Last fall, North Carolina mom Nicole, 31, took her first vacation since giving birth to her 1-year-old son. She and her husband packed their Owlet Cam baby monitor, left their infant in their Outer Banks apartment rental and headed to the beach, a 5 minutes’ walk away, without hesitation. It’s not unusual, she said, for her to leave her little one unattended while they monitor him remotely.
“We sat on the beach and watched the monitor,” said Nicole, who requested that The Post use a pseudonym. The monitor, she noted, has a built-in app that pings her phone with notifications when it senses movement or sound.
“We do it all the time. There’s no point in having a babysitter. We frequently go back and check in on him too,” she said.
Parents are increasingly — and controversially — relying on baby monitors as short-term babysitters. Synced to smartphones, the high-tech devices can help track their kids’ every move while they’re out of the house for a few minutes or a few hours. But leaving children unattended can have potentially dangerous consequences and result in legal charges.
This week, the wife of late ABC News producer Dax Tejera, 37, was arrested for allegedly endangering their daughters, ages 5 months and 2 years old, just hours after her husband suffered from a fatal heart attack. The couple had left their children alone in a hotel room at the Manhattan Yale Club while they visited a steakhouse around the corner, sources told The Post on Tuesday.
Veronica, 33, a senior producer at the Washington Post, claimed the couple were monitoring the kids using a remote video system that connected to Dax’s phone. The widow was charged with two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child” and later admitted that leaving her babies unattended was a “poor decision.”
Parenting experts agree with her assessment and advise against ever leaving a baby alone — with or without a baby monitor.
“Things can change on a dime,” Liza Maltz, a doula and founder of the child care website HaveaNanny.com, told The Post. “I’m not a firm believer in staring at a baby monitor — having it there is a comfort — but using it as a baby sitter? I don’t think that’s safe.”
Some parents continue to rely on them in a pinch, but draw the line at using them outside the home.
Pete, a 34-year-old dad from Westchester who asked The Post not to publish his last name for privacy reasons, said he relies on his $240 Vava baby monitor to keep an eye on his 10-month-old twins when he occasionally slips next door for dinner and drinks with his friends while the kids are sleeping.
“I’ve been to a party at my neighbor’s house in the backyard right next door with the monitor in hand and locking up the house. I could get to them in under a minute, though, should anything go wrong,” he said.
“I would never do that at a hotel. I would have a f–king panic attack. I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy myself if I couldn’t access them quickly or in a place where I don’t have full control on the locks like I do at my own home in the suburbs,” he said.
Other parents note that there are cultural differences and that the practice is commonplace in Europe.
Meg Faherty, 38, a mom of a 6-month-old from Greenville, South Carolina, said she used a monitor as a temporary babysitter while living overseas.
“When we lived in Europe, my husband and I used a monitor as a ‘babysitter’ all the time while enjoying a drink or a late dinner at the restaurant below our apartment,” she told The Post in an email. “It seems to be a more accepted practice abroad.”
But the act of leaving a child unattended, even for a few minutes, has had a devastating impact on some parents. In 2014, Kim Brooks wrote a first-person essay for Salon about a split-second decision she made to leave her son, who was 4 at the time, in the car for “about 5 minutes” while she ran into a store.
“I told him I’d be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set,” Brooks wrote. After a bystander recorded the incident on her phone and sent it to the police, a warrant was issued for her arrest and Brooks was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
“I felt guilty and ashamed. I felt I’d put my child at risk for my own momentary convenience. I knew I wasn’t a terrible mother, but I’d done something terrible, dangerous, and now I’d suffer the consequences, go to court, pay legal fees, live with a criminal record,” she wrote.
Other moms said they would never leave their kids alone after the terrifying disappearance of Madeleine McCann, a 3-year-old Brit who vanished from her bed in 2007 at a vacation rental in Portugal while her parents dined nearby, occasionally checking in on her and her two younger siblings. The 11-year missing person investigation closed last year and the case currently remains unsolved.
“As a mom, once I heard that story it was always in the back of my mind that I couldn’t leave my kids alone in a room — baby monitor or not. I was too neurotic about it,” Jamie Ratner, a 45-year-old mother of two from Potomac, Maryland, told The Post.
“The risk, if any, is always small, but you think about the parents and how much regret they must have. Do you really need to leave for that drink? How important is it? You’re going to spend your whole life wishing you hadn’t left them alone.”