Before becoming a mom, I would have jumped right into tearing apart the 20-year-old mom who allegedly abandoned her 7-month-old on a subway platform in Manhattan.
How heartless! How selfish! What kind of horrible person does such a thing?
Now that I am a mom, I can relate to the pressures that potentially led this young woman to decide to abandon her baby. Let me be clear, I'm not condoning her action. But I now have a perspective that allows me to at least empathize with how this New York City mom might have been feeling.
According to news reports, the woman rolled the baby in a stroller onto the subway platform at Columbus Circle (one of the busiest stations in Manhattan) when the train doors opened, then remained on the train as it pulled away. Onlookers waited to see if the mother would return and then contacted police. The woman was later detained.
I don’t know her back story, or the specific reason behind her decision, but being a parent gives me valuable perspective that I didn’t have as a 20-year-old. And, after chasing a toddler around under the best circumstances, it’s hard to imagine tackling parenthood without a supportive husband and family members, or the life experience I’ve already gathered.
That said, when it comes to parenting, sometimes no amount of life experience, educational degrees, or even wealth can prepare you for some of the challenges that come your way.
I asked parents among my friends and followers on Facebook for their thoughts on the subway incident. The majority of responses tended toward sympathy for this mother, and the distinct sense that her actions were a cry for help.
Among the first comments on Facebook:
“I have more compassion for the mom now that I'm a parent because I know how hard it is.”
“I tend to be much more on the spectrum that something is going on in her life that she made that choice. I don't jump to her being a bad mom.”
“I think before having my daughter my first reaction to this would have been How Could She Do This! But would be curious as to the events leading up to this decision. But unless you are taking care of a child you don't really know what it is like.”
It's hard to go online or watch TV without seeing reports about "bad" parents, those accidentally or purposefully neglecting or abandoning their children. Some are more gruesome than others, some can leave us shaking our heads in disgust.
But as parents, there is also a need to ask, “How can we help?”
Some of those commenting on my Facebook post about this story first asked, "What else this mother was dealing with in her life?" Was she struggling with depression, drugs, alcohol, and perhaps a lack of family support?
No matter what was listed, many parents who weighed in were eager to try to find a problem to solve. And as parents, we do become adept at problem solvers, working for what seem to be some of the most demanding bosses in the world (of course a hyperbole, but still relatable when we consider some tasks in parenting).
This mom of the abandoned baby in NYC acted in a time frame outside of the state’s “safe haven” laws, which require the baby to be dropped at a designated safe location when it is no more than 5-days-old. Despite its incompatibility with this case, that safe haven law, now 15-years-old in New York, is still in need and saving the lives of newborns, as are similar programs across the nation, according to a recent NBC news report featuring parents who have adopted abandoned newborns.
At this point, according to New York state law, the mother could face a felony charge for child-abandonment.
There will be no immediate answer as to what this mother was thinking, or what could have prevented her from abandoning her child. And there will still be those who see no justification for her actions, as also noted by some comments on my Facebook feed (one person recommended sterilization).
But before throwing this New York mom under the proverbial bus, it might be more constructive for parents, family members, and friends to look at this story as a call-to-action to check in with a new mother or father – and see if you can lend a hand.