Parenting in the 21st Century: Big Government (and Your Neighbor) Is Watching You and Your Children
Commentary by Terri LaPoint
Health Impact News
Parents of 20-somethings probably recall the “Mommy Wars.” Parenting magazines and mainstream media frequently addressed the cultural battle between mothers who made different parenting choices – stay-at-home moms vs working moms, breastfeeding vs formula feeding, homeschool or public school, or epidural vs natural childbirth.
With the advent of social media, the term “Mom-shaming” came into use. Passionate advocates took to Facebook and blogs to promote their perspective on the “right way” to parent.
As emotionally brutal as the Mommy Wars or Mom-shaming could be, they pale in comparison to the new reality facing parents today in trying to navigate the often stormy waters of parenting.
There is now a whole other dimension added to the mix. Mothers (and fathers) now face the real possibility that someone who disagrees with their choices will call the police and report them to Child Protective Services.
Parental refusal to bow to the opinions of those around them can carry drastic consequences. Families can literally lose their children, even permanently, because someone who doesn’t like their parenting style decided to invoke the strong arm of governmental authority.
The fears of others, even irrational or statistically unlikely fears, are becoming codified into the social “moral” fabric of modern society. Self-appointed cultural watchdogs who would have been called “busybodies” in times past are no longer content to wag their fingers or type out a nasty post.
By involving Child Protective Services, these fear mongers often subject the children to the possibility of far worse conditions than anything they could be “rescuing” them from.
- Separation of parent and child is devastating emotionally and psychologically to children.
- Children are at least 6 times more likely to be actually abused, raped, molested, or killed in foster care than they are in their own homes, even if that home is a “troubled” home.
- Children who are wards of the state may legally be used for medical research or pharmaceutical drug testing – essentially becoming lab rats – without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
- Children in the foster care system are at much greater risk for being victims of child sex trafficking.
These are very real risks that are incurred every time someone decides to call CPS on a parent just because they don’t like the way things are being done.
Lest the reader think that frivolous calls do not end up with children being taken from their families, the experience of far too many families has been that once CPS has a foot in the door to their home, social workers may lie or twist the most innocent thing into being somehow grounds for taking the child.
It is heartbreaking the times we hear from innocent parents who tearfully tell us that they let CPS social workers in because they had nothing to hide and thought that all they had to do was to “show them” that there was nothing actually wrong, only to find themselves fighting the battle of their lives for their children.
New York Times writer Kim Brooks found herself on the defensive end of another person’s fear about a parenting decision, and she faced the possibility of arrest and losing her children. She wrote an opinion piece entitled “Motherhood in the Age of Fear” in which she eloquently describes the escalation of the Mommy Wars into a very battle for our children themselves.
Women are being harassed and even arrested for making perfectly rational parenting decisions.
Fortunately for this mother, her own story ended well. Child Protective Services did not take her son away, she was not arrested, and she was not put into the child abuse registry.
As our readers know, the situation could easily have ended much worse.
Societal Fears Have Changed the Way We Parent
The nostalgic days of children staying outside, riding bikes and roaming the neighborhood till suppertime are but distant memories of a bygone era.
Children cannot play in their own front yards, or even a fenced-in back yard, for fear of someone reporting them to CPS.
If a creative child manages to outwit the locks on his house and get outside, police can be called and the parents lose custody of all of their children.
According to the NY Times:
We read, in the news or on social media, about children who have been kidnapped, raped and killed, about children forgotten for hours in broiling cars. We do not think about the statistical probabilities or compare the likelihood of such events with far more present dangers, like increasing rates of childhood diabetes or depression.
Statistically speaking, according to the writer Warwick Cairns, you would have to leave a child alone in a public place for 750,000 years before he would be snatched by a stranger. Statistically speaking, a child is far more likely to be killed in a car on the way to a store than waiting in one that is parked.
But we have decided such reasoning is beside the point. We have decided to do whatever we have to do to feel safe from such horrors, no matter how rare they might be.
Societal norms have changed. Some have even flipped. Behaviors that were once the way that most parents did things are now vilified, and sometimes even criminalized. Other behaviors once thought depraved and unthinkable are being shoved down our collective throats.
If enough people disagree with a particular parenting philosophy, those at the other end of the spectrum become victims of social enforcement via CPS and the police.
It used to be that we respected the right of people to think differently from us. “Live and let live” was a common attitude. We didn’t have to agree with our neighbor to respect his right to have a different opinion from ours.
Examples of the fears of one group being imposed on another are abundant. Whether the issue is education, breastfeeding, childbirth, vaccines, circumcision, bedtime, playing outside, watching TV, or the choice of friends, one has only to open up social media or turn on the news to find examples of one group seeking to force another to conform to their way of thinking.
No matter how much research that a parent may have done to arrive at his or her parenting choices, all it takes is a phone call for someone who disagrees to bully the parent into submission to another’s philosophy.
In describing the experience of mothers who fell victim to such bullying, Kim Brooks writes in the NY Times article:
These women’s critics insist that it’s not mothers they hate; it’s just that kind of mother, the one who, because of affluence or poverty, education or ignorance, ambition or unemployment, allows her own needs to compromise (or appear to compromise) the needs of her child.
We’re contemptuous of “lazy” poor mothers. We’re contemptuous of “distracted” working mothers. We’re contemptuous of “selfish” rich mothers. We’re contemptuous of mothers who have no choice but to work, but also of mothers who don’t need to work and still fail to fulfill an impossible ideal of selfless motherhood. You don’t have to look very hard to see the common denominator.
The “Mommy Wars” have escalated. The parenting “thought police” now have the weapon of Child Protective Services at their beck and call, and the effects are devastating families.
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