Something I’ve noticed for years now – long before we ever decided to start a family, in fact – is how very judgemental some parents can be.

(Desperately resisting the urge to caveat that statement with some long-winded, apologetic paragraph stating that I obviously know not ALL parents are like that, and if you’re a parent who’s reading this, then this is OBVIOUSLY not aimed at you, because YOU’RE lovely, you are. I won’t, though.)

Seriously, I thought blogging was bad for this, because a lot of people view bloggers as having basically “asked for it” in terms of commentary on their lives and decisions (“But she was wearing a short skirt! What did she expect?!”), but when I see the glee with which some women like to tear into each other for their parenting skills, it honestly makes me worry for the generation they’re raising.

(Er, that sounded a bit judgey, didn’t it? Like, here I am folks, just judging people for judging people, and singing “Judging me, judging you – AH HAAA!” to the tune of Abba’s Knowing Me, Knowing You. Just a few sentences into this post, and I’m slightly regretting it already, but will soldier bravely on. Good luck getting that song out of your heads now, though…)

It’s true, though: I’m scared of being judged by the sanctimommies. You know those women who are just better than you? At everything, really, but particularly at all-things parenting? Those women are everywhere, and they’re here to tell you about all of the things you’re doing wrong as a parent – or might possibly think about doing wrong, even although you haven’t even given birth yet. (You will definitely do it wrong when the time comes, though, just FYI…)

Until recently, I thought Sanctimommies only existed on the internet – mostly on the type of parenting forums I’m too scared to venture into. Lately, though, I’ve been encountering them in real life, too, because I’ve found that, as soon as people find out you’re pregnant, they’re going to have OPINIONS to share with you, in order to pre-empt any bad decisions you might be planning to make.

Like, you shouldn’t dress your baby in nice clothes, for instance: that’s just WRONG. Babies should only wear onesies, silly! (*Surreptitiously closes down the open Pinterest tab with all of the cute baby clothes in it*) And babies shouldn’t be toilet trained at 3, they should be toilet trained at 1 year, 2 months and 7 days exactly. MY baby was toilet trained by 6 months, though. Did you hear that so-and-so’s baby is doing x/isn’t doing Y yet? Can you even BELIEVE it? YOU would NEVER do that, would you? And on, and on, and on, through countless iterations of apparently trivial decisions that affect no one but the parents, but which everyone has an opinion on, anyway.

This week, I found myself the unwilling participant in a conversation about parents who – gasp! – use cellphones, sometimes even letting their children look at them. There was a story about a mother on a bus, who’d given her tantruming toddler an iPhone to look at to calm him down: cue scandalised tut-tutting from around the room, and me being asked to confirm that I would NEVER do such a thing, like those bad bad mothers of nowadays!

Honestly, though? Couldn’t do it. I have absolutely no idea how I’ll react in various different parenting situations: none whatsoever. (I expect I’ll probably spill things a lot, though: that’s pretty much a given with me…) What I do know, however, is that I’ll make mistakes – probably a lot of them, in fact. I might even buy some of those cute baby clothes I’ve been pinning: imagine that!  I know I’m going be judged – and judged harshly – for every single decision I make, from how I choose to feed my baby (As far as I can tell, you either breastfeed exclusively for the first 19 years, or you’re Hilter: up to you…), how I give birth (“I mean, c-sections are FINE, as long as the only other other option is death, you know?”) and so on and so forth, down through the years, until that baby is finally an adult, and he’s in therapy because I once took a photo of him and posted it on Facebook.

I also, however, know that, however many mistakes I make, and whatever I choose to do differently from the people who judge me, I’ll be doing my absolute best: just as they are, and just as I expect that woman on the bus was, too. Isn’t that all ANYONE does, after all?

I’m still scared of the sanctimommies, though, and of this new world of non-stop judgement I’m about to enter into. I already know, for instance, that there are certain subjects I’m probably not going to want to talk about here on the internet: feeding, for instance. Or sleep training. And I definitely won’t be sharing any photos of babies in car seats, because, from what I’ve read, no blogger in the history of the internet has ever managed to get that one right and, well, it’s unlikely that I’ll be the one to break the chain, isn’t it?

