When we think of 2-year-old Erin Schuler and the other three children killed when Erin's mother Diane drove her minivan the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway, our instinct is to want to immediately dismiss Diane Schuler as a horrible person and an inconceivably terrible mother. She was drunk, after all, and stoned, so that must mean she was a bad mother because tragedies like this one only happen to bad mothers, right? Wrong.
As it turns out, Diane Schuler was a hard-working cable TV executive described by friends and family as a "supermom" (her older child, Brian, age 5 at the time of the crash, was the only survivor). So wait, this was a woman who loved her kids and tried to do right by them on a daily basis and had a momentary slip that happened to have irreversibly violent consequences? That's a little too close for comfort.
The upcoming HBO documentary There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane picks Schuler's life apart with a fine-toothed comb in search of some explanation for the July 2009 crash. There was pain, certainly -- Schuler's mother abandoned her family when she was 9, something she didn't like to talk about -- but those close to her deny any knowledge of previous substance abuse. By all accounts, this was not the kind of woman you'd worry about giving your kids a ride home.
Which is exactly the point, and something we need to examine as a society. How much pressure was this working mother-of-two under that she had to get wasted in the first place? (Tell me you don't need a good stiff drink by the time the weekend rolls around. Go ahead, tell me -- but I won't believe you.) More frightening is the question: How used to denying her physical limitations and taking on way more than she could handle was Diane Schuler that in her (admittedly) inebriated state, she attempted to drive these kids home? Maybe it never occurred to her to ask someone else to take the wheel because she never asked anybody for help at all. Sound familiar?
Yes, it does. That's why when we think of 2-year-old Erin, instead of thinking about how terrible her mother was, we need to think about how all of us are capable of being a terrible mother, however unwittingly. We need to figure out a way to stop this from happening.
Will you watch the HBO documentary There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane?
Image via HBO