When I was working the other day, I needed to look up something in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. They often have fun, new, lingo popup ads, and I usually click on them. Today’s term was “Sanctimommy.” It means, “a mother who points out perceived faults in the parenting of others.”
Unfortunately, this definition conjured up a memory. Last summer, I brought flavored water pouches for all of the kids at a playground play date. My friend’s kids had never had them before, so I asked if it was OK to share them. She said something like, “I guess so. You see, we never have those. We just don’t need that kind of waste at our house.” Oh, snap.
No, none of my friends who are reading this made that comment, I promise. Stop the guilt. But it does bring up an interesting bunch of questions, one of which is this: Am I a sanctimommy? Probably sometimes, is the unfortunate answer. I am sure I have unthinkingly made comments about parenting differences that were “sanctimommy-ous.” Likewise, the water pouch comment burned my own britches a little. I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Oh, so I am wasteful, am I? How about thanking me for bringing something for everyone? Maybe next time I will bring a 2-liter of Red Bull to share with the kids instead. Grr.”
Then I did some second-guessing. Was I just being overly sensitive? Maybe. Is it terrible to bring flavored water when my younger child does not drink enough if I bring plain water? Are those plastic bags as bad as plastic bottles? I should research that. Am I getting an upbraiding that I deserved?
Maybe you are thinking, “Drink pouches? Well, no wonder!” But it happens with all kinds of things. “Wow, we never let Maddie climb trees. It’s so irresponsible to let her do something so dangerous.” Or the reverse: “All kids should climb trees. It’s unnatural to try and stop them!” With either of these comments, you get your point across, and in a way another parent is sure to remember. There is a fine line between enforcing boundaries and rules for our own kids, which is our right and responsibility, and implying judgment of anyone whose rules are different from ours. In the water pouch conversation, if she had said, “No, that’s OK, I brought water for my kids. I really love these BPA-free reusable bottles,” then I would not have thought twice about it. It wasn’t her preference that bugged me; it was the tone and the implied put-down. I have to say, it’s hard enough to stay positive in the midst of all these parenting challenges without having other moms drag you down.
So, let me say this to my mom friends to whom I have ever been sanctimommy-ous: You are doing a great job. You have wonderful kids that my kids love to play with. I am thankful for you and for what I have learned from you. Thanks for putting up with my imperfections and those of my kids. You are a good mom (or dad) whom I am lucky to have met!
Have you had a sanctimommy experience? Are you a sanctimommy yourself? We would love for you to share!