I’m not a mother, something you probably figured out if you’ve ever even just glanced at me, so I wasn’t really aware there’s something on the internet called “mother/mommy shaming.”
This shaming occurs when a mother posts something on the internet (usually meaning Facebook) involving her kid(s) and people don’t like what she did. The things range from truly dangerous (a kid bouncing around in the backseat while mommy does 70 mph on the interstate) to “what’s your problem with that” (a mother not looking directly at her kid while they both stand on a sidewalk).
I found out about this when I stumbled across an ABC News story about a woman who wrote an essay for the New York Times after she was “internet jumped” when word got around she’d left her son in the car while she ran into a store for a couple of minutes.
This incident went sideways when somebody spotted the boy (no age is given) alone in the vehicle and called the police. She was then arrested and made to finish 100 hours of community service before her record was wiped clean.
She also told the story of a woman who left her three kids in a minivan while she went to get a cup of coffee. While she was in the store, a cop noticed the kids and started talking to them. The woman said by the time she got back to the minivan, no more than a few minutes, the kids were crying. The cop then turned on her, but this woman works in a public defender’s office, knows cops very well, and let’s just say she was neither arrested nor made to do community service.
Nowhere in the story I read does it say how old any of the kids were, which is a huge failure in reporting 101, but we won’t bother with that here. I’m pretty sure we can assume none of them were babes in swaddling clothes, strapped into car seats and I’d guess none of them were even toddlers.
More than likely, they were probably 7 years or older and in the case of the three kids left in the minivan, I’d guess at least one was probably 10 or 11 and told to “keep an eye on your siblings.” I’d guess that because the one thing that hasn’t changed is an 11 or 10 year old desperately wanting to prove they can be left alone, and how better to do that than keeping an eye on your obnoxious younger brother or sister?
While it was a very different world when I was a kid, I’m pretty sure that by the age of 12 I could have lived on my own. At least until it came time to pay the bills. And we had a nasty, damp basement that I’m pretty sure had monsters in it! Didn’t bother me. I was a tough 12 year old.
I know, as the story I read pointed out, kids mature at different rates. From about the age of 12 or so I relished being left alone. I never did anything beyond grabbing a bunch of snack food and crashing on the floor in front of the TV. But being alone without any adult protection? That was the Holy Grail for me.
But I also knew kids, well into their teens, who would refuse to go home because there wasn’t anybody there and they didn’t really want to be alone in the house.
Looking back from an adult perspective, there were probably valid reasons they didn’t want to be alone, but at the time I thought they were pathetic little babies.
This mommy shaming is a silly thing, of course. If you see a child in real danger, then do something. But if what you see is a child who is obviously over the age of 8 and they’re kicked back in a car, punching on a phone, looking like they don’t have a care in the world (they can probably see momma through the store windows), just walk on by.
And if you just can’t let it go, then park your caboose somewhere near by and watch the kid until momma comes back, gets in the car and leaves. If something untoward does start to happen, you can leap to the rescue.
But keep in mind, if you’re too obvious about what you’re doing, you might end up being the one who gets in trouble.