Combating The Sanctimommy Movement



I can’t say when the Sanctimommy Movement started precisely, but it probably had a finger in the pie of parenting since the dawn of time. It’s understandable how it came to be with the age of the internet and unlimited access it provides to parenting resources. That whole “It Takes A Village” mentality is kind of ingrained in our DNA. It’s where that annoying (but mostly innocent and well-meaning) unsolicited advice stems from.

But there comes a point when well-intended ‘advice’ crosses into overbearing, and sometimes even demanding orders. To be frank, ain’t nobody got time for that!

Recently, a friend of mine told me she was walking from her car into a store with her son, and someone shouted at her to “put a (expletive) coat on her child.” I think we have all heard a variation of this notorious sanctimommy mom-shaming, at least once or twice. It’s puzzling. Some stranger cares so strongly about the well-being of her child that they feel the need to shout at her from a moving vehicle, effectively shaming her in public.

The moving vehicle really spotlights a lack of investment in this child, if you ask me. Counter-intuitive, at the very best. And just rude and horribly insensitive from every other angle. I could be wrong, though. Maybe they just needed to hurry up to the other local parking lots to make sure there weren’t any other mothers committing parenting faux pas? Seriously, though, if it truly takes a village to raise a child, wouldn’t you rather the members of that village be built up and strong across the board, instead of torn down and unsure of themselves?

I believe at the root of this is that if we as parents, or even as humans, understood that the world needs more empathy and put that into practice in our own daily lives, we could have more empathy as a whole. Empathy is about making a connection, and that is hard to do when you are high above someone, judging their choices, without knowing their struggles or situations. 

Recently, I saw a watched a short video from the author, Brene’ Brown, that highlighted the difference between empathy vs. sympathy and it made me draw immediate comparisons in my own life. When my friend told me her moving vehicle story, it made me think of when and where that sanctimommy judgment could happen to me. jackethatepolaroid

As a mom to an autistic little girl, I can tell you some days it is not worth the subsequent meltdown to get my child’s jacket on her wiggling, excited, ready-to-bolt little body between the car and the storefront doors. It just isn’t. And I get that judged feeling, every single time. (I’ve never even had anyone say anything to me, let alone yell it at me from a moving vehicle. And I still get that feeling.) That’s probably because ingrained in the mom DNA is the fact that we believe that The Sanctimommy Task Force is lurking in the shadows, ready to publicly shame me for daring to let my child go jacketless for a minute during flu season. (Minute and a half, tops.) 

Every child is different, right? Well, those kids grow into adults. So, then every parent is different, too. There might be is usually a reason you don’t know about. We don’t know the struggles or daily life of almost everyone we encounter on a daily basis. So, we should all work to broaden our view to include another’s perspective. It won’t work all the time, I’m sure, but some empathy (or attempts at it), will always be better than none. And ultimately, will strengthen our village.

Do you have a sanctimommy horror story? Have you seen love & empathy save the day?

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Jennifer C.
In her lifetime, Jennifer has lived in the North, East, South, and West of the continental U.S. But the Pacific Northwest stole her heart when she was stationed in Washington with her husband who was in the Navy. Jennifer and Jeff have known each other for 16 years, since middle school, but they have been together for 5.5 years and married for 5 of those. They have an adorably rambunctious and frighteningly intelligent 3.5 year old daughter named Athena Rae. Athena was recently diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. So, Jennifer and Jeff are learning the ropes kind of as they go, as they delve into the world of being special needs parents and advocates for their daughter. Jennifer is a stay at home mom who loves to read and write in any free time that might come her way throughout her days filled with her typical Momming errands and appointments. You can find her personal blog at


  1. I love this! Although I haven’t had someone yell at me about a coat, I have had a “put sunscreen on that child” moment. The words that came to mind after “duh”, I shouldn’t post but you can imagine it wasn’t nice! Lol. Keep writing! I look forward to reading more from you!

  2. “Arm Prisons” LOVE.IT! Having grown up in a very cold weather state I have a tolerance to the cold that most don’t have…so it often doesn’t even occur to me to put a coat on my kid!

  3. I am not sure strangers telling you how to mother is fair characterization of this kind of thing (sanctimommy). I feel like this is reaching deep into the vat of imagined separation between mothers, when really we are all in this together. I appreciate the intention, but I don’t feel you are asking the right question. Instead of pointing to the pointer and judging them as they have judged you, why can’t we instead wonder what it is that makes mothers such an easy target for blame and shame? What is the greater issue at hand? Why don’t we revere caretakers more?

