Fortunately, I usually have to go online to see examples of what is referred to as a “sanctimommy”- basically what you would expect from the words “sanctimonious” and “mommy” put together. I am sure we’ve all come across them from time to time or have even emanated one…but generally, I feel that society does a better job at creating and sustaining sancti-mommyous opinions rather than individuals.
A good example of this is the guilt a mother might feel if she chooses to feed her baby formula vs. breastmilk. You just know, somewhere in her mind, she is thinking that she is not giving her child the start they deserve, not providing them with nature’s “perfect” food, not providing them with adequate bonding, not doing this, not doing that…all the while, forgetting what she IS doing. And what she IS doing is exactly the point of the entire deal, which is feeding her kid.
Another example might be a mother who wishes to work instead of stay home, or stay home instead of work. Or maybe split her time between the two, figuring it’s a win-win and forgetting that in the world that demands insane perfection from mothers, there IS no winning. You could be June Cleaver and still there would be a great amount of human beings who would demand more from you, as you are, after all, a product of the post-feminist era. So take off the apron and go to work. No…wait. You can’t do that, because it is detrimental to your kids. Stay home. No, wait, you cannot do that either…especially if you have young girls. It sets a bad example for them. You know what? Just stand there. That is pretty much all you can do without being judged harshly by our sancti-mommyous society.
Fathers tend me be a little more immune to these tirades of societal guilt, maybe because our society also tends to look at men with kids and say “awww, look,, how cute, that poor man is trying to parent his kid” and some women tend to look at them and say “oh wow, that child is still alive, the man is doing excellent.” Because we all know men are completely incapable of raising children or taking care of them in any way.
I’ll admit, I’ve had my moments where I wasn’t sure how my kids survived something their dad did, or didn’t do. But the point is, he generally doesn’t have the same cares I do. You would rarely find a room full of fathers so quick to scrutinize one another’s parenting. Instead, they might argue for months about whose child can run the longest and then actually stage a race between the two. Yes, this has really happened.
I was reading a news article today about a mother who was arrested because her child ran off into traffic while doing her tax returns and having a conversation with a good friend about kids and that is sort of what set this off. In the article, it did not specify the history of the mother…whether or not she had a history of neglect or whether or not something else happened to actually justify arresting her. But based solely on the information provided in the article, should she have been arrested? No, of course not.
Common sense tells (most of) us that children don’t need so much constant supervision. There is actually a name for that, and it is called “helicopter parenting”, and it is supposedly a horrible, horrible thing to do to your child unless you are an un-schooler or attachment parent or some other form of parenting that is acceptable to somebody, somewhere. On base, the rules dictate that I keep my young children within arms reach of me at all times. Even if I babyproof my house and use baby gates, which are the best thing since sliced bread as far as I am concerned.
Did whoever make that rule realize how freaking insane it is? I mean really…I generally enjoy showering on a daily basis. I realize my four year old could make a fantastic soap holder, but you know. I have also realized that the more time you spend around your kids, trying to mold them into creative and intelligent little beings, the more you realize that you can’t really mold someone who is already made. They are who they are, and all they need is some love, attention, encouragement, food/water/shelter/clothing, and respect. Sounds like a lot, until you realize that this is the way you were encouraged to treat people in kindergarten, when you were five, and if you listened, it should be a daily practice by now.
Also, I would love to invite anyone to spend 24 uninterrupted hours around any child under the age of five and admit that spending every second of every day in their immediate presence is anything but maddening. Have you ever been asked the same question 67 times?
There is an obvious difference between being considerate and making sure your young kids don’t either run away or terrorize everyone and going a little over-the-top, as suggested by the rule-makers. There are also times we all, admittedly, will go a little over the top anyway. But when you child is engaging in meaningful social interactions with others- leave them alone. They do not need you.
My uncle likes to tell a story about his childhood. He laughs the entire time so hard that he can barely speak, but he tells it anyway. When he was around the age of five, he liked to run away. He just wouldn’t stay in the yard. So my grandmother tied a rope around his waist and tied him to a stake in the yard. There he could play while she did her household chores and the other children who had already learned to come home could go play in peace. (Those were also the days when people allowed others to discipline their children, so allowing them to roam free was slightly less insane because they would not, for instance, be banging on a door later demanding why a stranger would dare correct their perfect child).
That isn’t even the point of my uncle’s story. The point is, he couldn’t pronounce the word “tornado”. He looked up at the treeline and noticed a lot of wind, and became scared. He started yelling “Tomato! Tomato!” He thinks that is the funniest thing in the world. And yes, he is currently a well-adjusted father who speaks to his mother regularly.
And although anecdotal evidence rarely counts in real debates about anything, I have always remembered that story. A man was tied to a stake by his mother by a rope, nobody cared, he grew up normally and the only thing that the event did to him was give him a good start to a joke about childish mispronunciation.
And if you think that your child needs to be with you at all times, within arms reach, always there so you can dote on them…ask yourself if they might need a break from you too. I cannot imagine being around myself all hours of the day, all the time. I mean, if I were someone else. For now, I am stuck with me…but that does not mean my children have to be. Someday, they will grow up and move on to bigger and better endeavors than the play room and park, and I will not be there.
What are some outrageous things you parents did that you survived?