Family life

Ashamed of my sanctimommy moment

Katie Dupuis tries to reserve judgment of other parents, but she had a sanctimommy moment of weakness (and she’s really embarrassed).

1Sanctimommy-October2013-iStockphoto

Photo: iStockphoto

Today’s Parent managing editor Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization. A lot. Now, imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie and husband Blaine.

I’ve debated writing this post because of the very word “sanctimommy.” To me, it’s a judgmental, holier-than-thou mother who stands on high and decries everyone else’s choices; she’s not something I aspire to be, and I do my best to steer clear of others on the sanctimommy track.

But a few weeks ago, my baseball team was in the playoffs and we had an evening game that saw me headed home on the streetcar much later than usual. I’m rarely out on my own in the city, so I was relishing the idea of either going to a late-late movie or a stopping for a burrito (the burrito won, by the way) when a young woman got onto the streetcar with a toddler in a stroller. She was barely clothed — tiny tank top, tiny shorts, with a ratty messenger bag slung across her bare midriff — and the little boy was filthy.

I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was, “Why isn’t that little guy in bed?” He was around two — very close in age to my Soph, who had been snoozing for hours — and he was eating a mini chocolate bar and drinking a juice box. My second thought was, “Oh, she’s going to pay for all that sugar later.” Sanctimommious, I know.

But then her phone rang. She answered by saying, “He’s OK.” The person on the other end of the line must have asked what happened because she explained that her son (he’d called her Mommy by this point, so I was sure of the relationship) had been at the playground with his babysitter and cut his hand badly. They had been at the emergency room for hours, and the boy had received three stitches and a tetanus shot. She said, “He’s super cranky because it’s way past his bedtime, but he’s holding it together right now because he’s eating a piece of chocolate. I promised him a treat if he was brave for the needle.” Ouch. I’m berating myself for being a total jerk by this point, even if it was only in my head, but it got worse (or better, depending on how you look at it).

Read more: My toddler’s first trip to the emergency room >

She said, “Yeah, the interview went well. I just wish I hadn’t had to leave [boy’s name] with [babysitter’s name] at the playground. I don’t think she was watching him closely enough.” Pause. “I know, I know, he’s fine. But I just feel bad.” Pause. “Yes, I know that having the money will help us. He’ll be so happy to have his own room!”

By now I wanted to apologize a thousand times over, even though I hadn’t actually uttered a word. And I really was mortified at my internal behaviour. I try to be as open-minded as possible. I know that judging a book by its cover is a fool’s game. And I’m sure there are times in my short parenting history when someone has thought badly of me and my child in public (like this past weekend when I belted Sophie into the basket of the grocery store cart because she kept trying to stand up, but didn’t want to walk on her own. She wanted to cart surf. Cue the temper tantrum).

Read more: How to tame public tantrums >

I’m still embarrassed by my quick judgment. It’s not fair and I was completely wrong. Yes, she was very young — she couldn’t have been more than 18 or 19 — but that doesn’t matter; her love for her child was clear, and how well she takes care of him is extremely evident. Age is not a guarantee for good parenting anyway. This woman doesn’t know me, and I don’t know her (clearly). But if she’s reading this, I’m sorry.

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