ll even bash out a snarky and defensive comment in retaliation. I’m not alone in getting my hackles up – one clever mother has devoted an entire Facebook page to rolling her eyes at Sanctimommy chatter.
‘Attachment Parenting’ seems to be a hot button for many a Sanctimommy. Strict followers of the movement uphold that attachment concepts such as baby-wearing, co-sleeping, breast-feeding on demand, and practicing positive discipline will result in children who are more secure and empathetic than their counterparts. Some followers believe in it so strongly that they form mothers’ groups only open to women who adhere to the attachment guidelines (ok, I get it, I often like to surround myself with like-minded people), and seem to revel in shaming mothers who don’t in online forums, suggesting that they obviously don’t love their babies as much as attachment parents do (yeah, that’s where they lose me, too).
I dabbled in a bit of Attachment Parenting myself. Not from any position of moral superiority, but because I had a noisy little baby who seemed insatiably hungry and would not sleep unless she was carried, and a toddler who wanted to get out and do stuff. The front pack became our best friend as I sashayed into my role of Baby Wearer. The baby slept in our room in a Moses basket, purely so she didn’t wake the entire household when she woke every 45 minutes demanding to be fed. I was an Accidental Attachment Parent, and it worked for us for a while. I’d like to say I also strictly followed the “positive discipline” angle, but somehow I don’t think “please do what I’m asking so I don’t lose my mind for the 47th time today” is quite the positivity Attachment Parenting is gunning for.
A sore back, sciatica, exhaustion, and nipples that were in danger of looking like the thumbs of a cross-eyed builder all indicated that perhaps Attachment Parenting wasn’t for me. The Sanctimommies peppering my online research into how to break out of attachment revealed that perhaps I was just a crap parent. Fortunately, I was immune to the wrath of their judgement, having been fully inoculated against it whilst researching caesarean deliveries before my first baby was born. Terrified by the tales of surgical complications, babies that wouldn’t bond with their mothers, and the surety that I would be less of a woman if I didn’t welcome a baby into the world via my lady-parts, I asked my obstetrician to reconsider his caesarean recommendation. Who did he think he was, a doctor with a mere twenty-year’s obstetric experience, to question me, a first time mother with a solid six hours of Googling under her belt?
Commonsense prevailed, and baby #1 was born via caesarean with her collarbone intact. She still seems to love me just fine, and I’ve never heard her say “I’m throwing this tantrum as a direct result of the fact that I came out the sunroof instead of the door!” By the time I was pregnant with #2, I was Team C-Section all the way. Both my caesareans were medically necessary, but – get your pitchforks ready now, Sanctimommies – I’d have one again even if it wasn’t. Because it worked for our family. Am I scathing of those who birthed naturally? Hell no! I tip my hat to you all.
Support, humour, and a space to vent make up the best parts of the online world for parents. Pregnancy and child rearing are minefields, and we can all learn a lot from each other through sharing experiences and solicited advice. What the Sanctimommy seems incapable of understanding is that there is no one definitive correct way to parent. Different approaches work for different people, and so long as no child (or mother!) is being put in harm’s way, then that’s ok. You over there with your dolphin assisted birthing and paleo cupcakes, well, you do you, and I’ll do me. I may even check out your blog sometime and attempt to make your buckwheat pikelets.
Originally in the Summer 2017 edition of Little Treasures Magazine