I have never claimed to be a perfect mother. In fact I doubt such a thing exists. Most of us are just chugging along trying our damndest to get through the day.
I sometimes lose the head. I have been known to let a roar on the odd occasion. On other occasions I have praised the Lord when bedtime has rolled around and I have been able to sit down, head in my hands and sob quietly into a glass of wine - grateful that we have all made it through another day.
I have surveyed the destruction in my house and remembered the days pre-children when the floors were clean and the sofa was not held together with toast crumbs and yoghurt.
There have been long darks nights when I have contemplated leaving the husband to it and walking out so that I could check myself into a nice hotel for just one night’s uninterrupted sleep. Oh the thought of no five year climbing on top of me to tell me his dreams at five in the morning or a baby deciding to wake me with her dulcet babbling at three. Bliss!
Long gone are my day dreams of a romantic dinner a deux with George Clooney in a quaint Parisian cafe. My biggest dream these days is being able to go to the toilet without an audience of inquisitive children who do not understand the concept of personal space.
Let’s face it, being a mother may bring untold joy but it is also hard work. We all know that going into it. But when we decide to be parents we must also decide, on some level, to take our oil.
Sure we can whinge if we wish about the lack of privacy and lack of sleep we must endure but when we choose to become parents we choose to take on certain responsibilities and there is no excuse for neglecting them - no matter how stressful the day or how worn out we are.
I write this in a fit of rage after reading about mum-of-four Rebecca Stevenson who left her children - all under the age of four - while she went out on a 24 hour drink and drugs binge.
Police were only alerted to the children’s predicament when a neighbour saw the eldest child (just four years old) shouting from a window “Where’s mummy?”.
Her youngest child - just three months old - was lying in a soiled nappy, covered in his own sick in a urine soaked travel cot with not even a blanket around him. His four year old sister had tried to mix a bottle of baby formula to feed him to stop his cries.
This scene absolutely breaks my heart. And it’s not from any sense of smugness that I’m a better mammy than she is, or from any failure on my part to understand how difficult being a parent can be.
I know it can be tough, and exhausting and stressful. I know what post natal depressions feels like. I know what it is like to experience full on panic attacks at the responsibility of it all. I know what it feels like to forget just that little bit who you are any more and long, just that wee bit, for life outside of mammyhood.
But what I don’t understand is how any mother can walk away and leave four babies (because in my book four is still a baby in the grand scheme of things) to fend for themselves. My five year old goes into mad hysterics if he hasn’t noticed I’ve gone up the stairs and he can’t find me for all of 30 seconds (hence me always having an audience in the loo) - never mind if me and his daddy were to bugger off for 24 hours leaving him to tend to his own needs and the needs of his baby sister.
I don’t even want to think about how scared those children must have been. The thought of a three month old crying in hunger and distress for hours on end with no comfort makes me feel physically sick.
What sickens me most of all however is that for this crime Stevenson received only a 20 week suspended prison sentence. Loathe as I am to come over all Daily Mail, that sentence is simply not strong enough.
Regardless of what may have been going on in Stevenson’s life at that time there was no excuse for her actions. There is never an excuse for a wilful neglect of children so that a parent can drink themselves into a stupour - knocking back shots of Sambucca - while their children scream out for attention.
When she left those innocent children to fend for themselves, she forfeited her right to freedom and she should have been locked up - and yes of course given the appropriate support to rebuild her life. But her rehabilitation seems to have been given more weight than her punishment and in a case where four young childrens’ lives were put at risk this is beyond acceptable.
Her children, like all children, deserve to be loved and looked after. They deserve to feel safe and secure. They deserve to have their basic needs of food on the table and clean clothes on their backs met. How dare Stevenson shirk this responsibility?
Tonight when I go home I’ll probably still be thankful when it is bedtime and I can have some me time with the husband and a glass of wine but I’ll be even more thankful for the fact that my children have parents and extended family who love and care for them so deeply.
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