Tragedy in New York sees working mothers under fire again
Lucia (Lulu) Krim and brother Leo.
Last Thursday, CNBC executive Kevin Krim was returning from a business trip when he was met by the police at the airport. Mr Krim learnt that his youngest child, Leo, and his daughter Lucia, known as Lulu, had died and that the police had arrested the family nanny Yoselyn Ortega.
The children – and the nanny - were found in their New York apartment by their mother, Marina Krim, who was concerned when the nanny failed to show up at a dance class. Ortega had been watching Leo, 1, and Lulu, 6, while Ms Krim took their three-year-old sister Nessie to swimming lessons.
When a nanny murdered two of her charges in a New York city apartment, it didn't take long for the blame to shift to working mothers.
The details are horrific: the children were fatally stabbed in a bathtub when discovered. Ortega then tried to commit suicide in front of Ms Krim. She survived the attempt and is now in hospital under police guard, and will not be charged until she can be interviewed.
It’s the kind of story that makes your heart pound and your stomach lurch. How does this even happen? The Krims were reportedly so close with Ortega (who had been employed by the family for almost two years) that they had travelled to her home in the Dominican Republic. The children were reportedly happy and well cared for and by all accounts Marina is an attentive and loving mother.
While stories are beginning to emerge indicating that Ortega was possibly depressed and in financial stress, that hasn’t stopped commenters on parenting sites pointing the finger at working mothers (fathers, as usual, get a free ride.)
‘Had she [Marina Klim] actually been a full time mom, this couldn't have happened”, reads one comment by ‘notsofast’ at Jezebel. On New York parenting forum Urban Baby, the comments were even more scathing.
“All you ladies who put your career and money above your children, this is what can happen. And don't give me the old tired you "can't afford not to work," which really means "I dont want to give up my current lifestyle and move or cut back on the manicures and what have you. I thank God everyday that my wife demanded that she stay home until our kids were in school. And it paid off!! We have great kids and we never put them in danger by putting their lives in someone else's hands.
“Was she a SAHM with a nanny? This will teach you to never leave your kids with nannies unless you have to work to put food on the table.”
Thankfully, these comments were in the minority. But the incident has caused many parents to quietly take stock of their childcare situation.
In America, daycare is expensive and inconsistently regulated. In Australia, parents experience huge daycare and after-schoool care waiting lists and grandparents are often still in the workforce themselves, making the flexible care of a nanny a logical choice. It takes a village to raise a child, and paid caregivers are part of that village.
I use an after-school nanny for my own children. She came with fantastic references and has been an absolute godsend for us. It’s true that it doesn’t always work out – I’ve had a mother’s help quit by SMS and friends who’ve had to move on from nannies are finding their discipline methods out of sync with their own. You can never be sure.
The thing is, as a parent you can never be sure. Full stop. The house might burn down. You could be caught in a head-on collision. Drownings, road deaths, freak weather events - horrible things happen and they seem a hundred times more tragic when they happen to children.
And yet… of the horrible things done to children, most are done by the people who are supposed to love them and care for them the most. Their own parents. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that, with the exception of child sexual abuse, children are most likely to be abused or neglected by their own parents.
This is borne out by a recent investigation by a Melbourne newspaper. It shows that reported instances of emotional, physical and sexual abuse again children are all increasing in Victoria. In this state alone, authorities have taken out almost 4000 court orders in a two-year period - more than five a day - to remove children from abusive parents.
Blaming working parents for random, unfathomable acts of violence by a babysitter will not help all the children in situations of risk right now.
Nor will it help this poor family who have had their grief splashed over newspapers in the most insensitive way and now have to bury their two young children.
Mr Krim's father, William Krim, said that Kevin and Marina had not yet returned to their apartment.
"I don't know if they ever will," he said. "I don't know if I could."