Driven to Action: One Mom’s Meltdown

May 18th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

After a New York lawyer is jailed for kicking her kids out of the car, debate arises over whether she acted irresponsibly or well within her parental rights.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Going viral after going ballistic wasn’t on Madlyn Primoff’s mommy-do list. 

 But the story of the fed-up New York lawyer/mother who kicked her bickering daughters out of the car and onto the curb of a suburban street spread faster than flu, as parents around the world weighed in on whether the action was irresponsible--or irresistible. 

“They had it coming. Give her a medal,” was typical of comments in support of Primoff, whose 12-year-old daughter managed to get back in the car, while her 10-year-old—in tears—was picked up by a stranger who bought her ice cream before calling the cops.

The family was three miles from home when Primoff made good on one of parenting’s most oft-repeated threats:  Stop fighting or I’ll stop the car! “As a responsible parent, she gave her children a choice,” said another supporter, “and when they ignored her, she followed thru. I say good job!” 

 But the police said You’re under arrest. Primoff was jailed overnight and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor, an action many supported in online comments. “If the girls were acting up, then punish them when they get home,” wrote one. “You do not leave a child on the side of the road alone. Ever.” Another said, “It’s our job as parents to protect our children…Maybe she should put herself in time-out next time she has a mommy meltdown.” 

There’s something larger going on, argued a prominent mom-blogger, who saw Primoff’s actions as a “mommy misdemeanor” and cautioned that her story “should not result in a free-for-all vilification of a mother-gone-bad.” Primoff made a bad choice, she continued, “but should she be condemned to wear a scarlet M? I'm not interested in judging her. I'm more interested in hoping that the public scrutiny fixated upon her will further expose motherhood for the truly complex job that it is.”

Tell us what you think: Were Madlyn Primoff’s actions irresponsible, irresistible, or something else? A “mommy misdemeanor” or a “mommy felony?” Does her right to decide how to deal with her squabbling kids have to conflict with the law?