Bad Mother Facebooker

If all else fails, blame it on the Internet.

By , Columnist

The burning question all mothers wrestle with is this: whom do we love more? Our children or Facebook? Not.

Chances are, even if you are a really bad mother, you will choose your darling offspring every time. Perhaps that would also be the answer Karen Pena, the Colorado mother who was surfing Facebook while her 22-month-old daughter was left unsupervised to wander into the path of a reversing van and tragically died last week from the resulting injuries, would give if she were asked.

There is also a chance that if you are, like me, a fairly-average-trying-her-best kind of mother you will have at some point taken your eye off your child while being simultaneously logged onto the world's favorite social network. Does this make us bad mothers?

If you believe the press reports covering the truly nightmare inducing incident, it would certainly seem so. There is no doubt that allowing a young child to be near traffic without the direct supervision of an adult is negligent parenting. The thing that twanged my 'common sense' nerves, however, was the whole implication that it was somehow Facebook's fault. It is the kind of anti-social networking rhetoric used by some in the media that makes me want to WRITE IN CAPITALS WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!! And I really hate it when people do that.

The fact is bad mothers existed before Facebook. Since the beginning of time, irresponsible parents can choose all sorts of distractions to take their mind away from the tedious task of shuffling behind a continually mobile toddler: from doodling on cave walls in prehistoric times to playing Angry Birds on your iPhone. The fault is in the parent, not the distraction.

karenpena.jpgThe reports in the media also give an unnecessarily judgmental portrayal of the Colorado mom as being less of a helicopter parent and more of a drone - out of sight and out of mind. The investigators cited a "filthy" condo with a "broken gate" as evidence of her ineptitude. Here is when my feminist nerves start to reverberate into a blurry overdrive of frustration.

Does every woman who has a messy house deserve to be labeled as a bad mother? How do we know that she isn't so dedicated to her daughter that she spends more time finger-painting than picking up laundry off the floor? There are plenty of helicopter mothers who see a tidy house as a sign that you are dedicating insufficient time to Madison's mandarin lesson. Perhaps she just took her eye off of her curious little bouncy ball for the few minutes it took for her to escape. We've all been there, haven't we?

I guarantee that if Ms Pena looked more like the celebrity mom the media are constantly telling us we should look like and lived within the confines of a perfect picket fence, the story would have a different angle. Having a grim mug shot and an apartment that hasn't been feng shui-ed seems to be sufficient excuse to affirm her guilt.

Maybe this is a case of chronic parental neglect, only the actual facts will tell us. I can tell you that the day my one-year-old fell down a flight of stairs because I took my eye off her for longer than I should have, I am glad my house was semi-tidy, my face was "on," and my Facebook status was a day old. Not only did she survive but I escaped the press being able to point their finger at another ugly mother media user.

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Victoria Robertson is a freelance current affairs columnist and founder of With her back foot firmly planted in some commonsense and a lively swing of the bat, she knocks today's big news stories straight out of the park.

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