Do You Ever Worry CPS Will Take Your Kids?

This judgment culture doesn’t make for the best parenting.

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Happy, healthy and kind. Cropped Photo by on

“I can see all his bits!”

When my daughter was just 1, we visited friends in Seattle, and went for a short walk around their neighborhood. Because we were just starting to potty train (and because it was a gorgeous day), my daughter wasn’t wearing a diaper or pants: just a T-shirt with a crab on it, velcro shoes, and a sun hat. I had her little hand in one of my hands, and my dog’s leash in my other: Life was awesome.

Until our friends’ next-door neighbor screamed out her window:

“Put some clothes on that boy! I’m gonna call CPS on you! I can see all his bits! Some people don’t deserve to be parents!”

The part I would laugh at later (after hiding in our friends’ house, shaking and crying, convinced the State was going to take my toddler away from me) was that, no, she could not “see all his bits,” because my kid’s got a vulva, so this lady’s assumption of he/his pronouns was based more on fashion than bits.

I tell my daughter that my job as a parent is to help her be happy, healthy, and kind. Taking a walk with me and our dog, on a nice day, without pants, fit squarely into that framework. But then someone threatened to take my kid away for it.

Another time an airline worker made the same threat, because my toddler — just arrived in Seattle after visiting her grandparents in sunny Florida — wasn’t wearing a coat yet.

We parents are constantly being judged. And this judgment often comes with threats — one phone call and you might never see your child again. Every time it scares me; every time it makes me bawl. Every time, it threatens to make my parenting worse, not better.

We make too many calculations based on other people’s judgments

I know if I leave my 4-year-old in her car seat for thirty seconds — on a mild day, with the windows cracked — while I return our library books, she will be happy, healthy, and kind. But half the time, I don’t do it, because of the one time someone saw me do it and said, full of smugness:

“You know, there are people who will report you to CPS for that.”

My husband doesn’t worry about it. CPS is there for worst case scenarios, he says. But in I write about Sarah Markham, a mom who missed out on the first 5 months of her baby’s life, because of the assumptions and judgments of others. That could have been me. I’ve just been lucky so far.

I never want to let the culture dictate my parenting, but it’s impossible to avoid its influence completely.

Sometimes they suggest you never should’ve become a parent.

Someone commented on my piece to say,

“Where is the national outcry about how hereditary (sic) works?”

Their point, I can only assume, was that I never should have even had a kid, because I struggled with depression. Taking her away might not be good enough; maybe she never should have been born?

I replied, “I’m a fabulous mom, and my kid is a fabulous kid.”

Parenting is hard, but I love it. I’m not perfect — who is? — but I’m proud of the mom I’ve become.

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Adorable kid with stuffed animal. Photo by on

This judgment culture is making parents afraid to get help for their mental health.

In online parents’ groups, I’ve spoken to so many parents — overwhelmingly moms — who don’t seek treatment for their mental health issues ( and otherwise) because they are afraid their children will be taken away.

This worry isn’t unreasonable. We’ve all heard stories of women getting reported to CPS just for asking their medical professionals for help with their post-partum mental health. One well-known story is Jessica Porten’s; her Facebook about her personal experience went viral in 2018.

Stories like these illustrate why parents are afraid to be honest about the hard times, afraid to reach out for help. If we are criticized or even threatened every time we don’t live up to every person’s ideal of how we’re supposed to appear while parenting — and who could ever live up to that ?— there’s an incentive to hide the truth, to put on an Instagrammable mask.

Parents know that talking about their struggles and getting help would be best for them and best for their child, but they make the calculation — What if they take my child from me? I can’t risk it!— and suffer alone.

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We’re all doing the best we can. Photo by on

This is the emotional context I have when someone criticizes my parenting.

As Sandra Ebejer details in her piece, , a certain ’s latest rant included multiple criticisms of our parenting. It was bizarre, especially coming from a dad, to have the three of us (Sandra, Shannon Ashley, and I) randomly criticized in our roles as moms. Hey, I take issue with almost everything he said in what he described as “a Jerry Maguire moment on steroids times infinity.” (I don’t need to though. Sandra covered it perfectly in the above piece.) But it was the parts where he mentioned our children that really appalled me.

“You, as a fellow parent, should know that our children have no place in this mess. My role as a parent has nothing to do with this, my child has nothing to do with this, and you need to stop bringing our kids into your rants.” — from .

I feel proud of the I made, that I continue to make. I’m proud of my , of the work we create, of our confidence and our kindness.

Parenting is hard, but I love it. I’m not perfect — who is? — but I’m proud of the mom I’ve become.

Let our kids be kids. Let us be parents. Let’s be human mammal nice friend people together. Sound good?

Empathy for the win! Published in Gen, Human Parts, Heated, Tenderly —Feminism, Sexuality, Veganism, Anti-Racism, Parenting. She/They

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