We're damned if we do, damned if we don't. This is just another example.
It's not a surprise to me, as a mom, that the mother of the little boy who fell into a gorilla habitat in a Cincinnati zoo is being called a horrible mom.
Our first instinct upon hearing a devastating story like this, where there is no real happy ending, is to think of how it could've been prevented. She should've held his hand, she should've had him strapped down in a stroller. She should've known he was going to climb into the water. She should've gone in after him. She should never have taken her eyes off him. And yes, the death of this gorilla is a horrible tragedy.
But some people have called for investigations by Child Protective Services, or even for her to have been shot instead of the gorilla.
As if she isn't recounting her own terror, and remembering screaming out after him "Mommy loves you!" just as you and I would have.
But this story isn't about one mom, one boy, and a gorilla.
It's about the ways in which moms today can never win.
No matter what we do, we cannot get it right in the eye of the American public.
How often do we hear how helicopter parents are failing their kids by supervising their every movement?
How often do we hear about how kids in the 70s and 80s were allowed to ride our bikes all day, without anyone knowing where we were, as long as we were home by supper — and how great that was?
How often do we hear jokes about the "awful" slacker parents who keep their toddlers on leashes at zoos and theme parks?
Like everything else women do in this society, we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. We are supposed to let our kids run free, to be wild and exploratory. But not so free that they have any sort of opportunity to get hurt.
Moms have to be perfect, all the time, or we are considered failures.
In other cases, moms are the only ones blamed, too. Single moms are to blame for high crime rates. But what about all those dads who helped make that child? Working moms are blamed for kids' supposed disconnection from society. But what about all the working dads who are away from home all day, too?
Why is it always our choices that are blamed for the ruining of society? Even when dads are around, making choices alongside us, we are the ones who are blamed.
This case is a simple reminder that society would rather turn against women than look hard at itself.
Here's the BRUTAL TRUTH most parents understand: Accidents are going to happen when it comes to children, especially small ones. Your child will run out in front of a car or fall into a pool or accidentally drink something he shouldn't. She will wander out the front door someday or tease a dog that snaps at her. He will ride his bike on the wrong side of the road, or horse around with his friends until someone is hurt. He will drink too much at a party and get sick, she will trust the wrong person.
We cannot always hold their hands. And that is the terrifying reality of being a parent.
We can only do our best. There is so much risk of loss and heartache in parenting. I'm reminded of this every time I send my boys out to ride their bikes or to play at a friend's house. Life as a parent is scary because there is so much on the line.
So much to lose.
But society has to stop making us feel like crap for doing the best we can.
We will never be perfect, and we have to stop expecting parents to never make a mistake.
And we have to stop expecting moms to hold up the whole entire world.