parent opinion

"On the drive my heart pounded": What happened when Erin left her baby alone in the car.

It was 3pm when I realised I was going to be ‘that’ mum. The mum that we all say we never will be. The mum that we love to lampoon in the media for being irresponsible.

I’d met a friend earlier that day for lunch at a cafe where I indulged in a hearty beef burger, coffee and a fresh pressed juice. I’d then set out on a stroll down a favourite shopping street before I decided to get back into my car and make the thirty minute journey home through peak hour traffic.

In my haste to transition my baby from stroller to car seat without waking her up, I ignored the rumbles of my tummy. My indulgent lunch was starting to make its move on me.

Starting the ignition, I felt a slight cramp but shrugged it off as I entered the afternoon traffic. “I’ll be fine,” I assured myself. Not much more than five minutes later, I was well aware my assurances were not going to hold up and needed to find myself a toilet before I had a serious issue.

I briefly lamented on the fact that I too, could not let it all out in a nappy like my daughter when the urge called. I eyed a petrol station up ahead.

Team Mamamia confess: The time I felt like a terrible mother. 

Video by MMC

Major relief overcame me as I pulled into the car park closest to the entrance. As I unbuckled my seat belt, I realised I had another major dilemma on my hands. Do I wake my daughter, who had just gone down, or lock the car with her inside and run to the bathroom?

It was a cool day and I didn’t have much time to spare. I observed my surrounds, noted the sun shade and tinting on my windows meant you couldn’t even notice a baby inside and decided to make a run for it.

I locked the car, power walked into the toilet and thanked God I had left her to sleep. The place was filthy and there was no change table.

I was done within less than a minute, washed my hands and took off straight to my car. No one around me was any wiser to the fact my sleeping baby was inside. I started the engine, readying myself to rejoin the afternoon traffic once again.

On the drive home my heart pounded. Adrenaline pumped through my veins and guilt consumed me as I replayed conversations in my head where I’d always said I would never do such a thing.

Leaving kids in car
"I glanced at my sleeping baby in the rear view mirror and felt ashamed that I had taken such a risk. What if someone had seen her? What if she had woken up?" Image: Supplied.
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I see-sawed back and forth with my decision and how I felt about it. I glanced at my sleeping baby in the rear view mirror and felt ashamed that I had taken such a risk. What if someone had seen her? What if she had woken up?

Since becoming a mother, I’ve come to realise that you can never truly know how you’ll parent until you become one. Beliefs that you are adamant you won’t relent on can become tested in some of the most trying of circumstances.

You will, at some point in your parenting journey, make decisions that won’t always sit well with you.

Before I had my daughter, I always assured myself I would do certain things - only feed her home prepared food, always put shoes on when going out and avoid iPads as a calming tool.

My daughter is only 10-months-old and already we have enjoyed a store bought pouch purée, go out without shoes on (I do try occasionally but she has become very adept at pulling them off) and have used the iPad to settle her with her favourite ‘Wheels on the Bus’ when she is having a major meltdown.

I’m constantly reevaluating my belief system and always seeking information to be the best parent I can. However, my expectations have met up with reality and I am becoming less harsh on myself and less judgemental of those around me who are also parents and aren’t necessarily making the same choices as me.

With so much information on hand these days about what to do and not to do as a parent, it is overwhelming. Blogs here, forums there, scolding parents and harsh criticisms can sometimes leave you feeling grossly inadequate.

We may not always make the decisions we thought we would as parents, and that’s OK. We need to, from time to time, take stock, eat some humble pie and forgive ourselves for those times when we thought we knew it all.

We need to accept that our beliefs will be adjusted, brought into question sometimes and even completely abandoned altogether at other times. I’m learning to just take a breath and do what is right for us, in that moment.

I’ll always endeavour to avoid a situation like the one I put myself in that day, and I’ll forgive myself for making such a choice. Our children can only thrive, not with a perfect parent, but a happy and well adjusted one.

If I can give my daughter that, I’ll know I’ll have done my job.

Have you ever been in a similar conundrum? Tell us in a comment below.

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