Having a new baby is hard. Often it feels like you are constantly being bombarded by advice from family, friends and even strangers, all of whom insist they can help make it easier even when the tips they provide are confusing, wrong or just not applicable. Usually, it’s easy to dismiss that “help” as well meaning. Often, it comes across more as meddling.
Other times, it can get you arrested.
According to ThinkProgress, Arkansas mother Tasha Adams was arrested last year for child endangerment. The charge was levied at her by a waitress in a restaurant who claims she saw her with “multiple glasses in front of her” at a restaurant. Adams, on the other hand, said she had two beers over the course of an hour and a half.
The charges were dropped against Adams last week because police said they didn’t have enough evidence for a case. Of course, there was no less evidence than there was when the police arrested her in the first place, demanding that Adams hand over her child to other family so they could take her in to jail.
There isn’t any law against drinking and breastfeeding, of course, and many lactation experts actually say a beer can potentially increase milk supply or help with let down (usually due to relaxation) although they warn mothers to avoid heavy drinking and consider waiting after a drink before feeding or pumping just to play it safe. The police did not give Adams a breathalyzer to see if she was in fact drunk before arresting her, instead making a “judgement call,” a call neither Adams’ family or the restaurant management seemed to believe should be made by anyone other than Adams, judging by the fact that the waitress couldn’t get anyone else to intervene.
What becomes clear from this incident is that we’ve gone beyond society figuratively policing mothers to society really, truly and literally policing them. Unable to get anyone else to agree with her personal opinion that a nursing mother shouldn’t drink, the waitress in question literally brought in authority figures not to enforce a law, since none was broken, but to enforce a judgement on whether or not Adams was being a good mother. Now, apparently, that is a crime and can fall under the blanket charge of “endangering a child.”
Former Care2 author Annie Urban writing at her own blog noticed this increase in policing last year when the story first broke, calling feminist blog Jezebel to the carpet for failing to acknowledge the harm they perpetuated by jumping on the “bad mother” bandwagon and supporting police action against Adams. “By judging alcohol and breastfeeding as ‘dangerous’, they may cause women to wean early if they want to be able to enjoy an occasional drink or they may make them feel so judged that they simply drink at home instead of going out and socializing,” Urban argued. “So we judge, judge, judge (of course the alcohol and breastfeeding thing isn’t all that is being judged)…because ‘who is thinking of the children?’, but we don’t provide support.”
“Everyone is happy to step in and judge moms, but who is going to step in and help?” asked Urban.
We already have politicians demanding free pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms but not subsidized birth control, making it clear that a woman’s most important goal should be ensuring she is not endangering any potential child, rather than helping her prevent a pregnancy she doesn’t want. Now, we see this scrutiny of her continuing once she gives birth, literally calling it “endangerment” and putting her in jail if someone believes her parenting isn’t good enough.
At what point is it finally too much?
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