This post is for the woman who, six years ago this month, put her eight-month-old baby in an infant backpack, and set out on a beautiful, mild, rainy April day, for a walk with her baby through Woodstock, NB. She stopped in at Murray’s Irving gas station, where the woman behind the counter remarked that it didn’t seem like a good day to be taking a baby for a walk. The mother politely declined an offer from a strange man for a ride into town, explaining that she *wanted* to be outside in the fresh air. She continued on her way. On the Hodgson road, three men in an SUV pulled up in front of her, blocking her path. They got out of the SUV, surrounded her, and began interrogating her. They were plain-clothes police officers, and they told her that it was irresponsible for her to be walking with her son in the rain. They explained to her that it is dangerous for a young child to be outside in inclement weather, and they informed the mother that she was putting her son at risk of catching pneumonia. They tried to force her into the SUV, and when she refused, they sent a marked car with uniformed officers after her, who told her that if she didn’t get out of the open air in the next 15 minutes, they would call child & family services, and would take her and her baby into custody.
This post is for my friend N., whose children were playing on the boulevard outside her home, while she sat by the window and watched. A few hours later, the police knocked on her door, because a passer-by had seen the children frolicking, and had called the police. The family now has an open file with child & family services.
This post is for the Meitiv family, from Maryland, whose two children were apprehended by US child protective services for a second time a week ago, because the Meitiv parents give their two kids the responsibility of walking half a mile to the park together.
This post is for my friend S., who left her four children in her van for four minutes, while she ran into the gas station to pay for her gas, with a clear view to her vehicle, causing an observer, a stranger, to call the police, resulting in a file with child & family services being opened on her and her family.
This post is for E., somewhere in the US, whose many children were apprehended by the state, because her house was messy, and her life was messy, and the cops and the government didn’t like her radical politics, or her radical birthing, or anything about her. She has lost her home, her marriage, and has endured more than I would ever have had the courage to face.
This post is for my friend L., who went to see an old white man doctor just one time, for a first-time checkup for her home-birthed daughter. To K.’s surprise, the old white man doctor didn’t bat an eye about the fact that K. had birthed her baby daughter at home, alone. Instead, the old white man doctor lectured K. about the necessity of installing a fence around the perimeter of her home. As though garden design is any of his goddamned business.
This post is for my friend M., whose gorgeous, perfect son was born at home. When she took her baby in to the hospital for a routine checkup but politely declined to return the next day to have her son’s normal physiological jaundice “treated” under artificial lights, she was told by the hospital staff that if she did not return, the hospital would report her to child & family services for infant “neglect”.
This post is for my friend N., who left her infant son asleep in her car, while she stepped a few feet away from the vehicle to use an outdoor bank machine. As she was withdrawing her cash, she saw a woman eyeing her car, and then eyeing her. A few hours later, she received a call from the police, who told her that someone had reported that she had “abandoned” her infant in her vehicle.
This post is for my friend E., whose gorgeous, perfect daughter was born at home. When she took her baby to her family doctor, in hopes that the doc would attest to the birth, and sign her birth registration forms, the doctor instead accused the parents of recklessness and child endangerment, and threatened to report the family to child & family services, because the baby was born at home, and because the parents made an informed decision to decline the vitamin K shot.
This post is for mothers in the city of Moncton, where signs at all the public parks have been erected, which read “All children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.” The sign includes the phone number for the police station, ostensibly so that passers-by can easily snitch on those irresponsible parents who have sent an older sibling or a teenaged babysitter to the playground with the kids. Oh, and no one is allowed at the park barefoot, either. (My kids and I have been filtered out).
This post is for mothers with large families, who, according to New Brunswick YMCA “guidelines” cannot make the decision to take on the responsibility of bringing the four, five, or six children that they gave birth to, (and have managed to keep alive–thus far) to the swimming pool, because the YMCA regulations (for our own protection!) state that an adult may only accompany up to two children at a time, at the pool, never mind if we have pushed those kids out of our own vaginas.
