It’s hard as hell being a mother these days, seriously. It’s not like when I first became a mom back in 1992, when you needed some advice you had to rely on your actual circle of real life folks. Granted if that circle was comprised of shitheads and bad advice it sucked but at the same time if a mother made a misstep her “crimes” were not fodder for women across the interwebz to sit in judgment while they dissect what makes a good mom versus a bad mom.
Yesterday I ran across two such cases that really made me shake my head and think maybe the problem isn’t individual women so much as the fact that for all our talk of a village, the reality is not nearly as many women have a village in their lives to help support them. I know women who have amazing villages that are able and available to support them but I also know there are a large chunk of women who have very little help and this is a tragedy.
Last night my twitter feed was in a tizzy about a woman in New York State who left her 13 year old at home for a week while she traveled out of the country for her job. From what I caught of the conversation most were appalled that this woman, a mother would do such a thing. Now I have spent a bit of time looking up this story and I must admit it’s sparse on details but I am assuming that to make the decision to leave a young teen alone, this mother must have felt she had no choices. In this time and day when jobs are scarce the reality is refusing to carry out the functions of one’s job including business travel in many organizations is grounds for termination. Ask me how I know? Furthermore in some cases not only can you be terminated but try getting unemployment benefits in such instances and you might find yourself denied. So assuming this woman is the sole breadwinner in her family she was most likely between a rock and a hard place.
Yet last night I saw women many from privileged backgrounds in the sense they have partners, they are not quite on the financial edge slamming this woman and basically saying she is a bad mother. Really? It’s always easy to judge others when your basic needs are met. I did see one mother on twitter admit that as a single mother she at times has left her small child alone while going across the street to the store while said child is asleep. Oh boy! This was one brave mother since many found that an unacceptable option, yet again this is coming from a place of privilege.
Truth is and I haven’t thought about this stuff in years since my eldest is an adult himself but when he was little and I was single there definitely was a few times I left him alone to run to the store across the street from my house. Or in the case of when we lived on the 22nd floor of a high-rise I left him alone in the apartment while sleeping to get the laundry downstairs in the basement. Looking back when I made those decisions I made the best choice I could at the time, I can’t say I would do it now but back then it made sense. Life as a single parent is hard, when I was a single Mom, I had a decent support system as both my Mom and Granny were alive but I did not live with them, they could not be with me at all times and frankly shit needed to get done.
However in today’s uber competitive environment of mothering we sit back in comfort, most of us knowing our basic needs are met and dish out judgment on any Mommy who does not meet our standard of parenting. The village in most cases only wants members who are just like us, or for those of us who are open to diversity in our village we may literally have no time to be a part of a village as we struggle to keep the roof over our head and food on the table.
It may be easy to ask why the mother didn’t ask a friend to watch her child; well there is growing number of adults who have no friends or people they know well enough to ask. Robert Putnam in the late 1990’s touched upon this in his book Bowling Alone, we talk a good game but most of us are simply not connected and while we think we are after all you are reading this blog, we might even follow each other on twitter but its not like you can call me up nor can I call you up.
Mother judgment does no one any good, instead of sitting and pontificating about who is a good parent or not, go out and make real connections so that no mother has to make the hard choice to leave her child alone or keep a roof over her head. It would be great to think that our government will provide for those in need but the truth is that is no longer an option we can count on.