The can is open and the worms are crawling everywhere, since a mumsnet user posted a question on the parenting forum:
“Would you leave a peacefully sleeping 10m old home alone for 7 minutes?” The user explained that their 10-month-old sleeps reliably and at the same time every day. They also said that their journey took 7 minutes and the destination was 50m away.
It sparked over 800 replies and naturally the Daily Mail got hold of it too…the debate rampages on. Since Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal in 2007, we have become the judges and the jury. Before this, we all went with our gut. She was 3 years old when ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, happened and I had children not much older than her. Of course it hit home. You couldn’t help but become obsessed with the story. I can clearly remember watching a news report when Kate McCann, the mother, was first visiting the police station to be questioned. How can she look so calm? I thought (judging – thinking how I’d react). How dare I judge! I didn’t just have an opinion, I judged. Is there a difference between the two? The point is, pre Madeleine’s still unexplained disappearance, I left my babies alone and not just me, friends and family behaved in a similar way to me. Sounds shocking? You haven’t heard the details yet. The mumsnet lady hadn’t given details, so of course we all form an opinion on what we can see or hear. After a negative reaction to her post, with some positives for what she did too, she gave us avid readers more details: she lives in a flat and she was picking up boxes of clothes so that she could try them on in peace…hey lady, stop! You’re making it sound worse to the mumsnet gestapo, not better! She says that she did a risk assessment first, possibly similar to the one you might do before opening a second bottle of wine, she assessed the risk as, ‘oh fuck it, go on then!’. Yes, I’ve done that same risk assessment that she did, on my babies. What allows us as mums to love, cherish, live and die for our babies, but still happily leave them alone in certain situations? Buying petrol – you do a quick risk assessment: baby asleep in car seat, door locked, I’ll be literally minutes and can see the car from the window, tick. The positives hugely override the negatives of waking her up, especially when you’ve spent the past 30 minutes driving around getting her to sleep and that’s why you now need the bloody petrol. Then, while you are in the petrol station, a car that is parked on a hill opposite rolls down the hill, onto the garage forecourt and into the side of the car where your bundle is sleeping. Unlikely? It happened to me when I was a child. Is it ever worth the risk?
People replied to the lady on mumsnet saying: what if a fire ripped through her house while she was out. Others posted, ‘unlikely’. The point is that we never know what might happen and you can bet that all of us who may say fair play to her, would be the first to tut if there had been a fire. So, back to the days of the gut instinct? When my children were tiny, I lived in a village, which perhaps made me feel (stupidly) safe, or perhaps I was just bloody knackered and my brain was in that place they pack their bags and take themselves off to when baby one appears. I don’t know why I did it, but I parked my car, complete with 4 kids under 5 in it, outside our local village shop, left the engine running and ran in to buy something. My risk assessment was screwed. Maybe I thought no-one would want 4 kids under 5 and would leave them well alone. Another mum came into the shop and asked me whether I wanted someone to take them, as she handed me my car keys. I was incensed (embarrassed) – how dare she! Looking back on the incident, my reaction is: how could I have done that?! But I did.
Perhaps the answer to the worms is never to take a risk. Just simply imagine that the worst may very well happen, rather than very well won’t. Is this a healthy way to live, adding to the neurosis that comes with the title of ‘parent’?
One thing that is for certain: as a nation we have become extremely judgemental. I suspect it is the rise in social media that is to blame for this. We play out our lives on line and we are bate. One of my favourite quotes is:
Never criticise a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.