2 Books for The Anti-Sanctimommy

No one has to be told that parenting is rough sometimes, but what’s hard to remember is that every kid is different. Making it even more difficult are the parents who think they know so much better than everyone else, and make it their job to let the world know. Though some of us have an easier time than others avoiding (or becoming) this sort of person, it’s good to see a new breed of parenting book making its way in this often complicated existence. Let’s take a look at two recently published reads for the Anti-Sanctimommy.

First, how would one define “sanctimommy?” From Wikipedia:

Sanctimommy is a portmanteau of two words, sanctimonious and mommy. The word is a colloquialism used to refer to a person, usually a female, who has very opinionated views on child rearing and presents them upfront without any sense of humility.

Generally speaking, the word has appeared on the blogosphere to refer to people who give their opinions in a fashion that provokes anger and seems to be condescending.

And how would I define the opposite of that? Parents who get that, for the most part, we’re all doing the best that we can for our kids. As long as they are safe, healthy, and loved, we’re doing okay. And even when we catch ourselves judging another parent, the opposite of a sanctimommy would realize that we never really know the whole story, and that unless asked, there’s no need to dole out advice.

Because giving out advice is a potentially fraught act, I hesitate to say that Motherhood, Smotherhood by JJ Keith would make a good gift, but it’s certainly one of the more realistic parenting books out there that one might buy for themselves.

What makes a good parent isn’t breast-feeding for exactly twelve months as prescribed by the World Health Organization or offering the exact right amount of tummy time. It’s far more nebulous than all that. Here’s my survey for the worried parents of babies: Have you washed dishes this week? Are you currently on crystal meth? Do you routinely use a car seat? Yes, no, yes? Then’s it’s going to be okay. If not now, then eventually. Unless you think you might have postpartum depression. If that’s the case, first get some help, and then it’s going to be okay.

I’m not pretending that I was this relaxed from the outset. When my first was a newborn, I Googled before I did anything, mommy-blogged every detail of my daughter’s life as if I were the first person who had thought to do so, went to so many mommy groups that talking about poop started to feel like a job, wrung my hands about what other parents thought of me, and got up in arms about parents who were doing things differently. It is really, really, really hard not to be a dick when you’re a new parent and I tip my hat to anyone who manages to avoid it. I certainly didn’t.

Motherhood Smotherhood - JJ Keith (cover)

Keith covers subjects from vaccination to food, Pinterest-culture to birthday parties, and even those weird anti-kid people who insist on disparaging “breeders” at any opportunity. She does it all with the straightforward attitude of a friend who is past the blur of babydom and has gained some perspective. Her daughter and son are kindergarten and preschool age, so while this book mainly applies to baby and toddler-rearing, it’s also nice to know that she’s not writing an advice book from a perspective like, “I had one kid who is now eighteen months old and here’s some wisdom.”

Motherhood, Smotherhood is a slim book written in an informal style that made me laugh while nodding in agreement — all pretty good benchmarks of a decent parenting book. The cover is a bit weird, but like women keep having to say, “having it all” is a myth.

Perhaps better suited as a gift for the parent of a toddler is You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach, author of the wildly popular Go The Fuck to Sleep. Illustrated by Owen Brozman, Eat rhymes its way through frustrating kid food habits:

Your cute little tummy is rumbling
And pancakes are your favorite treat.
I’m kind of surprised that you suddenly hate them.
That’s bullshit. Stop lying and eat.

You Have to F--king Eat - Adam Mansbach (cover)If your kid has never presented you with some new mind-boggling preference at mealtime, I suspect you’re lying. My kids are pretty good eaters, and even they went through some stages. At one point, my daughter would ask for a bowl of dry cereal and a glass of milk. But don’t you dare suggest she just have a bowl of cereal instead so that we could only dirty one dish instead of two! Oh no, that would be madness. Obviously. She was also the baby who would howl as though she was being tortured if you gave her a warm bottle. She wanted cold formula, thankyouverymuch.

My son has been a little easier, but he had a stage where everything leafy was gross, no matter how it was presented to him. And right now, he won’t eat fish unless it’s tuna or fish sticks, but that’s not all that unusual for a kid.

Perhaps the novelty of a sweary picture book has worn off because of Go The Fuck to Sleep‘s exposure, but I still think You Have to Fucking Eat is funny. Plus, there are lemurs! And pandas!

Maybe a third book could be You Have to Fucking Brush Your Hair or You’ll Be Matted Like the Cat, but perhaps that’s a bit specific to my current parenting issue.

So what are some of the better parenting books you’ve seen, unicorns? Serious or not, let me know in the comments.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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