Monday, July 1, 2019

The Face of Maternal Neglect

Seriously, how can you justify this? Law professor and criminal defense attorney Lara Bazelon has written a New York Times op-ed to justify why she systematically neglects her young children. Being a grandiose idealist, when faced with the choice between defending an accused criminal and spending time with her children, she chooses the accused criminal.

She is not going to nominated for mother of the year. She does not seem to be overly defensive about her choice, and it would be monumentally churlish to note that she is setting a bad example for mothers everywhere. I suspect, based on merely anecdotal evidence, that most mothers will recoil at the notion of abandoning their children in order to guarantee some gang banger a fair trial.

So. Bazelon has written about her decision in order to rationalize her bad decision. You see, the real issue is this: while it is certainly possible for your neighborhood criminal miscreant to find another defense attorney, Bazelon’s children have only one mother. The relationship between mother and child is obviously sacrosanct: a mother’s presence is a child’s emotional anchor. Removing it, purposefully, feels none too honorable. Even if it is done in favor of some gauzy ideal.

You see, she is a cult follower of the goddess of justice. And, in order to show how zealous she is, how fanatical she is, she is willing to sacrifice her children’s well being. You see, she was doing it for a good cause, and what are your duties to your children when you are consumed by your love for a cause?

Naturally, she does not feel ashamed of herself for her dereliction. In truth, she probably does… because why else advertise her moral deficiencies on the pages of the New York Times. It’s like being caught with your pants down and demanding to be admired for your candor.

Moreover, she is actively encouraging other mothers to neglect their children. And to suppress their moral sense, the sense of shame that is telling them that they are failing a primary responsibility to helpless beings.

Allow Bazelon her say:

Like many women, I often prioritize my job. I do this because, as the head of a single-parent household, I’m the sole breadwinner. My ex-husband, who has joint custody, is an amazing father and my life would be impossible without him. Neither of us pays the other support.

My choice is more than a financial imperative. I prioritize my work because I’m ambitious and because I believe it’s important. If I didn’t write and teach and litigate, a part of me would feel empty.

She tells us nothing of the man she married. She does not tell us whether not paying child support manifests his failure to earn a living or whether she did not ask for it because it would have made her feel dependent. I don’t know about you, but given her preference for ideals over human beings, we are hardly surprised to learn that she is no longer married. 

Apparently, abandoning her children does not make her feel empty. Does it make her feel fulfilled?

What does it look like in practice? Bazelon recounts the case of a black man who was unjustly convicted. Again, why were there no other lawyers capable of taking the case? And also, most of those who are accused of crimes actually did do the deed. Choosing one anomalous case to justify one’s own moral failings is none too admirable:

At the time, my son was 4 and my daughter was 2. One month before the retrial started, I moved from San Francisco to a tiny apartment close to the courthouse in Los Angeles. I went long stretches without seeing my children. They were lovingly cared for by their father, their grandmother, my son’s preschool teacher and my daughter’s babysitter. When I would fly home, I was often not fully present. My client needed me more than my children did. So he got more of me. A lot more.

Seriously, to her mind, small children do not need their mother. But wrongly accused criminals do. 

Bazelon offers a stark and depressing picture of her numbed maternal instinct:

But there is always another client to defend, story to write or struggling student who just can’t wait. Here are things I have missed: my daughter’s seventh birthday, my son’s 10th birthday party, two family vacations, three Halloweens, every school camping trip. I have never chaperoned, coached or organized a school event.

Sometimes my choices make me sad. My daughter’s seventh birthday was the worst. She cried, and I did everything I could not to. I felt sick to my stomach. But I had a trial starting the next day, six hours away.

I had picked the date, not the judge, because I knew that the other side wasn’t ready. Delaying even a few days would have meant losing a crucial advantage. I wasn’t going to risk it knowing what was on the line for my client.

Of course, I sometimes feel doubt, shame and fear. I know I’m not a “normal” mom, because my kids tell me so. I remind myself that this does not make me a “bad mom.” I also remind myself that if I were a dad, I would be getting accolades for all the times I scheduled a doctor’s appointment or arranged a play date.

I am proud of what I have accomplished. I am prouder that I can support myself and my children. But sometimes I wonder if my choices will damage them.

None of these criminals can wait. But, her children can always wait. Do you have the impression that they are being sacrificed on the altar of her fanatical beliefs?

