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Why the mom who left her baby in a shopping cart needs support

You may remember the story of the frazzled mom who left her baby in a shopping cart last week, taking her other three children home with her before she realized her mistake.

Parenting stories like this normally have a quick turnover, but Cherish Peterson, 28, a mother of four living in Arizona, is still in the news.

Because of her story, social media is divided. Some of her supporters, using #IStandWithCherish on Twitter and Facebook, believe this average mom shouldn’t be persecuted for forgetting a child at the grocery store. More than 16,000 people have joined a Facebook group in support of Peterson. And then there’s the rest of the Internet, calling for this mother’s head on a platter — or at least, calling for this mother to lose custody of her baby because of one stupid mistake.

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Here was Peterson’s crime in a nutshell: In the hustle and bustle of trying to get three kids home from the grocery store, she left her 2-month-old baby boy outside in a shopping cart in 100-degree heat. “As I was pulling into the garage, my 3-year-old-goes, ‘Where is baby Huxton?’ I turned around and looked and realized he was gone,” Peterson confirmed. “Normally, I put my cart away, but I didn’t need to because I parked at the front of the store, and I never park there. And I drove away.”

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One simple mistake that almost any tired young mom could make, and the parents of the Internet are up in arms. The biggest argument against Peterson, which can be seen when her hashtag is searched on Facebook and Twitter, is that people believe she should have her baby taken away because she forgot her child in a public place. Peterson has been charged with child endangerment, all because of one slip-up.

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It’s easy to say you would never do what this mom did, but can you imagine being in her shoes right now? Can you imagine that you too are just a regular, human parent who changed up your grocery store routine and accidentally forgot your baby in a shopping cart?

Most of us spectating from social media are quick to leave a judgmental comment — a good parent would never forget a baby. I would forget my groceries, but never my son. These are also the exact comments you see on news-related Facebook threads any time a parent forgets their child in the backseat of a hot car, often leading to tragedy.

Why are we so quick to point the finger? The answer is very simple. The reason that thousands of parents on Facebook and Twitter who should be supporting a fellow mother are instead pushing for her prosecution is because it makes them feel relieved. It’s easy to gang up on a mom in the news who made a normal parenting mistake because it makes you feel like it is less likely to happen to you. You can almost guarantee that every parent who is slamming Peterson for being a bad mother has a nagging fear in the back of their mind that they could make the same mistake.

It’s easier to judge.

Like how we judged Laura Browder, a single mother who was arrested for leaving her two young children alone in a food court so she could go to a job interview. Or Shanesha Taylor, a homeless mother who left her two children in a hot car for the same reason and was later sentenced to 18 years supervised probation.

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All of these women are perfect examples of how easy it is to jump on another parent’s story in an Internet witch hunt and claim it could never happen to you. You would never be in a tight spot where you needed to leave your children somewhere safe because you couldn’t afford childcare, and you would definitely never forget your baby at the grocery store. But the thing is, it is in the very nature of a busy parent to forget — that’s why we’re drilled with the hot car campaign and why manufacturers have even created car seats with warning alarms to prevent babies from being forgotten in the backseat. It happens. It happened to a normal mom in Arizona, and now she is facing charges.

If you don’t “Stand With Cherish,” here’s something to think about: Forgetting a baby for less than an hour isn’t abuse, and it certainly isn’t a crime. Even on our best days, it’s called human nature.

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