Step aside sanctimommy
People talk a lot about the competitive side of parenting but, Casey McPike points out, it also brings us together.
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 also helps me to feel connected to the world on days when I don’t see any other adults. The digital world 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.
‘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, breastfeeding on demand, and practising 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 (okay, 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. 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 20 year’s obstetric experience, to question me, a first-time mother with a solid six hours of Googling under her belt?
Common sense prevailed, and baby number one 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!”
Support, humour, and a space to vent make up the best parts of the online world for parents. Pregnancy and childrearing are minefields, and we can all learn a lot from each other through sharing experiences and solicited advice. 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 okay. 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.