    • Did you read the entire article? She is not judging the judger. She is encouraging everyone to embrace empathy and understanding.

  4. While I do know that shaming happens, as it did with your friend, I think it’s far less common than we think it is. Like you said, you tend to FEEL guilty even though no one has actually said anything. I think our own guilt or worry about what others think of us as mothers is the real problem that is holding us back from being confident in how we’re parenting. I think the problem would be 90% solved if we could each just tell those voices in our heads to shut up. But yes, then there is the other 10%, where people are actually sticking their noses where they don’t belong. For them, we need to be so confident in ourselves that we can boldly tell them to mind their own business!

  5. On the flip side, I once had a fellow mother in Target stop to thank me for taking the time to talk to my child and help him calm down from a tantrum rather than being mean or just leaving the store. I try to return that sweet favor whenever possible.
    Lift up, not put down!

  6. Would you believe my first (and to this date, worst) sanctimommy moment came from my sister when I was 5 months into my first pregnancy during a family vacation? Her then 4 year old son was a wild child. Ran out the doors down to the beach front without sunscreen, or letting his mom know he was going, for that matter. When I brought it to his attention she said “the boys (meaning our brothers) will watch him” and while she may have assumed correctly, they may well have been out on the water in the kayaks and not even known the child was storming the front. I’m not saying she needed to be a helicopter style parent, her style of parenting works for her. But after witnessing a full week of parenting in this manner, she had the audacity to act as though I knew nothing of what was coming. “Better eat all the chocolate you can now, you can’t once the baby comes!” After witnessing the 4YO throw a tantrum over the lack of something at the store (what he said was car-car-go) and asking her what it was he was talking about (apparently that’s what he called the carts with the cars on them), I was met with “oh, you’ll find out soon enough!” with an obnoxious little knowing smile. For the record, I had no problem feeding my child, chocolate or not, and she has never once thrown a fit over car-car-gos. After that eye opening week, I just realized that everyone is going to have their opinion. Just because my sister had her child before me, she is not the better mother. Just because I am older, I am not the better monther. I am the best mother for my child, she the best for hers. And my best friends, the best mothers for their children. I give advice and opinions only if asked, and listen to others when they feel the need. It’s my choice to listen, my choice to acknowledge, my choice to implement, and my choice to ignore. This mamma might not have it figured out (really, which one does), but as far as my child is concerned, I’m pretty great.

  7. I have a lot of these stories that I can share. I have two boys a d believe me, mothers of boys get it even worse. My firstborne has ADHD so we have received our fair share of very unsolicited, unwelcomed advise ans curses of adults that think that they know better than anybody. On one ocassion I even had to call the police on this man that woukd not stop cursing at my kids because he neede quietness at the store and children like mine did not derserve to be out in public. If course, as soon as I called the cops he fleed and the manager who knew very well who the man was and where he lived since they were friends used the excuse that he used to be in law enforcement abd that according to him this was America and that man had the right to insult ne and my kuds however he saw fit. Needless to say I went further and that employee had to apologize to my kids for his poor diligence and biases. We never ser foot in that store again and they never made a penny out of us again, but that was not even my worse. The worse come from other moms who think they know better. When my younger one was 3 (he’s 11 now) he liked to run out of places and of course his favorite thing was to run out of the stores to incoming traffic. He did it too many times, and many times I tried to explain to him why he should not do that and how dangerous it was. The behaviour lasted for a while. I had medical problems and was having a surgery. I do not have family or anybody who could help with my children, just my husband and myself. I knew I was not going to be able to take care of them fully for a few days after surgery and my husband was going to take time off to take care if them. But I needed to leave everything ready. I could not run after him but I was able to control him most of the time. The day before the surgery I got groceries in order for everything to be ready for the next week. As we are leaving the store he takes running in front of a car and was almost run over. As a reaction I yNk him by the arm and spank him because I could not take the pressure of him running into oncoming traffic anymore. I am not proud of it, but it did stopped the behavior. As soon as this woman on a car passes by(she did not witnessed the whole thing) she starts hunking and saying that she’s going to call social services because I was an abusive parent, among many other insults. This woman that did not even had kids but yet she felt entitled to insult me, for something she did not even see. It was a horrible day for all of us and one that scarred me and eventually intensified my depression. 2 years after that we moved away from that place partly because it is considered a family place and all that we saw were Gap mi s with theit perfect little children and how perfect they were, the ones that judge everybody else but their children are perfect. Moved away and never looked back. Best decission we’ve ever made.

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