This post is for Y., whose curious, impulsive, five-year old son, at an indoor winter farmer’s market, stuck his head too close to a large blowtorch (I had to find out what it was all about!) and singed his hair, which resulted in several clucking bystanders approaching and insisting, aggressively, that Y. promise to take her ridiculous child to the doctor’s because “sometimes burns don’t show up right away, and it was *definitely* not just his hair that was burned, and he *definitely* needs medical attention”, despite the fact that Y.’s foolish, brilliant, and highly self-aware son is in full possession of functioning nerve-endings, understands what it feels like to be burned, and began stoking the fires of mediaeval-style anagama kilns at the age of one year.
This post is for the New Brunswick mother whose child said they felt fine without a coat, and who gave that child the dignity and responsibility of determining for themselves the messages of their own body—the sensation of heat and coolness, comfort and pain, that every human being not suffering from leprosy is privy to. As the mother stood outside, holding her daughter’s coat, another woman approached them, and told them she was a social worker, and that if the mother didn’t force her daughter’s limbs into the coat at that moment, the social worker would report that family to child & family services.
This post is for the mothers who have been indoctrinated to believe that it is moral and upstanding and courageous and honourable to call the police when she sees another mother lose it with her kid, instead of offering to carry that woman’s groceries to the car. This post is for the mothers who have been brainwashed into thinking that it is an admirable thing to call the police when she sees a kid riding around in a forward-facing car-seat, instead of minding her own business, giving herself a pat on the back for being the best in the world, and moving on.
This post is for all mothers. Because all the stories above represent the everyday discrimination that women, as mothers, overwhelmingly, face. Because the possession of a uterus and a vulva mean, in our culture, that our intelligence, and our sanity, and our ability is always brought into question, by the male medical industry, the male government, the male cop shops, and the male social work industry (whether or not the mouthpieces for these organizations & institutions happen to be women). Because despite having given birth to our children, and loving our children (all of us), and despite our willingness to die for our children, the patriarchy reinforces over and over again, continuously, from birth to infancy to toddlerhood, to teenageddom, to death, that we mothers can’t be trusted—that we’re just not responsible enough. Because women sell each other out all the time in the service of misogyny with its false promises of status and power for those who would capitulate to the implicit rules of our sexist society—not realizing (yet) that they too are just as vulnerable to rape, to ageing, to fatness, to hairiness, to failure. One wrong move, and you’ll be hated and vilified too.
I’m heading back into the woods now. See you when I can breathe again.
Oh god! Thanks Yo for again sharing such a post! It is sadly true that people think they have the right to tell us what to do with our kids. While reading, i remembered a similar event that happened to us when Joy was 9 months.
We were sitting under the warm sun of Nanaimo in a park. I was breastfeeding Joy and she fell asleep in my arm her face in the sweet sunlight ( breastfeeding in the sun = a baby in heaven 😉 ).
When a man came up to me. He was furious. He told me i was irresponsible for putting my beautiful and healthy daughter directly in the sun. He ask me if i had put sunscreen on her. After i replied that i didn’t, He said i should be ashamed, and that we were bad parents. He then he sat under a tree nearby and kept looking at me as if i would cover her up.
I decided to go sit somewhere else because i don’t like crazy person….
I’m sad for humanity when these kind of event occurs. I don’t even wanna think about the times I’ve been invited to breastfeed in the public bathroom??
Seriously what the hell are those people thinking?
Anyway, Keep sharing these experiences Yo. Maybe your post will make some think about the consequences of their actions.
Oh Mai-Li! I just can’t get over your story! What a total outrage. (Furthermore, i *never* put sunscreen on my fair-skinned kids. Toxic crap! I’m quite convinced they’re better off getting tan 😉 ) xoxo
Is there any possibility for everyone in the whole world to read this….especially the dumbasses?
I could add so many more situations which are absolutely ludicrous, but you have done a very good job of summing up the ridiculous nature of our society as a whole. Thank you for your tireless advocacy for US.
