Advice and judgement

A few months ago, Catherine Newman ran a contest in which entrants were supposed to share the best piece of parenting advice they had received. Someone wrote that, with respect to infants, it was okay to sometimes feel like throwing the baby out of the window, as long as you don’t actually do it.

A number of years ago there was a particularly horrific local incident involving a young mother – a university student from Japan – who killed her two young children. I was discussing the case with a colleague, an extremely kind and gentle man, a devout church-going family man with a penchant for corny jokes. As we discussed the tragedy, he related that when his eldest was a colicky baby, he and his wife were often at their wits’ end, and that sometimes he felt like throwing her out the window.

This revelation shocked and outraged me, a sheltered, pampered, twenty-five year old non-parent. I couldn’t believe a parent would feel like that about their own child. I couldn’t believe that someone could feel that way and still be a loving, effective parent.

Fast forward several years when I was at home, alone, with a toddler who was not yet two and a colicky, sleepless infant. Sometimes my baby would scream, uninterrupted, for hours regardless of my efforts to feed, rock, and soothe him. Hours. I recall one incident when he cried for five straight hours before exhausting himself, as I walked the floor with him, singing and patting and attempting to feed him, all the while caring for my young toddler, by myself, while my husband was working long hours at the office. I understood completely. I felt like throwing the baby out the window, grabbing the car keys, and making a break for it.

I love my children like any mother does, an all-encompassing love, my greatest fear is that something will happen to them, and yet in the moment, I felt like giving up. I felt that way, me with my loving husband and parents in town and supportive friends, me with no worries about paying rent or putting food on the table, privileged, lucky me. If I could feel that way, how much worse would someone feel who was not fluent in the local language, someone with a deadbeat boyfriend and two young children to care for, someone with no friends and little money.

Perhaps some people will be shocked and outraged and think that I am a monster, but perhaps some will recall moments when they felt they were at the breaking point, and how easy it is to become perilously close to a tragic result. It’s the easiest thing in the world to pass judgement.


  1. Subspace Beacon says

    I remember that news story. It was tragic.

    More than once I would lay my baby in the crib walk into my bedroom and scream into the pillow. It was the safe alternative.

  2. I don’t remember that story, but I do remember living through colic. Twice. It’s one of the main reasons we only have two children because I did not think I was capable of going through it a third time.
    I don’t think anyone can truly understand how hard it is to live with colic until they have done so.

  3. My husband and I joked all the time about throwing our baby out the window. He was an angry, angry little man and the only way we could get through it was to joke, and to tell each other it WAS okay to want to throw the baby out the window, as long as we didn’t really do it.
    Wise words, and ones that someone who has never Been There could ever understand.

  4. Mrs.Mayhem says

    Our second son was colicky. My husband’s survival tactic was to stuff his ears with cotton. I tended to lay the baby in his crib and close the door when I was feeling overwhelmed. It is very hard to deal with a colicky baby.

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