I think it’s fantastic that so many people care about children. I personally believe that looking out for the most vulnerable people in any society should be our highest priority in everything that we do. However, the more I go through life as a mom and stepmom, the more I see people crossing the line from “genuine and productive concern for children,” to, “using children as an excuse to feel superior at another person’s expense.” The tiny minority of busybodies I call the Parenting Police need to turn in their badges already, so everybody can breathe a little easier and focus on the aspects of raising children that actually matter.
Now, most if not all of these self-appointed officers would claim they're just thinking of the poor, defenseless, innocent children — a claim that might be believable if they actually focused their attention on said children, instead of just shaming their moms (and far less frequently, their dads). If they felt kids were in real danger, and valued protecting them over, say, the temporary rush of adrenaline they get from telling someone off, they'd just position themselves to help. They'd get up and move close enough to catch a baby or toddler who was about to fall, or keep a caring eye on unaccompanied older kids at the playground, or be the patient, nonjudgmental friend or family member a struggling parent might actually turn to in a moment of true crisis.
However, and sadly, the Parenting Police don't do any of that. Instead, they lie in wait to film themselves berating moms for running a quick errand or breastfeeding their children in a public place where they have every right to be. They hold court at family functions and friend gatherings, telling everyone — willing and unwilling listeners alike — how different things would be if those kids were their kids. They stake out internet comment sections on anything to do with parenting, so they can let the whole world know what superior parents they are (often in their own minds, since many of the Parenting Police don't even have kids of their own).
It's like if the actual police, instead of going out and making valid arrests, just sat around on Facebook complaining about violent crimes. They're not actually doing anything to make the world a safer place, but man do they feel superior watching the “Likes” roll in on their idle complaints. The Parenting Police are the minority, but they can ruin a parent’s day regardless. So if you see any of the following in action, kindly encourage them to do something else with their time.
The Pregnancy Police
The Pregnancy Police think it's their job to tell expecting moms what to do, eat, and drink (or not) throughout their gestation. Their intervention may be very well-intentioned, but in the cases where they'd actually be most needed (like if a pregnant mom was binge drinking or something), their intervention style is totally ineffective.
More often than not, they're not even targeting moms putting unborn babies in real danger. They're bothering perfectly responsible, grown-ass pregnant women over what mouthwash they use, or the coffee they're drinking, or for drinking natural ginger ale out of a bottle that looks too much like beer. (I kid you not, that last one actually happened to me at a party.) Just, no.
The Birth Police
The Birth Police are among my least favorite of this crew. Few things are as personal, and personally significant, as the act of bringing a new life into the world. Does that stop these busybodies from trying to stick their nose into this most intimate of events? Nope.
There they are, badgering moms to get the pain meds or avoid all medication like the plague, or criticizing moms who birth with doctors (“Weaklings!” “Sheeple!”), or midwives (“Selfish! Silly hippies!”), or bemoaning vaginal births (“She's ruined!”) and Cesarean births (“Not a real birth!”) alike.
Turn in your badge and STFU for forever plus eight days, Birth Cops.
The Breastfeeding Police
The Breastfeeding Police think formula is poison, and that any parent who doesn't do everything in their power to guarantee their baby dines exclusively on breast milk for their first months or years of life should've thought twice before even having kids.
I was blissfully and naively unaware of how bad this kind of “bressure” actually could be, until I watched with my own eyes as one of these folks berated a mom in a Facebook group who nearly died after giving birth, for not “at least” seeking donor milk until she was able to pump. Apparently this woman was supposed to “do her research!” while unconscious and awaiting multiple blood transfusions, instead of letting the hospital staff give her baby formula. Um, what?
The Boob Police
On the opposite side of the Breastfeeding Police are the Boob Police, who believe that since they associate breasts with sex or porn or whatever, it’s indecent for other people to use their breasts for their actual biological purpose, especially in public. They also think it's their place to dictate how long other people are allowed to breastfeed — on the occasions where they claim to “support breastfeeding” — before it goes from being an acceptable thing to do, to utter perversion.
Apparently, it has never occurred to these people that if we applied their standards for breasts to all body parts, nobody would be allowed to make physical contact with their children for any reason, or do anything in public, because all body parts get involved in sexual activity at some point.
The Hat Police
As I've written elsewhere, The Hat Police are people who patrol store parking lots, entrances, and exits for the entire winter season — which for them, lasts from mid-September all the way until Memorial Day weekend — accosting moms of young children who don’t currently have hats on, or whose other clothing they deem insufficient in any way. They are convinced that even the briefest hat-less walk in temperatures below 72 degrees will result in your child freezing to death, and they are the only thing preventing your child’s imminent demise.”
The Bedtime Police
The Bedtime Police are tame compared to some of the others, but are nevertheless quite annoying. They think everyone else is on the verge of ruining their children — and by extension, society at large — because they co-sleep, or let their children fall asleep when they’re tired instead of at an adult-designated time, or sleep train their children, or anything else they personally do not do at bedtime. Of all the things to care about, why they've chosen this as their cause, is beyond me.
The Relationship Police
Co-sleep with your kid? Breastfeeding? “Think about your partner!” Single parent? Unmarried and co-parenting? “Think of your children!” These people spend so much time worrying about other people’s sex lives and relationship statuses that I can't help but wonder how they have time for their own.
The Purity Police
These folks would walk hand-in-hand with the Relationship Police, except they frown harshly on such lascivious behavior. As far as they’re concerned, any parents who weren’t virgins prior to their first, only, and still-intact marriage, who talk to their kids honestly about sex and sexuality, and/or tolerate any variation in gender identity, sexual identity, or even things like makeup or two-piece bathing suits, are doomed to Hell.
The Food Police
The Food Police might as well be actual ants at a picnic. If you buy your baby food instead of making it, they have something to say about it (even if it's organic!). If you let your kids enjoy something sweet or fried on occasion, they’re rolling their eyes (like they’re not also standing behind you in the same damn Wendy’s, eating the same tasty junk). If you don’t serve perfectly fresh, organic, extra virgin everything at every meal, you are basically poisoning your kids. Speaking of which...
The Discipline Police
Haven’t beaten your kids at least once today? Congratulations. The Discipline Police called, and you, personally, are the reason society is in complete shambles. Forget what actual researchers and experts say about the detrimental effects of corporal punishment. Not hitting (or at least yelling) at kids each and every time they make a mistake is the same as "spoiling" them. After all, they got beat all the time, and they’re totally fine (if you ignore the fact that they think it’s OK to beat children, for starters).
People Who Call The Actual Police Because Others Parent Differently Than They Do
Once upon a time, kids were allowed to roam the neighborhood with their friends until the street lights came on. Now, parents who let their upper elementary-aged kids walk to the neighborhood park alone are at risk of being arrested. The dangerous trend of bystanders assuming kids are at risk when they’re really not, then calling the authorities and putting kids in more danger than they were before, is a serious problem, and it really needs to stop.
No one is saying to do nothing if you see a kid in real danger — by all means, step up and help if you see that a child needs you. But all the kids in our communities would be safer if we as grown-ups took the time to familiarize ourselves with real versus perceived dangers, so we don’t let our personal opinions regarding what is and isn’t moral parenting lead us to do things that could endanger kids and split up families.
People, parents included, are allowed to do things differently. As long as no one's actually getting hurt, just live and let live.