When you’re a new mum it can feel like everyone is out to judge you. Suddenly the world flips from relative predictability, into a topsy turvy obstacle course peppered with emotionally charged decisions – both big and small – that you somehow must navigate without a map or any kind of training.
And as you stumble your way along, things become even more confusing when you realise you’re surrounded by well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well-meaning) spectators yelling conflicting instructions from the sidelines:
‘Your baby is cold, give her a blanket!’
‘No, loose blankets increase the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), take that blanket away immediately!’
You know the drill. And the worst of all these ‘helpful’ observers spouting unsolicited advice? The Sanctimummy.
We all know her. She’s in the park. She’s at the play area. She’s behind you at the supermarket. She’s full of strong opinions and even stronger judgements. But while she might be very well informed – or even justified – in some of her beliefs, the key tell of a Sanctimummy is that she ‘knows’ that she knows best, and she’s not afraid to tell you (nor is she afraid of making you feel terrible in the process).
When it comes to the realm of ethics and sustainability, the Sanctimummy’s judgements become turbo-charged. Why? Because every choice feels like an ethical one when it comes to parenting. Whether it’s to do with your use of plastics, the food you prepare, or you baby’s sleep schedule, each micro-decision can seemingly have enormous, long-lasting consequences for your child’s health and wellbeing. And every mother wants – desperately – to get it right.
But I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when it comes to parenting. And there is no such thing as the perfect mum however much Sanctimummy might think she is one.
So how do you spot a Sanctimummy? It’s not just the advice she gives (some of it might even be good), but it’s the way she delivers it – and the judgement she dishes out in the process. Here are 10 things you might hear a Sanctimummy saying – and 10 ways that a non-judgey mum would say it instead – so that if someone’s comments makes you feel like you’re failing at motherhood, you can realise there’s nothing wrong with you or your parenting style. You’ve just been Sanctimummied.
You’ve been Sanctimummied
Sanctimummy: ‘I can’t believe anyone still uses disposable nappies anymore. I would never put my own convenience above the welfare of the planet and our children’s future.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘We chose cloth nappies for our little one after reading about how much disposables contribute to landfill. They’re actually really cute and have been much easier than I thought.’
Sanctimummy: ‘Everyone knows breastfeeding is way better for babies than artificial milk. And formula milk is packed full of palm oil too.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘I chose to exclusively breastfeed my baby, and I feel really fortunate that I was able to do it. I know it doesn’t work for everyone. Fed is best for every baby, however you do it.’
Sanctimummy: ‘I think it’s criminal how often Sarah gives her child avocado with everything. Doesn’t she realise how much water those things use up?’
Non-judgey mum: ‘My little one adores avocado, but we try to limit it to special occasions because of its environmental impact.’
Sanctimummy: ‘I don’t let my son play at Billy’s house any more. They still use water from those big plastic bottles and I don’t want him drinking chemicals.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘We got a water filter fitted and I was impressed with how inexpensive it was and that we can take it with us if we move house. They even test the water to make sure it’s totally safe to drink. It works so much better for our family.’
Sanctimummy: ‘I would never let a crumb of non-organic food pass my child’s lips. I don’t understand why anyone would willingly feed their child hormone-disrupting pesticides.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘I try to keep all of my child’s food organic as much as possible. It’s more expensive and I know not everyone can afford the money or time to source it, but I feel the investment is worth it.’
Sanctimummy: ‘Heating up a baby’s milk bottle in the microwave is akin to poisoning them’
Non-judgey mum: ‘I was surprised to find out how heat can make the molecules in plastic containers leech into the food. I always make sure to transfer into a glass or ceramic container before heating now.’
Sanctimummy: ‘I bumped into Sarah at the supermarket and all her groceries were packed in single-use plastic bags! Can you believe it?!’
Non-judgey mum: ‘We’re making a really concerted effort to cut down on our use of disposable plastic these days. I always try to remember to bring my canvas bags when I go out, and we’ve all got metal straws and utensils just in case.’
Sanctimummy: ‘Please stop giving my child plastic tat in birthday party bags. I really don’t need that micro-plastic shedding stuff cluttering up my house.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘The party bag is such a kind gesture and I know my daughter would love it, but we are trying to cut down on the number of toys she has so will skip it this time, thank you so much,’
Sanctimummy: ‘Mothers serving their children hot dogs and other fast food is what makes a fussy eater. I’ve only ever fed my daughter wholesome, home-cooked meals, and she will eat anything now.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘My daughter will eat fresh fish and vegetables and that makes me really proud. I feel lucky because I know how challenging it can be to have a picky eater.’
Sanctimummy: ‘Feeding babies hormones and all the gunk that’s in cow’s milk is akin to child abuse. I don’t know how anyone eats dairy.’
Non-judgey mum: ‘We’ve chosen to raise our child as a vegan because that’s what works for us.’