Friday, June 26, 2009

I don't think I could ever forget . . .

My own child.  

I watched Oprah yesterday and there was a woman on there who forgot her daughter in the car for eight hours.  When she returned, the little girl was dead.  I'm pretty sure it was a re-run and that this has probably been discussed ad nauseum on many forums but somehow, I missed it.

I felt compassion for that mother because I know that if I were the cause of one of my children's deaths, I would want to die.  I would probably have attempted to kill myself a number of times.  I don't know if I could ever forgive myself.  And I certainly wouldn't be public . . . I never would go on Oprah.  But that's me.

Oprah put a positive spin on things and said that the woman's dead baby is serving as an "angel" to all of us . . . a warning to "slow down."  

I get it.  We're all doing too much.  All trying to multi-task.  One very interesting point I took away from the show is that there's really no such thing as multi-tasking.  When we are trying to get more than one thing done at once, what in fact our minds are doing is quickly switching the focus from one task to the other and back and something inevitably gets lost in the process.  

I can attest to that! Burned pancakes because I'm trying to make porridge and smoothies while on the phone and folding laundry.  The mind simply can't do so much at at time so we tend to forget one thing or the other until it's too late.

But to forget my own child?  I don't know about that.  I mean, folks were on the show trying to empathize with this lady giving examples of how they could have easily been in the same boat.  One person said she accidentally locked her sleeping kids in the car while taking the groceries in.  But the car was in her garage.  And she knew immediately that she had locked them in there.  Another person called in to say that she left her son alone for a minute to go do whatever--toss in a load of laundry, stir a pot and when she got back, she found him hanging by a cord.  But she was around. Close by.  And was back in the room in a matter or minutes.  Both these women were trying to juggle every day tasks and, of course, there's no help.  We can no longer call on our neighbors to keep an eye on our children while we run and go do things.  Many of our parents still work and are years from retirement.  So we end up taking these little risks in order to keep life going, in order to get things done.

I don't know if it's only me though . . . I felt like there was something profoundly different between these situations and forgetting your baby for 8 hours in the hot car.  

I guess we should never say never and I'm sure that mother never imagined that was something she would do.  I'm sure she wishes she had heeded the warning signs I'm sure she must have had.  Her life and career have basically been destroyed because of that one mistake.

When I was working, I often felt harried and impatient with Z1 and I felt so terrible about it.  I had to try to squeeze in all the things I wanted to do with him, chores and other household responsibilities plus leftover school work into 4 or 5 hours at the end of the day.  After it was all done, I'd pass right on out with Z1--often in my work clothes.   I sometimes dread exercising in the morning but I know if I were teaching, there would be absolutely no window of time when I could work out or do anything "extra" in my day.

When I became a stay-at-home mom, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Yes, being a stay-at-home mom has it's own unique challenges especially the whole one-income situation but I can be a calmer, more focused mother for my children.    And because my children are under 5 and therefore need so much attention (often times undivided attention), I'm very grateful.  But even as a SAHM, there are times when I know I need to slow down and be more attentive.  I buy Band-Aids in bulk, you know.  And not for the children, either.  I'm constantly cutting myself or burning myself trying to get it all done.   

There's so much to do and so little time to do it.  And often the pressure is on us mother's to get it done.  The "expert" on the show yesterday gave the smug comment, "Why aren't the husbands helping?" Oh, they often try to help.  But often times, the "help" is not really helpful and you have to go back and do it the right way again.  I think it's important for us as mothers to let go of some of our ideals and insistences that it must be done this way.  It takes a lot of pressure off ourselves but it is definitely more easily said than done.  Especially since many of us do things the way we do things to make the whole thing run more smoothly.   

Society says we are useless in some way if we're not juggling kids, career, running a household.  It's not fair and, as we can see because of these tragic situations, it's not realistic.  I sometimes get down on myself because I feel like I haven't really made a go of my life--am not successful career-wise.  I graduated from high school ten years ago full of potential and high hopes and today all that I really have under my belt is being a mom and well, that's just not good enough.  The Oprah Show yesterday reminded me that it is good enough.  There is nothing wrong with refusing to juggle if you don't have to juggle--especially if it allows you to be present in whatever you are doing.  So if you put off having kids till you get your career in order, there's nothing wrong with that.  If you put your career off till you get your kids in order, there's nothing wrong with that. Fully embracing that truth serves in a tremendous way to take the pressure off. 

So while I don't think I'd ever be so preoccupied as to forget one of my children somewhere, that woman's story serves as a terrible warning to which I have taken heed.  

Photo Credit:  "juggling silhouette" by Criss Cross Circus on

P.S. Part of my decision to blog this morning, ironically, is to avoid exercising.  Who am I kidding?  The main reason I blogged this morning is because I do not want to work out!   I know, I know, I know . .  .


Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

One more thought . . . had the woman who forgot her daughter been a woman of color, would she have been talking to us via satellite in an orange jumpsuit?

The hubby says that had it been us, that tragedy would have been the end of the marriage because clearly something is wrong with me. A bit rough, I think.

Also, I thought that while she was being questioned by the police, she held herself together well. And she was a bit too smiley on the show. So I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt that it was an accident. But who really knows? But I do know that if she was a Black woman, she wouldn't have been afforded the benefit. At least I don't think.

Miriam said...

I think also that if she were black she'd being having this interview behind bars, in copious tears of regret, talking to an unsympathetic audience. Was that too harsh? lol.

Sometimes I view SAHMs as reluctant queens. Ive begun inlisting the help of some 10 or 12 year old girls in the neighborhood for help here and there.

Miriam said...

Just for correction, when I say reluctant I don't mean reluctant to be SAHMs I mean reluctant to use all our reigning power, etc.

Chi-Chi, The Original Wombman said...

I agree with you Miriam . . . I really wish there were some girls (or boys) around here I could trust. I certainly could use the help.

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