How does it happen that the children’s father cannot support them? Or perhaps he can, but she refuses to take the financial support. Could it be that she married a man who could not support himself or his children? It would not be the best choice.

As for her occasional musings about whether her choices will damage them, most mothers will tell you that they will. Precious few mothers are so irresponsible that they ignore the needs of small children in order to defend thieves, rapists and murderers.

Eventually, we learn that her ex-husband is also a criminal defense attorney. We learn it from her son, who had this to say one day in his third grade class:

My son was one of the last children to speak. He stood up and, in a clear voice, said: “I appreciate my parents for being lawyers because they get people out of jail. This really helps me reflect, do the right thing and have positive role models.”

He looked over at me, the barest hint of a smile on his face. I wanted to leap out of my pint-size chair, raise my fists in the air and yell, “That’s my boy.” I have his orange leaf on the wall in my office. Sometimes I look over at it when I’m working late at night.

I hope my kids get it. I think they do. I love them beyond all reason, and their existence gives my life profound meaning. And I have the same feelings about my job.

Does it strike you that this child has been effectively brainwashed. How many third graders use language like: positive role models? He has little choice but to embrace her fanaticism. After all, he is in the third grade. One might suspect or perhaps hope that he eventually rebels against his appalling parents, but perhaps that is too much to hope. One might fear that he will one day figure out that the only way to get his mother's undivided attention is to go out and stick up a bodega or to traffic drugs.

And, how many accused criminals are falsely accused. Precious few, if you ask me. A lot of what she is doing involves trying to free people who have and who will commit crimes.

Loving her children matters far less than does her being there, her being present, her providing a structured routinized home life for them. Will her dereliction hurt them? It probably will. Ask any mother of young children, and she will tell you that it will.


UbuMaccabee said...

That's why we need more Guatemalan nannies, to raise the children of the non-elite elites.

Cheryl said...

There are plenty of women like these who hate taking care of small kids - it can be draining and boring. But the moment the kids grow up they actually want to spend time with them. And they resent their child's attachment to the caregivers who actually did the dirty work. They brainwash the kids into thinking that they were the ones actually rocking the cradle. My family had a few of these types, the children believe the mother's lies because she is the mother and successful, the caregivers are then brushed aside. I have particularly bitter exxperiences with these ungrateful kids. Today, I keep my distance from other people's kids as far as possible.

Sam L. said...

I expect the children will grow up and move away, leaving no forwarding address, and spend lots of money on psychiatrists. I can only hope to be wrong.

Tilcut Hassayampa said...

The now removed Heartiste Wordpress blog would make surmises about Ms. Bazalon's motives. The blog author was a keen observer of social dynamics, but his conclusions are racist, sexist, and homophobic.

He observed the many women are attracted to 'bad' boys, criminals, dangerous out of control men. I suspect that is a factor in dedicating more time to criminals than her emotionally demanding children. And her clients, I am sure, generated a great deal more frisson than her boring grinding attorney husband.

Anonymous said...

Ubu, you are a genius as usual.

Anonymous said...

Amazing, she's become the absent, non-contributing parent that feminists railed against in the 60s and 70s.
It seems to be she is suffering from straight up narcissism: there's dragons to be slain and she's the only one with the magic sword.

Anonymous said...

I am close to a family of three brothers--all were under seven years of age when their mother walked out on them and never returned. Well-meaning aunts and uncles cared for them while growing up, dad had custodial control/responsibility to care but didn't. All three boys acquired graduate degrees--two received doctorate degrees and became expert in their field--all became teachers. HOWEVER, all of them have demonstrated the effects of emotional trauma--psychological responses that are similar to those of the PTSD that is caused from severe emotional trauma. They are good men, but just under the exterior the scar is still . . .

Anonymous said...

This woman is just sad.
The bigger issue is why would the NY Times be giving her a platform for her rationalizations. That is evil.

Ron Liebermann said...

This article leaves out a point: Important concepts like "mother" and "father" and "job" can be visually represented in Semantic Space. They've been doing this for a long time. If the attorney in question took the test, it would probably show that she places "Job" much higher than "mother." In other words, her entire value system could be visualized, and then become a point of discussion. Further, if a couple who were considering marriage took the Semantic Space test, they could see how compatible they are.

DocVinny said...

I remind myself that this does not make me a “bad mom.”

Yeah.. It kinda does.