The Curse of the Sanctimommy

Mommy Sandwich - Week 2 my kids & me
Image by ~PhotograTree~ via Flickr

by- Lela Demeter

Most of the time, I think I am the world’s worst mother.  A good friend of mine told me that “jackets are the things God invented when mothers are cold.”  Yeah, well sometimes my kid doesn’t have a jacket and probably should.  Oh yeah, when my kid is whining, I am the mother that says, “Don’t sweat it, it will be okay.”  Yeah, baby talk doesn’t happen in my house and I have been known to watch the Bachelor in front of my kid and read excerpts from Wiseguy (the book that inspired the movie Goodfellas) aloud to my baby (hey, its reading and I only read the part about how to hijack airplanes).  In all seriousness, I know that I am not the perfect mom, but I put a lot of effort into trying to be as good as I can be.

Which is why it surprised me that I had a major sanctimommy moment.  If you have looked at any mommy blog, you will know that the sanctimommy is the mother who looks at another mom and either thinks or says something critical.  Like if you see a mom like me at the mall, and she is cursing the stroller because it has the audacity to adhere to the laws of physics and flip over because you have taken the equal weight of one side- your child and left weight on the other side- the diaper bag (this goes without saying that the diaper bag and child are approximately the same weight and considering my child is 20 pounds, this is a sad commentary on my packing issues), the sanctimommy makes a comment or thinks, “Man, what a disorganized mom, I feel sorry for that kid.”

I used to think that I was so scattered that I would never have a sanctimommy moment – but I did.  Picture this, my husband and I are doing one of the many truck shows that he takes (ahem, drags) me to.  Of course we have our baby, our junior mint, with us, because we have to start our boy young. Anyway, I look over and this girl (at least 10 years younger than me) is holding a tiny baby.  He is five months old and my husband and I are staring in disbelief because there is no way that our sprout was this little at five months.  Now, its about 55 degrees outside and while balmy for Chicago, I have our boy bundled up in jeans, a shirt, thick socks, a thick fleece sweatshirt, in the stroller, under a blanket and with protective ear wear.  This other little baby – t-shirt, blanket, no socks and no hat.

Now, I immediately go into Sanctimommy mode – this poor child must be saved.  And all of these thoughts go running though my head – low birth weight – obviously this girl wasn’t taking care of herself.  No clothes- and I notice the baby has blue hands.  And all of these thoughts fly through my brain and then I begin to look around.  It seems like my kid is the only one bundled up like we are going to compete in the Iditarod.  Further, everyone else is having fun and I am the one scowling at my husband that we are out past the baby’s bedtime even though the baby is peacefully sleeping 100 feet from the trucks (that I, of course, thought we were sitting too close to – what if one drove into us?).  Then I look at the girl and the baby.  She is holding him up and smiling at him – when she is not wrapping the baby tight in the blanket close to her.  And then she spent five minutes chatting with some friends and she left.  Total cold exposure for baby = about 10 minutes.

Stylish diaper bag
Image by eugene via Flickr

Such is the curse of the sanctimommy.  Sometimes we are just so worried about doing right by our own children and are so hypersensitive about how our own parenting is perceived by others that we sometimes can feel better or sanctimonious just because we need to feel as though we are doing a good enough job. In the working world, we perceive our job performance by praise or raises.  In the parenting world, we don’t get that feedback at all – everything we do is guesswork on a good day.  By the time we can see the fruits of our labor, i.e. well adjusted kids, we have enough life experience to realize that sometimes the best you’ve got is all that matters. Now, the next time I go out, instead of looking to see if I am the best mommy there, I will go back to what I like to do – eyeing up the other baby gear that the moms have and coveting it.

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