I stand before you a guilty woman. The worst kind of woman, really: a freshly branded Bad Mother.
Granted, I willingly put myself before judge and jury when I accepted an assignment from my boss, Tim Rogers. Tim, father of two, had seen one of my Instagram posts and suggested I expand the tale of a family outing gone wrong into a page for the back of the magazine, a humor page of sorts, though many of you would now argue with that definition after reaching the climax of my story, the heart-pounding moment I left my son in his movie theater seat to buy him a hot dog.
That moment was just a small part of the story, but Tim put a spotlight on it when he wrote a fantastic clickbait-y headline and subhead: “Yes, I Left My Child Alone in a Movie Theater: Any mom would have done the same thing. Right?!” While the story, which includes my email address, has not elicited a single addition to my inbox since it hit stands and went online, it did receive a deluge of negative comments when it ran on Facebook this Sunday.
“No! No! No!” “Hell no!” “No way!” so many of you said. And I’m glad. Absolutely. I agree, no one should leave her 3-year-old alone in a movie theater. Silly Tim. When he wrote that subhead, he surely thought it was a given that no mom would actually say yes. It was meant to be rhetorical, but it did end with a question mark, and many answered. I do not blame those of you who said they would never do such a thing. You are a community of fine parents. I would like, however, to respond to a few of the more verbose comments on the story:
To the gentleman who said that people should only go into parenthood knowing they will have to give up things such as time alone, I wholeheartedly agree. Because I see that we have a Facebook friend in common, and perhaps my name might come up at a dinner party one evening, I’d like to let you know that I actually didn’t go into parenthood knowingly. I’m not ashamed to say that my son is a happy accident, and upon finding out I was pregnant, I did a lot of thinking and research and eventually decided on a natural childbirth, the most painful 21 hours of my life, a night and day so strenuous that I passed out twice while pushing.
Since I’m already oversharing, I’ll also mention that I chose to breastfeed my child, though it was difficult for some time, until I transitioned him to a homemade goat milk formula when my milk supply finally dried up. I’ve written about my breastfeeding adventures before on FrontBurner when I urged the new owners of the JCPenney headquarters to address the lack of lactation rooms, one of the reasons I left my job at JCP to become a stay-at-home mom.
I’m happy to report that the building’s new owner invited me to the campus for consultation, and he now plans to renovate and increase the number of rooms by 200 percent. Should you ever find yourself within the halls of 6501 Legacy Dr. and also acquire the ability to produce nutrient-rich dairy from your nipples, I will accept your thanks for my hand in providing a comfortable place to relieve them.
To the woman who said that some people were NEVER meant to have kids, and added, “There are surgeries for that,” I stand beside you, sister, in solidarity for easily accessible family planning resources and good care for women’s health. Let us take up our bullhorns and fight the good fight for Planned Parenthood (the place I went to confirm my pregnancy). Anyone who wishes can donate here in my name.
To the woman who said, “Er…can we deport her?” no, I’m afraid I was lawfully born on U.S. soil, but I hope that while you were writing that comment this weekend, you were also sending out a prayer for Baby Jude, an 11-month-old detained at DFW Airport in the wake of Trump’s immigration ban. If you haven’t already, you can donate to the Human Rights Initiative, an organization that works for the safe passage of refugees to Dallas. Though you may not appreciate my inclusion in our community, you might as well help flesh out the population so that there be less of me, so to speak.
And to the women who said they would have called CPS on me, I am genuinely grateful for your vigilance. I hope you are also aware that our state is currently making a massive cut to Medicaid that will greatly affect thousands in our city, including children with disabilities. My hope is that, with equal indignation, you will call 202-225-3121 and demand that Congress protect health coverage for those who need it most.
For those who thought the page was poorly written or should have never been published, I won’t disagree. Admittedly, it wasn’t my finest work. But before giving up on me, I encourage you to read this story, an inside look at a factory employing blind people to sew luxury clothing right here in Dallas. I found it to be pretty inspiring. However, it has earned zero comments since it was posted on Facebook.
And finally, for the man who called my story “negligent parenting at its best,” I will respond to that bullshit by donating a carful of diapers to my local Rainbow Room, a nonprofit providing supplies for the Child Protective Services caseworkers who are charged with placing children into foster care.
You will be horrified to know that it is my greatest dream to someday welcome another child into my home through a state adoption. Because, even though I am flawed and make mistakes every day and am a crap mom in so many ways—such a frustratingly terrible cook that I once cried over ruined toast and so disorganized that my kid usually walks into his Montessori school wearing mismatched socks—I know that I have a heart big enough give a needy child the essentials: a warm bed, regular meals, and most importantly, a hell of a lot of love.
Of course, I may have screwed myself over by writing this story. When a caseworker is tasked with evaluating my household to place within it a child who has likely been physically or sexually abused or exposed to drug use or gang violence, now, I wonder, will they be concerned that I once ran 20 yards from my kid to buy him a hot dog? I really, truly do not know the answer to that question.
One final note: you all are welcome to the last word and to further shame me in the comments below. I am too sick and exhausted to debate, having caught my kid’s cold over the weekend. In fact, part of my Friday night was spent washing barf chunks out of my son’s blond tendrils. An experience, you’ll be glad to know, I will not expound on.
Forever guilty of being delighted and beat down by parenthood all at once,
S. Holland Murphy (aka Bad Mother)