Mom Brain: Accidental Abandonment


At a ladies night out recently, we lighted on the topic of accidental abandonment.  People whose babies crawl out of the house and into the road to the amazement of stunned school bus drivers, who forget their children at gas stations, at daycare, at stores, or worse, in the car.  Of the six women present, there was a split between those of us who could understand how these things may happen and those who just couldn’t.  That is, until one pointed out that all of these circumstances seem to arise from the anecdotally well-documented affliction of mom brain–being too harried and too tired–plus, the kicker, deviating from routine. Somberly, heads nodding with the heaviness of being up past 10 PM, a bit too much Sangria, and with an eye to hedging our bets with fate, we all agreed it could certainly happen to anyone.  I’m glad to say I was on the side of understanding from the get-go, because after today, I’d have to eat my hat.

It was a crazy morning doing the two-baby bungle today.  The tiniest man in my house is crawling.  Everywhere.  He particularly loves toilets and electrical cords and dog bowls and his big brother’s toys with small, choke-able parts.  Anyone who knows him will tell you that previously, my eldest boy wonder has been the most even-keeled and mild-tempered of babes, but now, Huck is asserting his independence and Napoleonic will on every front.  

He’s on a prison diet, eating only the crusts of bread and the occasional cracker to spice things up.  When I suggest that he sample other items on his plate, he’ll often respond, “Why don’t YOU try it!?”  He’ll pee in the potty, but only whilst standing, with imaginable results given that he’s been peeing in a potty for about three weeks.  He started calling me Mom. Not Mommy or Mama. Just Mom.  Oh, and to top it off, they’re both getting teeth–H. finishing off his teething career with gruesome 2-year molars, true to form in tyrannical style, and L. just gearing up, having already cut two bottoms and now simultaneously budding four uppers. . . And my husband is traveling on business.  Fun.

So.  We dashed out the door running late (as is our custom), to meet a friend with a new babe at the park.  I’d packed both boys’ lunches, dressed everyone, changed diapers, slathered non-toxic sunscreen, wrestled sun hats on, changed another diaper, wrestled sun hats back on, and, though I dreaded bringing my furry, 60 pound first baby continually to heel whilst maneuvering 70 pounds of stroller and kids one-handed, I leashed-up our rambunctious mutt and we (finally!) got on our way. 

Once at the playground, I tethered Obi-wan to a small, shady, tree, parked the stroller, snapped LIttle Lou into his Ergo, and we set off for the jungle gym and slides.  About 20 minutes in, L., who will eat everything in sight, became ravenous.  I wheeled the stroller closer to the jungle gym so I could simultaneously supervise H. on the ever-perilous rainbow ladder while feeding L. his lunch.  When he was finished, I gave the two-minute call (which turned into 5, then 10. . . of course) and my friend and I decided that we’d hop over to a cafe rather than walking in the nearly 100 degree mid-day heat.

We had a delightful time catching up, snacking, sipping, enjoying just. . . being. . . out. . . ahhhh. . . when, 45 minutes later, Huck asked, “MOM. What r deese? Are dey cook-ees?”  I turned from our conversation to see him rummaging in a treat box of dog biscuits.  Biscuits, like, for dogs.  Dogs who should be waiting outside.  Such as, “OBI!?” my girlfriend cried.  Both our jaws dropped, eyes wide.  I’d forgotten my first, my fur baby at the playground.  

I could kick my tardiness for good if I always packed my kids and their belongings with such a sense of urgency.  We were strapped into the stroller, off and literally running in two minutes flat. I sprinted the five blocks back to the park to find my poor confused Obi-wan waiting patiently under his tree, still in the shade, thankfully.  I sobbed a sigh of relief and held him tight, but I was thinking of my own flesh-and-blood human kiddos and how terribly, horribly easy it would be to make an even worse mistake.  

I deviated from the simplest routine.  I pushed my stroller 15 feet from where I always leave it and my tired, multitasking mom brain forgot a living breathing, beating heart and soul that depends on me for everything.  

