Moms aren’t perfect … and even better yet PEOPLE aren’t perfect. The mom shaming and people shaming on social media over the past few weeks is disheartening. I feel shocked and embarrassed at some of the comments I read. They truly are awful, and not always entirely accurate.
I am especially reminded of this while following the news reports of the 3-year-old boy who slipped into the gorilla enclosure on a crowded Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo. It seemed everyone had a comment or judgement to pass, calling the mother everything from unfit to negligent, while others could understand that accidents happen, even horrible accidents that involve your child wandering out of your view and falling into a dangerous animal enclosure.
I’m here to tell you that even terrible accidents like this can happen to the most attentive mom. It only takes a second to turn your back, divert your attention to something else, and the unthinkable can happen.
In fact, it happened to me.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 2008. I was a single mom, living on my own, working a full-time job and raising my 3-year-old son alone (except for the every other weekend deal when he was at his dad’s). I felt like I stayed exhausted all of the time. If you think you’re tired with one kid and you have a partner – being a single parent is WAY harder. You are responsible for your bills, the roof over your child’s and your own head, and everything else that comes with being a parent.
My son was a very active toddler and was always on the move. I always made sure to lock the deadbolt in our little apartment because he knew how to unlock and open the door.
One afternoon after work I was exhausted. Jack had fallen asleep on our bed. Yes, I said OUR bed. My apartment was only big enough – or actually [small] enough – for one bed so we shared a double sized bed. It was a rough time in my life where we lived off frozen chicken nuggets and french fries. I was 19 and barely making it with my minimum wage paycheck and food stamps. I’m ashamed to even reveal all this, but that was my life. I was so exhausted myself that I fell asleep right beside him.
What happened next was every parents worst nightmare.
About 30 minutes later I woke up and my son wasn’t beside me. Not only was he not beside me but there was a chair in the doorway of our little apartment. He had scooted a chair from the kitchen and unlocked the deadbolt and wandered off outside.
I looked in the back and front yard, but he wasn’t there. Then I went to my neighbor’s and banged on her door and told her what happened. She came outside to help me look for him. A few minutes later we found Jack across the street in my neighbor’s backyard.
Talk about heart attack moment.
I’ll never forget that paralyzing moment and feeling like a terrible mother. I couldn’t imagine my story playing out in front of 20 or more onlookers, reported to news outlets, and being crucified by all of the sanctimommies on social media. I couldn’t fathom being told I was unfit and negligent because of an accident. When I found my son I ran to him and gave him the biggest hug ever and told him that I loved him.