Home Alone?

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.

I’m not saying that I always follow it, I just try to. Moccasins are a bloody uncomfortable form of footwear – don’t judge!


12 thoughts on “Home Alone?”

  1. I have sat through conversations before with a shameful red rash creeping under my collar as mums have judged other mums for doing such things, and I’m thinking ‘Oh crap, I’ve done that!’ (especially the petrol station one) I know I shoudn’t have but we sometimes make bad decisions and hope for the bestt eh!?
    Nicely written, I really enjoyed this post.

    1. Thank you! I have hoped for the best on many occasions, often not thinking that I was until other mums start talking about what they would or wouldn’t do. Thank you for commenting, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  2. I’ve read threads like that on mumsnet too. They always got bit bonkers. Are there really people who take their kids out of the car when they go to pay for petrol ?? We all make decisions on the best thing to do at any given time. Sometimes we get it wrong but there are no great consequences . For the poor mccanns there was . #fortheloveofblog

    1. When I first heard other mums saying this I thought what a load of bollocks. I have 4 kids under 5, there’s NO WAY I can unstrap them all (pre pay at pump). As you say, no great consequences usually. Thank you for commenting.

  3. The environment I grew up in influences my decisions now. I try very hard not to judge or criticise. I’m sensitive to what other people experience. For me- I wouldn’t leave my son in any circumstances. But- that’s because I used to live in a country with conflict, where tragedies occurred so often that it became common place and people would no longer bat an eyelid. So it’s ingrained in me that the worst could happen. If I grew up somewhere else I’ve no doubt id be more relaxed. This was a great read! #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Where did you live? Exactly, everyone makes decisions based on personal circumstances. Thank you for commenting.

  4. Ohh I’ve not heard that quote before but I like, definitely one I will try and remember. People can be so judgemental, especially when it comes to the parenting choices of others. I would never leave my child alone in the house although I have occasionally left him in the car to get petrol, thank god I live by a pay at pump now and no longer have to got through the stress that decision always brought me!We are all doing what we can and sometimes we might make the wrong choice, no one is perfect xx #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Yes, well said. People are so quick to judge, until they find themselves doing the exact same things they have been judging others for. Parenting is all about making decisions based on your own circumstances and no-one has the right to judge. Thank you for commenting.

  5. This is a tough one as different parent’s have different views on what is right and wrong. I’m sure that the parent in question had every bit of faith that her child would be ok. but was maybe looking for some reassurances, all for it to be pushed back on her. I would never leave my child/baby at home alone certainly until they are a lot older, and I guess that decision is made on where you live, what type of house you live in, and the circumstances at the time. It’s a tough one, and social media and the media has probably made it into a bigger issue than it actually is. Thanks for linking up this week at #fortheloveofBLOG, a really interesting and thought provoking post. Claire x

    1. Thank you for all your comments – very much appreciated. It is, as you say, so circumstantial. I am a great believer in not sticking to hard and fast rules on too many things, because I think if you do, you can easily come unstuck. I think it can be better to see each situation on its own merits.

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