By Melissa Stefanec
A few weeks ago, I convinced myself my children were playing together nicely enough for me to sneak in potty break. During these glorious and uninterrupted 37 seconds, I came across a parenting article that was about sanctimommies. Because I’m only half as hip as I think I am, I wasn’t sure what this term meant. A week later (which was coincidentally the next uninterrupted potty break I enjoyed), I googled the term. Here is what our friends at Wikipedia had to say:
“Sanctimommy is a portmanteau of two words, sanctimonious and mommy. The word is a colloquialism used to refer to a person, usually a female, who has very opinionated views on child rearing and presents them upfront without any sense of humility.”
For those of you running on even fewer hours of sleep than I am, that translates into something like, “a made-up word, which combines two real words, used to describe a parent who thinks he or she is superior to the rest of us pathetic hacks. This parent isn’t afraid to make you aware of this opinion.”
(For those of you on even less sleep, Merriam Webster defines sanctimonious, the root of our new vocab word as, “hypocritically pious or devout.”)
This concept got me thinking a few different things: 1) would a Google search turn up results for a sanctidaddy (spoiler alert—barely); 2) who actually has these sorts of people in every day their lives; and 3) what do I do when confronted by someone with this mentality?
So, here are the answers to my questions.
1 – Google did turn up a few results for sanctidaddy (in this case, 475 to sanctimommies’ 41,000). Apparently, a handful of daring feminists, who charge on in the pursuit of equality, have started hashtags like @sanctidaddy and #sanctidaddy. They recognize women do not have the moral and social superiority market cornered. To correct this social injustice, I encourage men and women alike to start tagging their favorite sanctidaddies on social media. Identifying the problem is the first step to the solution, so let’s not play gender favorites when it comes to sanctimonious parenting. Be a frontrunner.
2 – Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who are voluntarily and involuntarily surrounded by sanctimonious parents. Parent-to-parent shaming is all the rage in some circles. Some people drive themselves mad to appear perfect. I cannot identify or surround myself with these people. If you are going to be judgy about the fact my child ate pudding and whipped cream for dinner (again) or get preachy about why my children bicker like an old married couple, then chances are I’ve kept you at arm’s length.
I am lucky enough to have female and male friends who recognize that this whole parenting thing is hard. There are never enough hours in the day to do what should be done, and things slip through the proverbial cracks like chocolate milk on a restaurant table. We are all doing the best we can. Sometimes we yell at our kids, sometimes our kids act like little beasts, and none of us have our stuff together; no amount of denial is going to change that. We are all in this together, so let’s gently guide each other to make things easier. I don’t have the energy for sanctimommies or sanctidaddies, so I just keep my distance from them. Negativity is an energy thief, and I prefer to have my energy stolen by things like playing with my kids, date nights with my husband, and late-night conversations with friends.
3 – When faced with better-than-thou parenting, there are lots of ways to handle it. The one that I try to employ first is certainty. Maybe, when a mom at soccer practice casually says her daughter will only drink organic milk, that’s not braggy, but an exclamation of exasperation. Maybe when a dad says he would never let his kids play so close to the lake, it’s because he had a bad experience with kids playing near water. I promise to check myself before I label someone a sanctimommy or a sanctidaddy. Sometimes, people may just be trying to make small talk and may not be good at it. Or, even more likely, they are too distracted to be fully invested in a conversation. I wonder what strange or pseudo-rude things I have muttered when I am running interference on my two-and-half year-old. I also wonder how I come across when I am so tired and fraught with responsibility that I can barely form a coherent sentence. Before I label a person, I will try to exercise empathy and feel the situation out.
If, after exercising prudence, I feel I am in the condescending presence of a sanctimonious parent, I will just quietly plan my escape. I will try my best to not laugh at the mom who says her child won’t need baby gates because it will be taught to listen. I will not correct the dad who says children can be potty trained in a weekend’s time if you just follow Dr. Craptastic’s fool-proof toddler toilet plan. I will instead smile, nod, and move along. I won’t take offense or retaliate. Knowing that sanctidaddy’s weekend potty-trained kid is going to pee on him when co-sleeping is all the consolation I need.