Funny quips about parenthood; that's what this blog is supposed to be.
But yesterday something happened in the land of parenthood that is the farthest thing from funny and I cannot seem to think of anything else.
Two children were murdered by their nanny in my old UWS neighborhood. (NY Times article here).
I couldn't sleep last night. The image of that mother arriving home to find that horror kept flooding my mind. My heart raced and I tossed and turned until my husband got up, pulled the little one out of his bed, thumb in mouth, hair in sweaty sleepy curls, and presented him to me: a snuggly, precious gift. I breathed him. He found his niche, head in my collarbone, snored a little and slept on uninterrupted. Tears streamed down my face as gratitude for the moment washed over me and sorrow for the mother I do not know, but ache for, pummeled my heart.
I have written here about searching for balance. The work/life balance. The mother/self balance. In all equations of "balance," childcare support is required. Much to my own mother's chagrin, we no longer live in shtetls (socially stable, European or Russian Jewish settlements where families lived together and raised families together). On shtetls, children were never left with strangers, because there were no strangers. Bad things still happened (far be it from me to deny the horrors of Eastern European Jews), but mothers could go to the market and know their children were safe at home with their own mothers, or sisters, aunts, or cousins. Families raised the children.
Fast forward to today however and in most parts of the United States, at least, this is no longer the case. It's just not feasible. Our extended families live elsewhere. So who is watching our children when we go to work ... or take a middle child to swim class?
In truth, the answer is - decent people. Wonderful people. There are incredible childcare givers who have devoted their lives to caring for other peoples' children in the most conscientious and loving ways. Yesterday's nightmare does not negate that. But it does shine a light on the fact that when we leave our children in others' care - we are taking a risk. Sure, a measured, risk. But, a risk nonetheless. We as a society now agree, that it is fine - more than fine actually - necessary for the majority of the American population (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of married-couple families where both parents worked edged up to 58.5 percent in 2011. And in homes of single mothers, 65.9 percent of those women work full time) - to leave our most prized treasures - with people we only sort of know.
And usually, most of the time, everything is fine. But then ... something like this happens - the unimaginable, the unthinkable, the most horrific betrayal - and then what?
We don't live on shtetls anymore, so we leave our children with strangers we grow comfortable with. We kiss those little heads goodbye, wishing our kids a "great day," and run out the door. It's what we do. And yet ...
I can't help wishing today for a safety net. Wishing for a shtetl. A protective shield of family love that could step in when I have to run out to the grocery store or make my way to a meeting.
My heart is broken for the Krim family. There are no words to make this better. Today is a day for kissing your children without apology, for saying "yes" to wrestling in the dining room, and for sending up a prayer for Lulu and Lito Krim, their family and their friends.