Monday 25 March 2013

No country for young babies

Herewith my possibly less than coherent thoughts on the Baby Left in a Car While Mother Went To Shops front page story in the Herald this morning.  If you don't know what I mean there are plenty of Your Views and Stuff Nation comments to fill in the gap in your knowledge.  Thank me later.

1.  There but for the grace of bloody good luck go I, and no doubt countless others
I've left a baby sleeping in the car while I've popped in to the dairy.  I remember vividly the very first time I ever left Wriggly in the car asleep - when I was visiting my mother.  He was tired, I was tired, and I was only going to have to wake him up to get him out of the car and then put him in the portacot inside Mum's anyway.  I spent the time anxiously looking out the window at the car, and scared of judgement from others.  Mum was sweet about it.  The next time was when we needed some milk, were about a block from home and again the little blighter had gone off to sleep prematurely.  I got the bovine produce and basically ran in and out of the shop, again terrified of judgement and prepared to be criticised any second.  No one noticed. Milk was purchased, baby continued to sleep, only person who it had a negative impact on as me while I stressed out.    There are far fewer stories with Snuffly as he hasn't been as good at sleeping in the car, plus I was so seriously sleep deprived in the year after he was born that I imagine I've blocked it out anyway.  In some countries overseas I have heard that it is considered quite acceptable for the responsibwle parent to go for a walk or a run while their baby sleeps.  Maybe this is a myth used to further taunt us all.

2.  We all make crap decisions sometimes
Was it a bad decision to leave the baby in the car, with a note?  Probably.  Don't really have enough information to go on.  But I can understand the making bad decisions thing - we've all done it.  Particularly, especially, when sleep deprived.  Maybe she thought she'd jut be a few minutes, maybe she was only getting bread and milk, maybe the  baby hadn't slept all day, maybe she hadn't slept all week, maybe the capsule squeaks mercilessly when removed from the car, maybe she was dealing with repulsing an invasion of aliens in her spare time?  She was best placed to make the decision.  Doesn't mean she made a good decision, but we can't know all the stuff that was behind it (and we probably never will now, thanks to heaps of people jumping on the Judgement Express all the way to Sanctimoniousville.)

3.  If it had been a father we'd be saying what a doofus
Because it's ok for dads to do stupid things because everyone knows men aren't the "natural parents" that women are, right?  It would be a stupid decision for a man, it was stupid decision for a woman.  Let's not impute some kind of evil mothering intent.  The note alone suggests there was no malice involved.  When women make parenting mistakes it isn't that we should know better, or that we naturally get it or anything like that - they are mistakes.  Mothers and fathers should be held to similar standards thanks very much.  Some parents are better at dealing with different phases of their children's lives than others.  I, for example, absolutely suck at coping with the first two months.  I know this now, after two such experiences, and have the resources to put stuff in place to help should it ever happen again.  But lots of people have neither the resources nor the mental space to see that they need them.    Let's cut each other some slack hey?

4.    Where were all the agencies?
The answer to this problem, if there is a problem, possibly, probably, doesn't involve an agency.  Likely it involves someone in this child's family (by which I mean a broad definition by the way) giving the mother some time off.  Or volunteering to go get the shopping for them, or offering to pay for lelivery and helping them to order their bits and pieces on line.  I'd note that Pak N Save is generally the cheapest supermarket.  So it may be that cost is a factor.  In which case perhaps we all should start thinking more seriously about that whole living wage thing again - if we put up wages then  we could put benefits up too.  And no it wouldn't just lead to inflation blah blah blah, but that's a blog for another time.    Could an agency help out with brokering these conversations?  Probably, but most of them are so focused on the really desperate stuff they don't have time to do so.  Look around you - if you see someone who may be struggling, with a newborn or something else, see if you can help out and offer to do so if you can.

Ok, rant endeth.


Deborah said...

Great post, Julie. This could have been any of us, making a dozy decision because we were so damned tired, and we just had to keep going and going and going.

MeToo said...

"In some countries overseas I have heard that it is considered quite acceptable for the responsibwle parent to go for a walk or a run while their baby sleeps."

I used to go outside and mow the lawns while my baby slept. Perfectly legal leaving the wee mite unattended for a hour because I was on the property and he was in his cot.

And yet, had I been "caught" leaving him in the car while I popped into a shop for all of 5 minutes I could have face criminal charges and a welfare investigation. All because we were away from home. Made no sense to me then, makes no sense to me now.

Wee Bey said...

I don't think a man doing this would have really been let off easier. There would have been a lot of "where was the mother" comments, though.

Katherine said...

I want to flood the comment sections with a load of 'where was the father >:(' comments, but I would probably inadvertantly read some of the other comments, and spontaneously combust.

Giarne said...

The comments some people make are horrid - so I agree with Katherine, best not to look!
I love that you blogged about this Julie cause I feel the same but wouldn't have blogged about it. Newborn phase was terrible for us and we did and still do leave Kadyn for 2-5 mins while going to dairy or paying for petrol.
Guilty guilt guilts enough ourselves, if someone followed me round with a camera all day it'd paint me in an awful corner some days. :)

Chris Miller said...

What's interesting is that I consider myself to take a hard-line stance on people leaving babies and animals in cars, particularly in summer. But if I actually think about it I'm a hell of a lot more forgiving than, apparently, a lot of people on Stuff. To me the fact that she left a note with her contact number mitigates a lot; I'm also assuming that she didn't plan to be more than a few minutes. I do recall Saturday HERE as being pretty hot (I got sunburned) but I don't know what it was like in Porirua. If I'd been there I'd probably have done what the passersby did - waited by the car, or called her to check how long she'd be and probably offer to wait until she was back. Same if it was the father.

I'm also fairly understanding of the phenomenon where parents actually forget their children are in the car, often with tragic consequences - it's a function of the way the brain works usually, where when you have a solid routine you don't actually actively follow it, you go into autopilot. So if the baby usually goes with a sitter but one day you're supposed to drop it somewhere on your way to work, the brain can completely erase that from your short term memory. It's horrifying for everyone involved and I suspect if I ever ended up with a baby and a car I'd be terrified enough of it (seriously, it haunts me even though I don't have either) to always keep my bag/wallet/briefcase/whatever in the back seat so that when I grab it as I'm getting out of the car I'd see pēpi.

Either scenario seems to bring down a lot of bile that just doesn't seem constructive to me. Isn't it far more effective to remind people of the danger in advance, and on a micro-level to help out parents so they don't have to take the chance?

Psycho Milt said...

There but for the grace of bloody good luck go I, and no doubt countless others / If it had been a father we'd be saying what a doofus

Yep. When I was playing lead childminder, I did find it extremely embarrassing to have my 2-year-old led back into the shop I was in by a passer-by who'd noticed him wandering out into the street for a bit of exploring. "What a doofus," witnesses were obviously thinking. No-one called the TV news to do a story about what a bad parent I was.

AnneE said...

Great post, and expresses much of what I thought. I have done much worse when mine were babies. And I thought one could never get up the steep front lawn as a crawler, didn't watch him, missed him and came rushing up the lawn in time to see him crawling BACK along the footpath by the road... The pressure on mothers now is as bad as or worse than back then.

K said...

I really feel for the mother. Jeez, it even made headlines in Australia!