Judgement: what makes a 'bad' parent?

Yesterday, a mother-of-three crashed her car outside a primary school in Victoria after picking two of her children up from school. Her third child, a six-month-old baby, was also in the car. She was more than six times over the legal limit, with a blood alcohol reading of 0.304.

Australian Drug Foundation policy director Geoff Munro has said most people would fall into a coma if they drank enough to get to a reading of .3.

“A person who can read .3 and still function is most likely drinking at a high level on a very regular basis,” he said. “These people’s bodies have adapted to drinking high volumes.”

Today, her husband has come out to say that the community should not judge his wife because she is a “good mum”.

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The grey car driven by the mother 6 times over the legal alcohol limit who crashed it outside her children’s school.









The husband of a woman caught driving more than six times the legal limit with their six-month-old child in the car has pleaded with the community not to judge her.

The man, who didn’t want to be named and broke down as he spoke to media, said his wife was suffering from depression but said she was a “good mum”.

“She is a lovely woman and a great mother, or I wouldn’t be with her,” he said outside the school this morning.

“But she has some demons she is battling.”

Friends said the woman had been struggling for a number of years and urged people to show compassion.

Shocked parents from the school said they were disgusted by the incident.

“We’re just lucky no one was killed,” one said. “Kids were leaving school and if the car had gone up on the kerb it may have killed one,” she said.

The accident happened outside one of the main gates to the school. Parents said it was widely known the woman had a drinking problem. The school principal said he was appalled by the incident and said he phoned police after a parent notified him of the accident.

“It’s just horrifying,” he said. “The whole thing just makes you throw your hands up in exasperation.

Yes it does. Yes. It. Does.

Compassion. Don’t judge. Well, I’m struggling here. I’m judging. I’m not just judging, I’m stating a fact: anyone who drinks themselves stupid and gets behind the wheel of a car is an idiot. And anyone who does it with their children in the car is a bad parent.

Shall we define ‘bad parent’ in this instance? Anyone who puts their child’s life at risk. Or who intentionally harms their child. That’s my definition.

I don’t care why they did it. That is immaterial. She could have killed her children.

And don’t even get me started on all the other children – and adults – she could have killed by drinking herself virtually into a coma and then getting into a car.

So yes, I’m going to judge. I’m going to say it’s appalling that she got in that car. I’m going to say it’s appalling that, even though it was apparently well known that the woman had a drinking problem – and her husband clearly knew she had depression and other issues which seem to include severe alcoholism (according to his statement and the statement by police about her condition) that she was STILL allowed access to that car. Not to mention that she was left alone with a baby.


How can you not judge that? How can you NOT say that’s not OK?

I’m not going to be simplistic and say “take her children away”. Clearly, this is a family in need of help. But everyone has choices about their actions – including the friends and family of this woman who – if she is suffering from depression or anything else – must take some responsibility for leaving her alone with her children and with access to a car.

I once wrote a column about how we’re no longer allowed to judge anyone for anything and how it infuriates me – particularly when the “don’t-judge” admonishment is used as a moral gagging tool by someone who doesn’t agree with you. Or worse, to promote some kind of utopian kumbaya world where everything is OK.

Because there are many many things that are no OK and part of living in a civilised society is to communicate our boundaries. To apply critical thought. To have an opinion. To judge.

Here’s part of what I wrote:

Absolutely, there are kinds of judgement I abhor. Like seeing a woman in a flesh-flashing outfit and calling her a slut. What can someone’s clothes tell you about their sexual behaviour? Or walking past a girl pushing a pram and thinking, “dole bludger”. That’s ridiculous. “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché because it’s true. But you CAN judge a book by the words inside it.So when someone is, say, found guilty of deliberately harming their child, I have no problem judging them a bad parent.

Just like a person who crashes their car repeatedly could be fairly described as a bad driver.

About a year ago, I wrote about a case where a man received a suspended sentence for shaking or throwing his 12-week-old baby so hard, the child is now partially blind and badly brain-damaged. The judge thought it would be more helpful if the man helped care for his severely disabled son rather than going to jail. On my website, I expressed shock that such a person would even be allowed around vulnerable children. Cue finger shaking. “There but for the grace of God go I,” chastised some. “Don’t be so judgemental,” said many others including a good friend. “He might be a terrific father for all you know.” Really? But how?

Are there reasons for such crimes? Excuses? Back stories? Frankly, who cares. My concern in these cases was not for the adults because they’re…. adults. They can be responsible for themselves and make their own choices. Babies and children unfortunately don’t have that same choice. They’re at the mercy of their primary carers. And I believe not all primary carers are up to the job. Biology isn’t enough to make you an adequate parent let alone a good one.

Abuser? I judge you. I judge you to be a bad parent and a bad person. Shame on you.

“But you don’t know all the facts” insist the don’t-judge police. Well, in these two cases, I knew enough to make judgements, which, incidentally, are of absolutely no consequence. I’m not an actual judge or a DOCS worker. My opinion is merely that. So I’m perplexed when someone tries to shut it down by taking some odd moral high ground.
I’m confused about this Pollyanna state in which some people would have us live. A world without judgement. A Kumbaya land of rainbows and unicorns where every choice was equal, every behaviour tolerated and everyone given an understanding pat on the back for doing their best. Even if their best put a child in hospital. But wait, don’t judge.

This isn’t about how long you breastfeed for or when you went back to work after having a baby. That type of ‘judgement’ is as ridiculous as it is uneccessary. But judging people whose behaviour could – or does – put their children’s lives at risk? It doesn’t mean we don’t also want to help them. It doesn’t mean we turn our backs on them.

For the protection of the most vulnerable members of our society – children – we must judge parents who aren’t anywhere near up to the job.

If you need immediate help, you can contact:

Lifeline – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78

SANE Australia has fact sheets on mental illness as well as advice on getting treatment. Visit or call 1800 18 SANE (7263).

You can also visit beyondblue: the national depression initiative (1300 22 4636) or the Black Dog Institute, or talk to your local GP or health professional.