A business trip to Universal Orlando Resort may sound awesome, and compared to some of the locales I’ve traveled for work (sorry, Milwaukee readers–nothing personal), I suppose it is. But when you’re away from your kid for an entire week, it’s a tough place to be. Everywhere I look there are kids. And sippy cups. And diaper bags. And more kids. And other reminders of how while the mommies of the world are being mommies, I am here missing my daughter’s new words and wobbly steps and awkward kisses.
Resilient as I am, however, I making excellent use of this opportunity to silently observe mothers and their children from the sidelines.
And judge them.
I don’t consider myself a particularly judgmental person. I am opinionated, indeed, but not entirely judgmental. There’s a difference. The opinionated mom says, “all mothers should at least try to breastfeed.” The judgmental mom says, “if you don’t try to breastfeed, you will be doomed to whichever circle of hell forces you to listen to David Hasselhoff crooning Muskrat Love for the rest of eternity.” (You may also be forced to have sex with Danny Bonaduce, which, according to the hilarious comments on my last post, is apparently the innermost circle of hell.)
Yesterday in the gift shop of the hotel, a trio of boys were whining for “just one Snickers” before breakfast. “Well, okay, just one,” the mom said finally giving in. “I don’t want you too hyper before breakfast.”
And I couldn’t help myself. I rolled my eyes big–really big–with the hopes that anyone looking in my direction at that moment could see just how awesome I am.
Oh my God – I acted like a Sanctimommy.
I had first heard about this breed of mothers on message boards. She’s the type who snorts in your direction when you feed your daughter french fries in the diner, or who tsks you as you walk past her with your pacifier-sucking three year old. She won’t hesitate to comment on you kid’s lack of hat when the temperature dips to 59, or to make a scene over the non-organic produce in your fridge. She has read every baby book, and has decided that her expert of choice is the expert and that heeding any other parenting theories is akin to worshipping false idols. Don’t even get her started on the real hotbutton mommywar issues like Ferberizing or circumcizing or ear piercing.
I hate this woman.
And yet once in a while, I think I am her. Just a teeny bit.
I’m sure some degree of judgmentalism is natural; an easy way to level our own insecurities about the choices we make as parents. Well I can’t be all that bad–my daughter might not own a winter jacket yet, but at least I don’t let her go to the playground with snot running down her face like SOME people.
But when it’s taken to the level that I took it to yesterday–a big dramatic eyeroll for the benefit of bystanders over a candy bar–well that’s just wrong. It’s not who I want to be.
The best advice I ever got about parenting was from my own mother. She told me that every decision you will make as a parent is right, and every decision you will make as a parent is wrong. Once you learn that, you’re golden.
And boy, she nailed it.
There is no one right way to do anything. Hell, we could find out in fifty years that the levels of mercury and lead in our own bodies is so high that breastfeeding is actually far worse than formula. Science changes, parenting theories evolve, new experts spring up with ideas that we never considered before.
Which is partially why I get absolutely incensed when I see some of the Sanctimommies springing up on controversial blog posts or message board forums, attacking others in the cruelest fashion, under the protective veil of internet anonymity. I have observed the abhorrent “I feel sorry for your kids” response applied equally to working moms, single moms, and moms who feed their children American cheese singles. I’ve seen women who sleep train called child abusers (raising hand here). I have even seen a blog comment in which a woman insisted that those who choose to circumcise their sons deserve to have their children taken away. Taken away!
Where’s the perspective?
Here’s the great irony: The true Sanctimommy, the really sanctimonious, dogmatic, holier-than-though, unyielding type–there is no breed of mother more deserving of an eyeroll than she.
While the Sanctimommy is quick to deem others unfit mothers based on (really, in the end) superficial decisions like the cleanliness of a child’s nose or the YoBaby in the grocery cart, she’s reluctant to look as closely at herself. At her own attitude. At what seems to me to be anger and angst and a general unhappiness directed at a world around her which she can’t control.
The image of Carrie’s mom springs to mind.
Call me crazy, but I’d rather raise my kids in a happy, loving household with Dora on the tv and Cheerios on the dinner table than to have them grow up in the presence of an uptight, judgmental mom with her shoulders up to her ears and no ability to distinguish the grey areas that comprise 90% of life.
And so I’m going to try and do better. When I find my eyebrows suddenly raised an inch above their normal resting position upon seeing a five year-old with a pacifier, or a toddler taking a sip of her parents’ Coke, or a little boy sporting a mullet (oh God, this one is going to be the hardest) I’m going to remember my mother’s other great advice: Will this matter in a year? In ten years?
It won’t matter to me, that’s for sure.
But there will still be no Snickers before breakfast. That right is solely reserved for the pregnant among us.