Last night, after the kids were asleep and I was in bed looking at google news, I read about the woman in New York's Upper West Side who came home yesterday to discover the horror of two of her children murdered by their nanny. I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I woke this morning thinking about it.
That mom is a million years away from me in so many ways - affluent, American, urban - but in the one way that matters most, we are exactly the same. We are mothers who love our kids and spend the majority of our lives protecting them from harm and always feeling like we are falling short. She is a mom, just like me.
Last night, before I shut down my laptop, I read some of the comments people were leaving on the internet about this tragic thing, and I was sickened to see how many people (other moms in particular) were quick to jump to the heartless conclusion that the mom was to blame. If she had been home, they coldly posited, this never would've happened. She should have been home, they typed, because "I stay at home and never let my kids out of my sight."
What is WRONG with you people? What is wrong with you people who could be this judgmental and smug about a woman who has just looked into the face of our biggest collective fear? Where are your hearts? Where is your soul?
This is "blame the victim" once again. This is what we do. We see someone endure a horrific crime and we immediately look for ways that it was the victim's fault, because as long as we can blame the victim we can comfort ourselves with the notion that we would NEVER make the same mistake that led to this tragedy. If a woman is raped we can say: "she never should have been walking alone at night and wearing a short skirt. I would never do that, therefore I will never be raped." We can say: "I would never leave my kids with a nanny, therefore my kids will never be murdered by the nanny." This is the coldest, meanest, and most small minded logic. This mom did nothing wrong. She left two of her children with her trusted nanny. I am a stay at home mom these days, and every so often I get a sitter so I can do something on my own. Am I asking for it? My friends here in our small town sometimes ask if they can leave their kids with me so they can have a few hours to get stuff done. Are they making a grievous error by doing so? Of course not.
This is a gender issue with a twist. This is a gender issue wherein women are judging another woman. This woman is a rich, stay at home mom therefore it is her duty to be home? Bullshit. The facts so far suggest this mom was out with her third child and left the other two with the nanny. So there you go, judgers, she was still being a mom while she was out, she was just doing what we all do - she was making things a bit easier (a bit) by doing something with one kid and opting for care for the other two so she didn't have to juggle three kids while out in the world. And if she had been out on her own getting a pedicure or seeing a film she would still be completely innocent. A mom gets to take a parenting break when she needs one. If I could afford a nanny I would have one just so I could be by myself for an hour or so every day. That wouldn't make me a lesser woman or a bad mom. A full time stay at home dad would be allowed to have a night out or a beer with a friend on occasion. This woman has money, and she was choosing to use some of it to make the overwhelming job of parenting three children a bit easier by employing a nanny. And I'm looking at YOU women who judge other women. Stop it. I don't know what I would do without the support of my mom friends, and this morning all I want to be is a friend to that woman in New York who is living our worst nightmare. She is my sister, and although she does not know I exist and probably never will, today I am making it my business to defend her, to metaphorically hold her hand. I can do absolutely nothing to ease this woman's unspeakable grief, but at least I can, from afar, say over and over: "It is not your fault. It is in no way your fault." It's a small thing. It's a tiny thing. But it's the thing I can do.