Would you trust a complete stranger to look after your child?

by | Apr 4, 2013

Yesterday, in a busy Supermarket cafe, a lady approached me from the next table and asked if I would mind watching her baby whilst she took her elder daughter to the toilet.
‘She’s toilet training,’ the lady said, nodding towards her older child. ‘You know what it’s like.’
‘Of course I do,’ I said as I looked at my own three children, suddenly feeling as though saying ‘no’ to this lady would not be an option. ‘At least bring her over to our table,’ I said somewhat resignedly.

It’s not that I minded looking after this child. I’m a responsible citizen and I’ve obviously got a trustworthy face and perhaps I should have been flattered that the mother ‘picked me’. It’s just that I felt sorry for the child. She was only about eight months old and she didn’t have a clue what was going on and she had already been left on her own whilst her mother queued up to buy food. It was interesting to note the concerned faces of people all around the cafe as they struggled to identify who had left this baby, whilst the mother, either oblivious or switched off to this spectacle, continued in the queue. This time the poor thing could do nothing except sit in stunned silence, obviously wondering who these strange people were that she had been thrust upon. In turn my own three were struck dumb with stage fright and could only stare back. It was a bizarre ten minutes whilst we waited for the mother to return.

As I sat there, praying that the baby wouldn’t go into melt down mode when she realised her mother had gone, I wondered what I would have done in that situation. I wouldn’t entrust the care of my children onto anyone I didn’t know, that’s for sure. Am I being critical? Am I being a cynic?

In my view, being a parent is not like being a manager of an office. You don’t delegate your responsibilities onto other people. It’s stressful when you have more than one child each with very different needs, but you have to work out how to cater for all those needs equally. It’s not easy, but there are always ways around any problems you encounter.

So what would I have done? Well, first and foremost, the older child would be taken straight to the toilet before we even found a table. Get that out of the way; damage limitation, if you like. I would have kept the baby with me when going to the counter for food. It would have meant numerous trips back and forth to our table but so be it. Failing that I would have put on my best ‘stressed out mother’ face in the hope that someone would offer to carry our tray. If we did need to make an emergency trip to the toilet I would ask the stranger at the next table if they would mind looking after our things, so that they didn’t get cleared away whilst we were gone. I would rather leave our food in the care of someone else than my child.

Nobody is perfect when it comes to being a parent and I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to getting things wrong. Sometimes we learn from our own mistakes and sometimes we look at other people and think ‘I wouldn’t do it like that’. In other words we write our own manuals about how to raise our children, blended from a series of definite do’s and dont’s plus an infinite number of subjective rules that we make up along the way. For me, yesterday’s incident goes down as a ‘don’t’, but, hey, who am I to judge?


  1. A French American Life

    Wow – no, I definitely wouldn’t leave one of my kids with a stranger. I think I’m less judgmental of other parents now that I am one; I’d hate to be judged in my worst moments, that’s for sure. But I’m with you on this one. A definite no way.

    • Nicola Young

      It was a funny moment really and I must have been too shocked to think about it until after I got home. That led me to the ‘would I have done that’ thought process and was why I ended up writing about it.

  2. Perfection Pending

    I would NEVER do that. The only time I’ve left my kid with a stranger is when I had to go to the bathroom on an airplane and had an infant with me. Even then, I hand the baby to a flight attendant. That’s just crazy in today’s world.

  3. ldskatelyn

    What happened to helping and supporting each other? Where are our villages? While I wouldn’t necessarily leave my kids with a stranger, and I just take all of my kids to the toilet, I would KILL for someone to OFFER to watch my kids so I didn’t have to take ALL of them with me into a teeny tiny bathroom stall that stank of feces. Seriously. I wish it was more acceptable to let someone watch my kid for 3 minutes.

    Next time, just make sure to introduce yourself, ask her name, and her daughters, and happily take pride in the fact that you are helping someone else, instead of judging them, condemning them, and then blasting their decision on the internet.

    But, then again, I am probably one of those “too-trusting” types.

    • Nicola Young

      It was not my intention to blast someone over the internet, nor am I condemning them. As I said, I did not mind looking after the child. The reason for writing about it was because I asked myself later that day what I would have done had I been in the same situation and realised that it would make for an interesting debate.

      I think that today’s society has led us to be less trusting of others and it is a shame that some of us (me included) would be wary about asking a stranger for help.

      Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

    • Perfection Pending

      I don’t think that Nicola was trying to write about it to be judgmental. In fact, she wrote at the end, who am I to judge. Lots of things can be interpreted when someone reads someone else’s writing, and hopefully you aren’t too quick to point out how someone’s thoughts are flawed when we are all hoping to reach out and connect with others about what goes on in our day to day lives. And, seeing as you have LDS in front of your name, make sure you are always representing that appropriately in your comments. I don’t think Nicola’s choice to write about it is any more judgmental than for you to comment on HER decision to write about it. She has lots of questions about the incident in her post, which to me shows that she was hoping for a discussion about it so she could see if her own thinking was off. Which I find commendable.


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