I too have had the “help” of public officials. When my husband was not allowed back in our house after attempting to kill me in our garage, he had our son tell the police he was afraid to live in the house with me without his dad there. Solution, they took him, age 14 and his sister age 12, with no complaints and two interviews behind her to CYFD that her father was the threat in our house. They took them to a teen shelter where they were with kids with drugs and criminal issues. Then I had to agree to leave them with a friend for 3 weeks while they figured it out. At the time, I had 3 clearances, was a sub, and had 104 people that knew me and my children very well, call them on my behalf. The attack against me was so cruel, no one cared for the truth. My son disappeared with his dad for 2 years I knew nothing about him. My daughter became mentally sick from all the things they put her through including forced visits with her father. It’s been four years and my children are still recovering from the actions of those who meant so well. There are children in really bad situations. Here there’s a few deaths a week. Where are the well-meaners for those children? My ex knew the drill and used the system and did not care who he hurt. And they believed every thing he said with nothing for back up. The world went crazy.
The world is crazy. I’m so sorry to hear about what you went through Janet. I sincerely hope things are peaceful and stable for you and your kids now. Yolande
Thank you. I am very passionate about this topic. It bothers me to no end how our society no longer trusts mothers to take care of their own children. I feel it is getting worse every year. How far will this go before we realise how rediculous we are. I love my children so much, and work hard every day to give them the best upbringing that I can give. I have also left them sleeping in the car when I pay for gas. Because I felt that that was the best thing to do at the moment. Decisions like that should be up to just me, not a stranger that happened to be walking by. They do not know our situation and should trust that I, the loving mother has everything under control.
Also what effect will these rules and expectations have on our children who can’t be left alone till they are almost teenagers. Who can’t be trusted to judge for themselves if they need their coat or mittens.
ugh.. I could go on and on. Lets begin by giving other parents the benefit of the doubt when we see curious and suspicious situations. they love their children as much as we do and I am sure they work just as hard for their safety.
I agree completely Natalie. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Take good care, Yo
This makes me so angry. Because it’s true. But there ARE unfit mothers out there. There ARE women who would sit back and watch their children be abused and even murdered. There ARE women who would do it themselves. And because people know this, how are they to differentiate between the women who are making informed, responsible choices, and the women who simply don’t know better or care?
The world is a shitty place. We are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.
I think the bad mothers are few and far between, Kelly. I personally haven’t encountered any. All the mothers I know are doing their flawed best, and every mother I know could use much more real help and real support than she’s getting. <3
I have read your blog for a long time, and am moved to comment. Thank you for your words, for saying what I am thinking and could not frame. Thank you for speaking and manifesting your truth.
Thank you so much Kat. All the best to you.
Angus McMullen says
I am male, and – without the hint of sarcasm – owe women a collective apology. This was brought home to me recently when a woman was raped in Vancouver. This incident – this horror, outrage, dishonour, besmichment of our very species, call it what you will will – happened around the corner from where my daughter lives. The immediacy of all this was brought home to me as well as the rage and horror..
What made this different from from all the other such incidents we take as commonplace today, is the fact that she fought back to no avail , and that it was all so close, geographically and emotionally. In further conversation, it became clear that fear of of this was common to all women always. Part of the horror mentioned above was that good men – such as myself – as mentioned above are, and have remained, oblivious to all this
My own mother berated me on the fact that she saw a picture of our girls playing outside in 10 degree weather with no jackets on in April. Yes there was snow, but common it was warm. They are old enough to tell me if they are cold or warm. She seems to forget smoking in the car with the windows up while we were in there…
Ah yes, it has occurred to me that so much of this is generational–and I have wondered if maybe when i’m old, I’ll be exhorting my kids to dress theirs more warmly! But then I remember that my mum is still pretty chill herself. 🙂 And yes, how social norms do change over time!
One of the reasons I left Canada and went back to live in Russia. I can let my five year old out to play in the playground with other kids his age. One day though when he was out someone called the cops and the esorted him back home. They said it’s not a good idea for him to be outside by himself and I said I said I felt different. And I said the same thing to the child care worker who visited me later. Everyone accepted my answer and that was that. Why has the western society become so totalitarian and controlling?
Wow–what a fascinating story Maria! I’m so glad to hear that at least in Russia, the situation is a bit more reasonable! And gosh, I wish I had some answers as to the roots of what you correctly identify as the totalitarian control we see in North America. It is very sad.