I have been heavy-hearted for a particular mother this week. Really, because the implications of this mom’s story affects all mothers, I’ve been heavy-hearted for mothers in general. Eventually making my own leap to motherhood will carry a little more trepidation than it once did.
Cherish Peterson has been deemed by many as one of the worst moms in America this week after forgetting her 2 month old baby boy in a shopping cart. She is being criminally charged for endangering a child. Cherish says that she was loading up her other two toddlers into her vehicle when she accidentally left her infant in the cart. Thankfully, an off-duty police offer found the baby within about 10 minutes and called the authorities. Because the baby’s car seat was directly behind the drivers seat, Cherish didn’t realize her baby was missing until she got home. She returned to the grocery store sobbing about 40 minutes after he was left there.
When this story hit the news, so did the onslaught of social media wrath, mostly from other mothers. Thousands and thousands of people questioning how it is even possible for a decent mother to forget her own child have called for all four of Cherish’s children to be removed and Cherish incarcerated. The condemnation was so severe that Cherish sat down for this interview to explain:
After tearing up watching this interview, I want to ask this question.
How has it come to this?
I am worried for all mothers.
Instead of the 1950’s America where mothers would be knocking on her door, bringing her food, support and love, and everyone would thank God in agreement that her baby was unharmed, we now have media outlets surrounding her home to glorify and magnify her terrible moment of forgetfulness. The authorities were rightfully involved in this case immediately. CPS rightfully toured this family’s home, interviewed the children and found well-fed, well-dressed, well-loved, happy children and a devastated, apologetic mother. Yet, today’s America is faster to emotionally destroy this mother (because her own massive guilt obviously isn’t enough) by adding our uninformed opinion all over the internet.
This isn’t right.
You see, I know Cherish. That’s why my heart-aches for her even more. We spent four years in college together becoming nurses. I saw her glowing with happiness as she fell in love with her future husband. I watched her walk across the stage at our graduation as the cutest, happiest, pregnant mommy-to-be. I went on to become a pediatric nurse practitioner and Cherish became a mother of four beautiful children with a successful nursing career. She is without a doubt one of the kindest, most caring mothers you could hope to meet. She made a terrible mistake, and now she’s being publicly condemned for it.
Can I please stop for a moment to simply reiterate how hard motherhood is? Has anyone ever mentioned that it is the hardest job in the ENTIRE world? Can you think about your life with four small children under the age of 6 (with your body still recovering from bringing the littlest one into the world) with the knowledge that these people are dependent upon you, every minute of every day? Can you imagine the overpowering fear that swept over this woman when she looked at her empty back-seat and realized her baby was missing? The surge of outcomes that flash through your mind in an instant: Gone? Dead? Kidnapped? And it was all her fault. Oh the merciless guilt and fear of that horrible moment.
Instead of jumping to judging her, my mind thinks of the mistakes my mother accidentally made. As a three-year-old, I decided that I should consume all the children’s multivitamins in a Costco sized bottle and almost died of an iron overdose. My mom didn’t think to lock up children’s multivitamins. Would you? What if I died? Thirty of the worst minutes of my childhood happened when my my two-year-old brother went missing at Disneyland. Even though all four of us kids were strategically wearing matching shirts and had two extremely responsible parents, my mom thought my dad had him, my dad thought my mom had him and just like that, he was gone. What if he was kidnapped? It was terrifying. The various situations where well intentioned mothers make mistakes are endless. What about that time you gave your baby the wrong amount of medicine in the middle of the night? The time they fell off the bed because you weren’t watching? That time you forgot a child at school?
There is an ugly truth about most mothers that we all know exists, but rarely talk about. You see, deep inside most women is still the junior-high girl that holds the power to crucify other school-girls on a whim. Hopefully, as we age, that vice is buried by enough wisdom and maturity that it doesn’t come out. But unfortunately, it has made a spectacularly ugly appearance with this story.
Mothers, all mothers, are not infallible. You will make mistakes. In fact, you will make them over and over again. And by the grace of God, I pray none of those mistakes cause real harm or endangerment to your child. Even simple mistakes can result in tragedies. But now, even more, I pray that you never make a mistake that is gloriously picked up by the public while you are condemned by the social media gods. I pray your community doesn’t shame you with hateful, damaging words that will follow you for the rest of your life.
Mothers, the only woman that needs your crucifying is that junior-high girl inside of you. That small voice that tells us we are a stronger, better woman when we highlight the mistakes and weaknesses of others. Don’t crucify other mothers. Kill that voice. Support mothers, love them, pray for them. Be an encouragement and source of strength. Tell them that motherhood is the hardest job in the world, but they are doing a marvelous job. Remind them that their children are worth every sleepless night, every tear, and every ounce of effort. Tell them that their exhaustion, their fears and their inevitable failures can be overcome.
The mistakes will come, but be the living, breathing grace that picks up that crying mother and inspires her to keep going.
Be the grace.