Another day, another story of a mom forgetting her child, this time in a grocery store shopping cart. Cue internet hysteria: How could she do that? I would never forget my child, and I have seven! She deserves to have them taken away. If you can’t keep track of your kids, don’t have them! That’s not an accident, that’s child endangerment and neglect!
This may be just me, but I’m always worried that someday I’m going to do something wrong and my child is going to be taken from me – either because he perishes in a horrible accident that was my fault, or because CPS gets wind of my mistake and drags him off screaming. As I’ve said before, I think this is a bit of post-traumatic stress from my losses – my other babies were all taken from me, so it’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. But, I also think this makes me hyper-aware of being super-careful and not making a mistake (while hopefully not turning me into a helicopter mom either).
But although I don’t think I could ever forget my child in a shopping cart, I am familiar with the circumstances under which it could happen. This woman was no doubt sleep-deprived – she has four kids (four!) including a two-month-old baby. Maybe she didn’t plan to have four, but she has them. Maybe she needed to go to the store because she has no food in her house and she didn’t have anyone to watch the kids. Maybe the baby was up the night before and she’s running on the fumes of two hours sleep. Who knows? I certainly do know, though, that I’ve had a hard enough time with one kid at the store. I know I’ve left feeling harried and overwhelmed. OK so yes, I do try to have a mental checklist that includes my kid. Put the groceries in the car. Return the cart. Carry kid back to car. Strap kid in car. Make sure haven’t left anything – kid, cell phone, diaper bag, groceries. But I can see how a change in routine – she put the kids in the car in a different order than usual – could have thrown me off, too.
Adding to the uproar over this woman is that she didn’t realize she had left the baby for forty minutes, including an errand to drop flowers off at a school. How did she not notice during her errand, you ask? She left her kids in the car while she ran in. Horror! This is the cardinal sin of bad parenting. In the internet’s eyes, this condemns you. Never mind that many moms have done it – maybe not in a parking lot, but in the driveway when they realize they’ve forgotten something or don’t want to wake a napping child by removing him from his car seat. What’s that, you say? You’d never do that? Well congratulations – that must mean you’re a better parent than everyone else! Yay, you!
The fact is, unless the car is turned off on a hot day (this is an extremely dangerous situation and I don’t want to make light of that), what are we worried about? That our children will be kidnapped by a pedophile who just happens to be waiting around for some neglectful mom to leave her kids unsupervised? Come on, statistically kidnapping by a stranger is really, really rare. Parenting is calculated risk. Only a parent can know their kids enough to trust that they cannot or will not get out of their car seat or the car. It’s just not a one-size fits all scenario. I read a comment referring back to another mom who was arrested for leaving her kid in the car for five minutes while she ran an errand before a plane trip, which said that her kid should be removed from her care simply because she let him be in charge – she should have dragged his ass kicking and screaming into the store instead of allowing him to say no to her. My response to that was Bwahahaha! Right, because it’s worth causing a meltdown when you’re trying to catch a plane. If every mom had her kid taken away for occasionally giving in to his refusal to do something, we’d have no moms left with their kids.
C’mon people, let’s be real! Kids are tough. Parents make judgment calls. Parents make mistakes. Good parents. Honest parents. Loving parents. What purpose does it possibly serve to lock them up? It would be more traumatic for children to be removed from their parents’ care in cases like this. It is a waste of taxpayer money and resources that should better be spent on actual, real problems like children of drug addicts and poverty. Every parenting mistake is not neglect. Even if something bad had happened to this mom’s baby, which thankfully it didn’t, what would be the point of charging her with a crime – to prevent it from happening to her other children? I can guarantee you, she already feels horrible guilt and will never make that mistake again. And she’s probably on high alert to not make any others, either.
But the high alert that many moms find themselves on nowadays isn’t just for the benefit of the safety of their children. We are talking about two separate issues here – one about a mom forgetting her kid and another about a mom leaving her kid alone on purpose. But either way, what scares many moms is not fear of what could happen to their kids, but fear of others calling the cops on them. And that should flat out not be the case.
We don’t live in a society that makes it easy for moms. We live in one where we expect moms to be perfect, to have it all, to do it all. We don’t do enough to recognize moms’ needs that aren’t being met. We don’t have long enough maternity leave – or paternity leave, for that matter. Our society is based on living to work, not working to live, and family matters get pushed aside. We preach “family values” but don’t know the true meaning of the words. We don’t have a village anymore.
My heart goes out to this mom. I don’t understand why the rush to condemn her and label her as a “bad mom.” Where is the line between “bad mom” and “good mom” drawn, and who is qualified to decide where that is? None of us are perfect. Even if you’ve never left a child in the car, you’ve probably made some other parenting mistake. You’ve probably had a close call that shook you to the bone and made you wonder if you should be trusted with a child. Tell the truth. Admit it. Saying, “Well, I’d never do that,” is just you looking for a way to feel better about your own parenting. It’s just being an internet bully.
We give a lot of lip service to “we’re all in this together” and “moms need to support each other.” We cry to end the mommy wars and stop judging each other. Yet it continues, round and round. We are all capable of making mistakes. In fact, not realizing that is how we get into trouble – we think we are immune and infallible then bam! something happens to make us realize we’re not. Better to recognize the possibility of our own imperfections, so that we can protect our children against them.
Why are we so quick to judge moms who make mistakes? Are some parenting mistakes unforgivable?