Raise your hand if you’ve ever left your child in the car to run a 10-minute errand?
I, for one, have done it. On more than one occasion. So I’m more than grateful that I’m not a celebrity and being judged every 10 seconds on social media for every parenting fail I make.
That is, unlike former S Club 7 pop star Rachel Stevens, who received an inordinate amount of abuse this week for leaving her small kids alone in the car while she ran a few errands. In total, the 37-year-old mom of two left her daughters, 4-year-old Amelie and 18-month-old Minnie Blossom, alone for 10 minutes.
While many took to Twitter to react in horror at Stevens’ actions, all I could think was: “But haven’t we all done it? So why the judgment?”
I remember when my son was almost 5 and my daughter was 6 months old, she was fast asleep in the car, so I asked my son to keep an eye on her, locked the car door, and ran inside the supermarket for diapers, wipes, and a couple of other groceries. I came back, heart in mouth, and my kids were completely fine. Later, when I told my best friend (a police woman) about it, she was affronted and said that there was no way on earth that I should have done that. That it’s prosecutable. That you can’t leave your kids alone in a locked car.
Don’t get me wrong, I know all about cars on hot (or very cold) days and how we shouldn’t ever leave children alone. I am very aware that somehow the handbrake could be hit and the car might move, or that the kids might get out (unlikely that my son would ever go against what he has been told to do, but it’s still a consideration), or worse, someone might try to get in and abduct them.
I am a very cautious mother in every way possible, but I do understand that sometimes, we are simply making our very busy lives a fraction easier.
Of course I would never leave a sleeping baby alone in the car. What if she woke up and began crying? How terrifying for her and any passersby who would surely wonder why a baby was left alone. I think the only reason I did it was because my son was there with his baby sister and I knew he would comfort her if she awoke. Although now that I think about it, if my daughter had woken up and howled, how would my son have settled her? And if he hadn’t been able to, that would have distressed him equally.
So yes, I admit that this was not my best parenting decision in the world.
Maybe it’s no excuse, but I was tired from lack of sleep, my husband was away on work, and I had no one to ask to go and get the diapers and other groceries for me. It was a split-second decision and thankfully things worked out okay — for both me, and Stevens too.
What I think is so disappointing about the whole ordeal is the endless abuse and judgment Stevens has received on social media. It’s like we all sit high atop our perfect pedestals and endlessly look down on and shame other mothers to feel better about ourselves.
Why? We are all human and fallible and have made many of our own mistakes along the way. There is no such thing as a “perfect mom,” just as there is no such thing as a perfect human being.
Last year, Gwyneth Paltrow wrote about “ending the mommy wars” after a quote she made — that working a 9-to-5 job was easier than being on a film set all day — was taken out of context:
“As the mommy wars rage on, I am constantly perplexed and amazed by how little slack we cut each other as women … We see disapproval in the eyes of other mothers when we say how long we breastfed (too long? not long enough?), or whether we have decided to go back to work versus stay home. Is it not hard enough to attempt to raise children thoughtfully, while contributing something, or bringing home some (or more) of the bacon? Why do we feel so entitled to opine, often so negatively, on the choices of other women? Perhaps because there is so much pressure to do it all, and do it all well all at the same time (impossible).”
I agree with Paltrow’s sentiments. There is so much expected of women today: to be brilliant at our careers, be master chefs in the kitchen, run an immaculate house, raise perfect kids, swing from the chandeliers in the bedroom, and have a toned and honed bod. This striving for perfection is exhausting us all, and maybe that’s what’s making us so judge-y about everyone else. Isn’t it time we stop commenting on other women’s choices and have a more “in it together” attitude?
Meanwhile, TV Supernanny Jo Frost discussed the Stevens issue on Twitter, writing, “I’m sure Ms. Rachel Stevens is now aware that her parenting choice was not a smart one but … truly so fed up with celebs being publicly shamed.”
She went on, “It’s the tone of this public parenting police I don’t like, stones and glass houses. Lets teach, love, and educate.”
Spot on Supernanny, spot on.More On