The Short of It
A UK mom's question about whether it would be okay to leave her baby alone to run errands has stirred up quite the debate online.
While commenting on a post on Mumsnet, a mama unintentionally set off a firestorm of opinions when she said she was considering leaving a 10-month-old child sleeping at home while she dashed out for seven minutes to pick up something at a shop approximately 55 yards away. She said her baby "napped reliably at the same time every day for at least an hour."
Later, she added she'd actually already decided to go ahead with the errand to grab clothing items she'd ordered online: "We live in a flat with no lift, so my reasoning was it would be easier to get them while she was sleeping, as I wouldn't have been able to carry her and the boxes up the stairs at the same time."
The mom also said, "I did try and think through every possible risk: Fire? We don't smoke, no appliances left on. Kidnap? He'd have to get through two locked doors first. Waking and crying? Possibly, but she hasn't woken early for months, and even if she did, it would have only been a few minutes. Vomiting? Never happened during naptime before. Something happening to me? Walking 55 yards crossing no roads? Really?"
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Despite her justifications, the judgments started pouring in. Comments like, "Absolutely not — that's bonkers. Seven minutes is long enough for lots of things to happen," and "Today, seven minutes. Tomorrow, 15 minutes. Who knows what time limit you'll be justifying next week," and "Er, no. Even though it's supertempting, I quite often want to shift my car when it's parked 100 yards away and a space comes free next to the house. But I don't do it, as it's just not worth it!!" made it clear this idea should be filed under "things to never do."
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Not everyone was opposed to the idea. One commenter said, "It's logically as risky as having a shower (where you can't hear s***) or going into your yard to do some work or enjoy the sun when they're asleep. You're hardly constantly monitoring them then either. It's irrational to think popping out for seven minutes is any different."
Another commenter related to this mom's quandary, writing, "I went to the shop once, needed milk and he was asleep. He was in that deep sleep they have when they first nod off. I was five minutes and don't need to cross any roads. I did a risk assessment and summarized that it would be far riskier for him to wake in the night cross because of lack of milk!"
Listen, we've all been in this mom's shoes. I remember just having put my baby down for a nap one day and getting a call from my older daughter's school that she wasn't feeling well and needed to be picked up; my heart sank. I pondered, "Would the baby be okay if I ran out for just 10 minutes?" And although I was tempted to let her sleep and dash out the door, I couldn't do it. Because the truth is, there are actually no guarantees my baby would be okay. What if something happened—a fire, a break in, an accident—and I wasn't there. I certainly didn't want to spend the rest of my life regretting leaving her alone.
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The bottom line is that a baby or a young child should never be left alone, ever. Even the original poster admitted about her time away that she felt "incredibly anxious before, surreal during, and extremely relieved afterwards."
Those feelings aren't coincidental.