No one is perfect, is what I guess I’m trying to say. But while I’d like to be able to be totally honest, and continue to write about my life with the same openness I always have, I know perfectly well that I probably won’t be able to handle the constant level of judgement and criticism that seems to be levelled at parents, and which has genuinely surprised me over the last few months, as my pregnancy has, I guess, made me much more aware of it.

I guess I might just have to get used to it, though?

26 Comments
  1. Ummm…can I have the link to your baby clothing board on Pinterest please……

    I know the feeling (been getting it a lot as well) and have just given up telling anyone anything about what we would or would not like to do. Mainly because I don’t have the first blue clue and am fairly sure we will just make it up as well go along and hope for the best! As long as the child is fed, watered, safe, warm and loved, everything else I am taking as a bonus. I have a feeling this parenting malarky is going to be hard enough without having to do it under a microscope of judgemental scrutiny from people.

    1. Haha, only if you promise just to buy onesies from it 😉 It’s actually a private board at the moment: I’ve already been lectured on Instagram for buying baby shoes for the gender reveal, so I’m taking no chances!

  2. Being a new parent is so hard and you feel so, so vulnerable so when someone does something different from you then you immediately think that a) they think you are doing wrong b) you get a niggling doubt you are doing it wrong and then c) you get super defensive. The sleep deprivation, hormones and the endless questioning in your head about what to do with this tiny creature are a cocktail ripe for this and stuff said via text or whatsapp or facebook etc can be taking wildly out of context and hurt feelings ensue. I just keep taking a deep breath and reminding myself that every parent is different and every baby is different and what works for one person won’t work for us and that there is NOTHING at all wrong with this. We are all just fumbling our way through trying to find the right path. Everyone makes mistakes (my sister trying to take selfies with newborn baby just after she had bottle and baby quite rightly puked on her, hehe) but you know what the fact that we worry about doing the right thing tells us that we are because all we want and the end of the day is what is best for those little babies and our families. I remember feeling so judged and upset because after 2 weeks I ended up bottle feeding my baby and everytime I took the bottle out for months I almost felt like I had to apologise. Now I realise that a lot of that judging was probably in my own head and over a year down the line I have a lot more confidence in how we do things. In life there will always be people who like to feel all superior but you know what when it comes to your own child you will do what is best for them.

    1. This is actually things people have specifically said, though, in the sense of, “Oh, I saw X parent do that: it’s so terrible, I would NEVER do that!” It’s not about me, but it’s definitely not all in my head!

  3. Opinions are like arseholes – everyone’s got one. But as long as you and your kid are happy and healthy, which gives a shit? It took me a long time to realise that though. I’ve felt judged for bottle feeding and co sleeping but you learn to do what works for you and not to compare. Having a close group of non-judgey mum friends is awesome but it can be easy to find yourself comparing your children. I just keep reminding myself that they all develop in their own time and in a few years you won’t be able to tell those differences.

  4. Oh god, my mum is one of those people… and she knows what she’s talking about, has the best of intentions, and yes some of her advice has been invaluable… but at the same time I’m really feeling the pressure! Always being told what my baby should be doing, what I should be doing, it just gives me a nervous headache 🙁 thankfully, and I hope you can do this too, I’ve found a small group of mums who feel exactly the same way so we can let off steam to each other and feel less like a crap mum! I mean, I dress my boy in jeans, I don’t care that he’s 2 months old, babies in jeans are adorable! Why just keep them in onesies?? He has a bottle every night even though I breastfeed because I just. Need. A. Break! My version of baby sensory is sticking him on a fluffy blanket and letting him pull my hair… And his favourite thing to do is watch the massive tv at my in laws house, and yes, if putting Toy Story on my phone and shoving it in his face stops him screaming blue murder every time we put him in the car, then of course I’m going to do it!
    Parenting is a journey, sure, but you choose which direction you want to go in and the pace you go at! xxx

