It's Not Sanctimony -- It's Honest Concern

There's a lot of people out there who really seem to think that correcting another mom is blasphemy in the mom world.

People are often told to mind their own business, to stop acting sanctimonious (which has coined the offensive term "SanctiMommy"), and to leave other moms alone. Apparently the assumption that moms don't know everything is insulting, even if you see them doing something obviously wrong or dangerous.

The recommendations of supposed support are often statements so watered-down for fear of offending someone that they're no longer helpful, or you're told, "Mom knows best," because, you know, everyone has read all the same information in the universe in The Mom Manual (the one that, you know, doesn't exist).

But there actually are moms out there who really do appreciate correction (even if it's not presented in the best way), and understand that the intentions of a fellow mom are that of support, caring, and honesty.


I happen to strongly disagree with the attitude mentioned above. When I see someone doing something dangerously wrong, I prefer to think (and hope) that it's just because they aren't aware. After all, when it comes to babies, there are a million things to know and learn, and it's impossible to know everything. I'm still learning all the time! In fact, my friend is currently taking a lactation course and sharing things with me that I have never heard before (and therefore never would have thought to look up either). She's also busting myths even I believed were true! It's amazing what you don't know ... and the only way to find out the truth is to be told the truth, or seek out the information on your own.

But honestly? There is so much out there to learn that it's impossible that you will know all the things you should be looking for, and sometimes the information you have learned is actually wrong, or sometimes really, really wrong. I know there are tons of things I don't know. I will never be a know-it-all because I spend so much time upset that I know there is so much I don't know. You know? My dream (as crazy as it is) is to be able to plug in, Matrix-style, and learn millions of things in full that I know I'll never get to in my lifetime.

"Honest truth seekers never become know-it-alls -- there is always room to improve yourself as well as your knowledge." -- Thomas Campbell

I know I've discussed this before, but if it weren't for moms who stepped in when I was a confused new mom, I would have ended up parenting a lot differently -- in a lot of really bad ways. I did a lot of research and read everything I could get my hands on, but what I still didn't know was astounding -- and some of it was potentially life threatening.

I value my auto-didactic nature because I feel knowledge is power. Knowledge in parenting can sometimes mean life or death. Michele was recently put in an awkward situation when she saw a baby in a forward-facing car seat long before it's safe to be. She lamented:

How terrible is it that I felt bad about telling her something that could save her baby's life ... ? Why is it that we are all so overly sensitive about things people know that we don't know and should know?

When moms decide to help another mom, it's not without personal risk. You put yourself out there to be called horrible names, to be insulted, to be told you're a bad person. I tried to help out an extended-family member recently and was told, "I'm the mom so I know what I'm doing. F@&! off," even though I was as nice as I'm capable of, and she was breaking the law.

I recently saw a family at the mall with a car seat I knew was ancient. I sat there and stared, twisted my hands, and finally decided to talk to them about it. The decision to put yourself out there can be tough when you don't know if people will thank you or slap you in the face. I showed them the manufacture date: 1989. Their car seat was expired by 15 years! They were incredibly grateful and I wrote down the name of a safe and affordable car seat for them.

So, this is my ode to people who aren't afraid to risk personal attacks against them for putting themselves out there to help another mom as well as an ode to the moms who welcome good advice from others. I've included some quotes from people who didn't see the sanctimony in a mom helping her out.

  • I didn't KNOW about extended rear facing, I just didn't! And now (thanks to a great friend) I know that extended rear facing is just one more thing in this world of disasters that I can do to prevent something catastrophic, something that I can't turn back.
  • We stocked up in the car seat section with all the things we thought (and the salesperson told us) we needed, like head positioners , and those bulky things that attach to the straps, along with a ton of attachable toys. We thought that that was not only okay but what really need to make it comfortable AND SAFE for baby. I am so thankful to have people present info to me teaching me that not only is it unnecessary, it's actually a safety RISK AND can void the warranty for the car seat.
  • Honestly, I was about to turn my 1-year-old around to FF because he hates the car seat. But thanks to another mom's advice, I WILL NOT be doing that.
  • When I explained my reasoning behind my decision to stop breastfeeding my first baby and switch to bottle feeding (it involved a two day train ride and I think in my heart I was completely intimidated by the idea of NIP to that ...extent) the person I was talking to said, WHY? like it was the dumbest thing they've ever heard ... and it was.
  • I had decided to get one of those carrier/wrap thingies to carry my infant around in while grocery shopping. I had recently changed the position he was sitting in to more of a front view. I followed the instructions precisely and went on my way. Halfway through my shopping trip a woman stopped me and informed me that he was positioned incorrectly! She explained that he was at risk for falling out and helped me to reposition him to a safer sturdier place. I am so thankful she cared enough to stop me and help out! While it would be unlikely he would have taken a tumble (extra vigilant here!) that's a risk I would happily have someone -- anyone, remove!

It's because of responses like these, grateful responses from moms who didn't know better, that people do keep trying to give out information and help other moms. Some people are appreciative and others aren't. But you'll never know until you try, and NEVER assume that a mom already knows, because honestly? Chances are, she doesn't ... and if she does, you run the risk of making a new friend. I know that if I'm doing something dangerous and someone points it out to me (which has happened more times than I can count), I swallow my pride, honestly thank them, and fix it.

The only thing to lose is to have a mom who is angry because you tried to help, but honestly? You've planted the seed. Even if she lashes out at you, she may look up the information on her own, and so either way, it was worth it.

The only thing you can do is work hard to make sure your language is as nice as possible, and know when to drop it too. Sometimes even if you just say, "Hey, did you see this article?" and link to something from the World Health Organization or the American Academy of Pediatrics, you can get called nasty words.

But remember, you can only lead a horse to water.

Have you been attacked for trying to help a mom learn? Would you want a mom to let you know if you were doing something wrong?


Image via AmberGris/Flickr

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