You Leave Your Kids Alone in the Car: So Why Judge Others?​

boy left in carAll right Moms and Dads, time for a little honesty. Have you ever left your kids in the car? Ever? EVER? You never hear moms admit it in public, but a new survey is out that claims 70 percent of parents say they have no problem leaving their child alone in a parked car.

That's a pretty high number of parents 'fessing up to something that fills moms with righteous indignation. Soooooo ... ready to jump on the judgy mom bus and drive right over those awful, awful parents? The rest of the Internet is doing it, so why not you? Well, hold on, just a second, would you?


According to the survey of 1,000 parents and caregivers conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Washington, 7 in 10 parents said they'd heard horror stories of things going wrong when kids were left in cars, but were willing to do it anyway.

But when asked IF they'd done it, only 23 percent of parents with kids under 3 said they had. The number dropped to 14 percent of parents when the age range changed from infants through kindergarten age.

There is no epidemic of parents leaving their babies in the car, OK? Even with the "shocking" number of parents who say they would, moms are still uneasy about saying they HAVE.

And let's talk about what it means to leave a child "unattended in a parked car."

The survey did not ask parents WHERE said car was parked. There were no parents saying, sure, I left the car parked out in front of the grocery store, in the hot sun, with the doors unlocked, and the keys in the ignition. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that is a bad, bad idea.

Is it possible some parents did that? Sure. It's just as possible that some parents buckled their toddler into the car in their driveway, then ran back into the house to grab their purse or the dry cleaning.

Are those parents bad parents

Not unless you're a bad parent for leaving your baby alone in their room, in their crib, to walk into the kitchen to grab their bottle that you forgot on the counter. Hey, you don't have eyes on them for those moments, something awful could happen!

But you've done it, haven't you?

The issue of leaving kids alone in cars -- particularly in extreme temperatures -- is an important one. We need surveys and studies to raise awareness of what can go wrong -- from carjackings to a child accidentally putting a car in gear and getting in an accident to the horror of overheating.

BUT, and this is a big but, parenting issues are very rarely black and white. Leaving your kid in the car -- like anything -- has shades of gray. We do it when it's safe because sometimes it is, because you can't compare apples (grocery store) to oranges (your own yard).

A mom who lives in a safe neighborhood, who buckles her 1-year-old into the carseat of the family minivan, realizes she left her purse inside, leaves the windows open, doesn't put the key in the ignition, and runs back inside for five seconds? She's not a bad mom. She's not putting her baby in mortal danger.

Same goes for the mom who buckles her infant into the car at the grocery store only to have a friend come along -- you know, the mom who turns the AC on and stands outside said parked car for two whole minutes while baby snoozes? Technically she "left her kid unattended in the car," but is that really bad parenting?

Do you ever leave your kid alone in any room? Ever? Do you sleep? Pee? Shower?

It's not the mere fact of leaving your kids in the car that makes for bad parenting. Like everything else in life ... it's situational.

So how about instead of jumping to conclusions about what it is parents are doing wrong, we take a second and find out the details.

Yes, parents who leave their kids in a running vehicle while they go in to pay for gas are making a mistake. Yes, parents who forget the baby in the car are making a mistake. Yes, yes, yes, we all need to heed the warnings about the dangers of kids in cars.

But we also need to use common sense as parents and not just when it comes to cars!

Be honest ... have you EVER left your child alone in the car? EVER?


Image via NHTSA

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