  5. Another reason I am glad there was no internet when I was pregnant/raising my children, which I did in ignorant bliss of everybody else’s opinion.
    The only irritant was the comparison (by other parents) of when babies reached different milestones e.g. Solid food, crawling, walking, talking. What I discovered was that babies reached them at different times. My first born crawled and walked very late, but had teeth to crunch with when most other babies were sucking, and talking in sentences When other babies were just beginning to say words.
    Why feel pressure when faced with constant judgement – there are probably as many parenting styles as there are parents? Having said that, I faced constant judgement when I elected to breastfeed in a time when very very few women did. It annoyed me that others felt they had the right to criticise me as I was doing what I felt was right for my baby, all I can say is do what feels right to you.
    The notion of sleep training seems ridiculous to me – babies sleep when they sleep and the only advice I would give you is to get some rest when your baby sleeps.
    As to potty training, again do what you feel is right for you and your baby. My mother said I was the most unnatural mother she had ever seen as dirty nappies made me heave (hence why dad had to clean the nappies when he came home). I did clean my babies, but not the nappies. So I potty trained my babies early in comparison to today’s babies and seemed to be much less stressful than today’s later training.
    Do what you think is right for you and your child and don’t let others influence you. Ask your mum 😍

  6. People are going to judge you, that’s what they do. Just remember that it is their opinion and it doesn’t have anything to do with you really. You are capable, competent, sensible and I know you’re going to be doing a lot of research. You’re also going to listen to your gut and ask people you trust. You’re also going to make mistakes. All of that is okay and perfectly typical of raising children.

    In my experience every new generation has a whole new set of issues to deal with as they correct (or even over-correct) their parents mistakes. For example, my Grandfather never told my Dad that he loved him. So my Dad told me and my sisters often. My sister has continued that with her children.

    Practice scripts could be useful ala Captain Obvious, like, ‘I’m glad breastfeeding worked so well for you, we’re taking a different path. How about that [subject change].’ Or ‘Wow, I didn’t realise you were so worried about the state of my baby’s wardrobe, that must be super hard for you.’ You get the idea. 🙂

  7. My Scottish friend encountered this in southern Italy where she lives with her Italian husband. One day we were walking into the town, toddler daughter in the pushchair, and it started to rain lightly. Even though the baby was totally covered my friend was worried that she’d be judged for taking her child out in bad weather because Mediterranean mothers wouldn’t. They were surprised to hear that British mothers took their children out in the rain (you’d never go out if you didn’t!) and explaining that children are very well insulated from bad weather fell on deaf ears.

    That may be cultural, but as long as children are fed, watered, clothed, sheltered and cuddled then is there really any need for criticising a mum who lets her child look at her phone to keep him quiet for five minutes? People can be quick to judge when they haven’t been in your shoes.

  8. All moms eventually figure it out: You know more than you think you know, and you know your baby better than anybody else. It’s (usually) all good, and when it isn’t, hopefully you will be able to smile or laugh about it somewhere down the line. We’re rooting for you!

  9. We all make mistakes, I regret lots of things I’ve done parenting wise and other. But here’s the thing…it’s YOUR family, your life and they are your mistakes to inevitably make….and that’s how you’ll grow…together as a family. Getting it right, getting it wrong and getting through it all together that’s the bit! You’re such a lovely, kind and caring couple that everything will fall into place as you go. And as for those judging sanctomommies, they’re most likely trying to draw attention away from their own failings and mess ups. Not worth your time. Enjoy every joyful, tearful, stressful and wonderful moment of it all….and don’t forget to laugh! Cause sometimes that’s all you can do, laugh it if and start again the next day xxx

  10. Listen to Myra, she talks an enormous amount of good common sense.
    Luckily for me I didn’t live near my mother, she was totally against plastic pants for babies, “only lazy mothers use those” was her view! And that was in the days when only rich people had washing machines! Disposable nappies had only just become available and I certainly could not afford them.
    You bring up your child exactly as you think best, I’m sure everything will be fine, don’t worry too much, enjoy it as the time flies by.

  11. I work as a child and youth worker (full disclosure: no kids of my own). Children are incredibly resilient and will find a way to become their own people, whether or not you make human errors as a parent or judgment calls others disagree with. (Also, there’s a secular Montessori preschool I know that un-ironically describes ITSELF as “blessing families for over [number of] years” – so you’re still ahead of those parents.)

    I guess this counts as unsolicited advice, but just love your kid, love who they are, and let them know when they’re being an asshole. You’re going to be great.