So no, I did not accidentally abandon one of my human children, and I certainly do not write this making light of anyone who has.  But can I see how one  such as I, such as most moms–always harried, tired, worn out, needing a break–could?  Yes ma’am. 

The universe is saying something to me.  Maybe it’s trying to tell you something, too.  It’s saying: slow down.  What’s the hurry?  Keep your head screwed on straight and your eyes open, lady.  You don’t need to do 15 flippin’ things at once. 

What do you think?  Have you ever done anything so absent minded?  What’s your worst mom brain story?

– M.       


  1. M – Yes, yes, yes. As someone who tends to be scatterbrained on a good day, I am chilled to the bone by stories of moms “forgetting” their children in the car, at the store, etc. And as you know, my husband is crazy-smart…but more of the absent-minded professor type. This is easily our worst nightmare.
    To date, the worst that has happened is that Raines has disappeared in Target (he suddenly is FAST), hidden underneath a rack of clothing at a boutique, and that we have, on a couple of occasions, started driving without realizing that he wasn’t buckled in. Like you mentioned, the key factor seems to have been a change in our routine (on our way to the airport, for example).
    I think because both Mike and I realize that we are SO easily distracted, we are constantly watching each other. But still. Your point about slowing down is a good one. And with kiddos this young, the slow lane is kind of a nice place to be. It’s a place where I have more patience, and a place where I’m a better mom all-around. And hopefully, a place where life passes a little slower…I feel like they are growing too fast already.
    Wow. Admitting some of my “mom sins” almost feels cathartic. LOL

  2. I can definitely relate! In fact, my “mom brain” seemed to start the instant I got pregnant – my best friend guessed that I was expecting before I had told anyone because I walked away from Starbucks, leaving my black lab (baby #1 as well) tied to a bench outside as though she never existed. Since then a few more much lesser instances have happened with my now 2 year old daughter, but each one takes the wind out of me and is a great reminder to slow down. And!! Now I finally get why all of my mom friends were late. I no longer find this annoying :).

  3. It really can happen to anyone — mom-brain or not. I was outside in my own backyard with my children when my oldest was suddenly sick. Like, all over herself, the ground, everything sick. While I was attending to her, my 18-month-old learned to work the rather complicated latch on the gate. It was maybe 30 seconds that I didn’t have my eyes on him — it was that fast. When I realized what had happened, I ran full speed (I was 9 months pregnant) out front, but I couldn’t find him. It was harrowing 2 or 3 minutes before some people who had stopped him as he crossed the street (we live across the street from a park, and that was where he was headed) saw me and brought him over. I literally cried for days. It was the worst 3 minutes of my life, and I’m horrified by what might have happened. Hubby bought a padlock for the gate that night, and we now keep bells on our doors (even though we keep them locked) in case one of my children opens any of them when I’m not looking.
    I still blame myself for the whole incident, and I couldn’t talk about it for a long time, but I feel like it’s important to let moms know that even very, very young children can learn to open complicated latches and locks.

  4. Darla-um, yikes. You have a super mechanical little man on your hands, but you’re right, it can happen to anyone. I think we all know that uncanny too silent silence. I’m so glad your story ended well.

  5. Absolutely so to the heart of the matter – a tragedy can truly happen to anyone in that split second of too-hurried distraction, and not even SuperMom herself can deny at least one such incident. Thanks so much for again bringing the issue to attention so everyone is just a little bit more aware of the dangers of multi-tasking on the sleep deprived brain! 😉 I think another topic to be mentioned is the dangers of drowning and near-drownings. I live in FL, and the rate of infant/child death due to drowning is the #1 killer. I am in no way affiliated, but anyone who lives near easy access to water needs to check out Infant Swim Resource and do that with your child. I did and it’s at least one more small piece of “insurance” for your baby and child.
    Keep up the great work – thanks!!

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