Breaking the Curse of the Sanctimommy

Walk Away2I was going about my blogging business recently when I began to notice a flurry of posts by mom bloggers staunchly defending their use of smartphones in the presence of their kids for a multitude of what seemed like perfectly logical reasons – including work, taking photos and videos, and the ever-elusive quest for a little bit of “me” time.

What could have caused such an outcry? I wondered. And then I stumbled upon the article Dear Mom on the iPhone: Let Me Tell You What You Don’t See.

The viral post from the Deseret News out of Salt Lake City had originally been published by an otherwise nondescript mom blogger and ironic Christian who, by her own admission, was moved by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to incite this latest round of the mommy wars – let’s call it the technology edition. After all, when the Lord calls upon you to take to the Internets with broad assumptions and sweeping generalizations about other mothers’ priorities in today’s media-driven society, how do you say no?

In any case, mystery solved – social media had been afflicted by what I like to call the Curse of the Sanctimommy.

The Curse of the Sanctimommy is what inevitably ensues whenever insufferably smug moms – who are no doubt the best moms who ever mommed – publicly ascend to their high horses to tell the rest of us how it’s done, while not-so-subtly implying that they do it better. Think Anderson Cooper’s 2012 henfest, appropriately titled “The Mommy Wars,” that reignited the ongoing working mom vs. SAHM debate; or Jamie Lynn Grumet’s defiant gaze from the cover of TIME Magazine as she nursed her three-year-old son beside the glaring headline “Are You Mom Enough?” (for which, yes, TIME is equally accountable); or the utter vitriol flung at women who manage their anxiety and depression with medication in the wake of the recent Parenting article Xanax Makes Me a Better Mom.

In each case, the World Wide Web exploded in defensive rebuttal, as women everywhere – myself included – took to their blogs with a collective proclamation of, “Oh, no she di-ent!” Such is the Curse of the Sanctimommy. And now it had struck again.


Much like death and taxes, “sanctimommies” are a fact of life – and they’re not limited to the Internet.

Case in point: I used to have a friend. We really had nothing in common save for our daughters, who were close in age – which, as it turns out, is not necessarily the best foundation on which to build a strong friendship.

Inherently, she was (and is) a good person. But her constant desire to dissect and discuss motherhood when we were together was positively draining on the soul – especially given the marked difference in our parenting styles. And while my husband and I were (and still are) prone to winging parenthood using trial and error, she and her husband seemed to view it as an exact science – one for which they already had all the answers.

As a result, I often felt as if I was being silently scrutinized for my parenting skills (or lack thereof) whenever I was in her presence, and that everything between us was destined to become a competition. Over time, our interactions grew less enjoyable; in fact, I often came away from them feeling as if I was failing miserably as a mother.

In the end, she had her own issues with me as well. And so the tension between us eventually came to a head in a spectacular showdown during which she unleashed a hail of harsh judgments about my character, my marriage, and my role as a working mother.

That was it – I was done. There are some lines you just don’t cross.

“You’re simply too judgmental,” I told her. “It is exhausting to be your friend.”

And with that, I washed my hands of our entire tenuous relationship.

Is it no less exhausting, then, to engage the smug superiority of online sanctimommies? Can we, as both bloggers and women in general, collectively agree to just wash our hands of such judgmental nonsense?

These women certainly aren’t reading our words of righteous indignation, after all. Nor are they interested in an open dialogue celebrating the diversity of motherhood. Whether perched high upon their self-imposed pedestals or hiding behind religion, they are merely sitting idly by as they reap their fifteen minutes of Internet fame and notoriety. So, perhaps if we simply ignore their drivel, they will eventually slink back into relative obscurity and the flames of the mommy wars will never be fanned.

After all, the bottom line is a message that we all know well and has been repeated ad nauseum: As moms, we should all just keep on keeping on, parenting in the way that feels best for each of us individually and confident in the knowledge that our kids love us exactly the way we are – and possess an amazing aptitude for forgiveness in those instances when we invariably let them down.

So, when the Curse of the Sanctimommy invariably strikes again, why not resist its siren song and expend the time and energy we would otherwise put into crafting a defensive rebuttal instead doing something we deem truly enjoyable?

And yes…

Playing with your phone counts.