  12. Now that my kids are teenagers, I have found it easier to cope with the sanctimommies… these ones were in my real life as I am not a blogger… I decided long ago not to read mommy blogs as I sometimes found those a little hard to take as well. The sanctimommies I encountered were at a baby-group. I have to say I allowed myself to feel the pressure from a couple of them, and it almost sent me over the edge. Finally, I saw the light and ditched them. You will find ways to cope with it. The very best of advice I can give you is to maintain your friendships that you had before you had kids. Sure, you may be at different stages of life than some of your friends, but the relationship can survive, if you work at it. I have met a few dear friends through my kids, but I have also had to ditch a few. The relationships that have stood the test of time are those I had before I had kids. Sorry, a little off the sanctimommy topic, but still relevant.

  13. I was a young Mum…21. I read the recommended books ahead of time. My kid, my rules. Honestly, never listened to others and my Irish would get up if people got critical. They learned from my ire to stfu.

    Here’s my 2 pence worth: You Are Enough

  14. As the parent of 24, 21 and 20 year old “kids”, I can assure you that I have made SO MANY MISTAKES over the years. I remember saying that my kids would never go anywhere unless they were dressed cute. But letting my two year old have the confidence to dress himself meant we went to the grocery store with shoes on wrong feet, one white and one black sock, plaid shorts and stripe tee, etc. and he was so proud that day that he had gotten dressed all by himself! Parenting is the most humbling adventure, and many moms who are judgy are just trying to make themselves feel better because we ALL screw up:) at the end of the day, if our kids are loved, fed, warm and safe, we’re doing okay😊😊

  15. I often used to sit with my sister in law, who constantly made comments about my step son because, and I quote, ‘well he’s not really yours, is he?, like that meant that I couldn’t change a nappy or teach him anything because I didn’t actually squeeze him out of my person. It drove me nuts and I found that step parents are very often brushed aside by ‘real’ parents when, in actual fact, no one really knows what they’re doing because every child is different. She still refers to me as ‘childless’ (like it’s some sort of disease I should really get checked out) and it’s as if the little boy I helped to raise for 13 years doesn’t even exist. Not to rant but, she hasn’t even bothered to ask if I, indeed, want, or can have, my ‘own’ children. OK, I’m all better now.

  16. What if you start a members only blog for people who promise not to judge? You can add terms and conditions that must be acknowledged before entering and violators will be ejected….just saying ‘!

  17. Dear Amber,
    Best advice I ever had came from my health visitor – when they’re sat in reception class you won’t be able to tell which ones were breastfed, whose teeth came in first, who was toilet trained early or who Coslept. The little person you’re growing is as individual as you are and you’ll feel your way together on what they need and when. Wishing you health and contentment on your journey xxx

  18. I know what you’re talking about, regarding the sanctimommies, and I’m not even a mother, or in a situation where I’m exposed daily to talks about educating babies. And I understand why you’d want to keep some things to yourself and I must say it’s totally reasonable. It’s not normal how some mums go raving, barking mad for the stupidest things, and think they’re doing EVERYTHING better than the other mother. I mean, it would be better if people were generally more calm about these matters, but hey, the internet is always like that, so a little bit of caution in exchange for less abuse in the comments’ section is worth it. XD

  19. I feel you! For me it actually started the day I made it public at work – my HR colleague who has 2 kids asked me what prenatal tests I was going to make and when I aswered she gasped and said I just “couldn’t” do the nuchal translucency scan because if something were to come up then I HAD to take another type of test or whatnot. Mind you, I was a paramedic in the military, who worked directly with the pregnant wives of the soldiers and had to stop the urge of laughing at her comment. Since then I’ve been told what I can and can’t do – and mostly ignore it and do what I and my doctor find best to do. I’m already curious to see how it will be when the baby is here xD

    xo,Rosie // Curvy Life Stories

  20. Really great comments here! But don’t be afraid of the other moms – in fact, never let them see you sweat. Show confidence even if you don’t feel confident and they will not comment. Moms who judge and comment are just like any other bully – insecure. My advice to you is 1. Take the laxative offered at the hospital cause you have to “go” so you can leave! 2. When it’s cold, put the blanket under your baby in the carriage and then wrap for warmth. 3. Do what you want to do for YOUR family! I guarantee when your child is learning to drive, you will wonder why you worried so much about feeding and toilet training! So relax, and enjoy and welcome to a wonderful time of your life!

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