Police work ultimately ruined me as a mother.
Law enforcement mom. We have our own parent type category. “They” use career adjectives to describe us.
Ultimately, police work amps up our situational awareness and emotional intelligence for parenting. Peace officers must react to various environmental influences and present a certain level of professionalism, ethics, and integrity. Additionally, we must also preserve public safety.
We see some peculiar and graphic stuff. Officers master the mental suppression of these images, sounds, smells, experiences, and memories. The constant barrage of human suffering combined with the high expectations of top-quality performance while maintaining an apathetic attitude is a huge request of officers.
How does police work influence us really? We think we manage it quite well. While this is mostly true, the outside world may have a different outlook when we are in social settings and how we apply our skills to our off-duty situations.
Police service eventually trickles home. It is who we become: law enforcement mom.
It almost sounds like a superhero figure: law enforcement mom.
My daughter was born and raised during my detective days in which I was assigned to crimes against children. You can imagine the significance those cases had on my aptitude as a mother. It takes a lot of grit to be a mother and even more so when you add it to the cop mix.
I was super paranoid about sudden infant death which resulted in many sleepless nights. I would just stare at her to make sure she did not stop breathing. Occasionally I had to touch and poke her to make sure she was still alive. It was obvious I was operating on a constant level of sleep deprivation. It was like those who endure Hell Week only extended.
After she survived those crucial few months, my restless nights settled down to mainly those involving call outs. It was time to move on to bigger and better parenting skills.
As a new mother, I tried to be organized and in the know. I recognized early on I was not going to be soccer mom material. Additionally, no matter how hard I tried to be the perfect school mom, Johnny’s mother was always better. I quickly discarded my pom-poms and aspirations of PTA Mother of the Year.
But, despite my super parent shortfalls, there was never going to be anyone who doubted this cop mom was on top of things. At least in the beginning. I tried hard to be mindful of all components encompassing good motherhood.
Kindergarten exposed publicly how my career choice ruined me as a mother.
No longer were the effects of law enforcement on my parenting skills kept behind closed doors. My identity as a law enforcement mom was revealed.
Kindergarten days should have been the first clue that my child was different, but I tended to underplay things. When your child’s teacher calls you in the middle of a dead body investigation to tell you of an “incident” on the playground in the first two weeks of school, the situation probably warrants evaluation of what skills went wrong.
Before I listened to the entire synopsis from the teacher, I had stepped outside the residence so I did not mix the aroma of death with a school tragedy on the playground. Did she fall off the jungle gym? Did she hit her head? Break an arm?
“Ma’am, I need to firmly tell you that Madyson needs some parental guidance at home.”
Stop the bus. Here I was already labeled inadequate by a teacher I barely met during Kindergarten registration. Where did I go wrong? Little did I realize the slippery slope to mom failure occurs in the first semester of school.
“I would encourage you to enforce the school’s policies with her. First…”
It was every parent’s fear. Rules. Regulations. She broke the school laws. But I was “the law” and the police kids must be perfect. At least, that is the expectation from the public and the pressure cop moms put on themselves. Cops’ kids are supposed to be model citizens, right?
My reputation was quickly fading from brilliant and I began to doubt my abilities to be a parent. Instantly, I realized I had raised a troublemaker. My “perfect” child was now marked with a scarlet letter.
“…let me explain. She was playing with a doll and we encourage sharing. Madyson did not want to share but we worked with her on it. She still wanted the doll to herself. Is she an only child?”
“Yes, she is. “ Uncertainty cast a shadow over my face. Should I have more children? Maybe not since I cannot get the first one right.
“I see. Another child took the doll when Madyson put it down on the bench. When she saw this, the playground attendant watched her run and put the girl down in a strange restraint, snatching the doll back…”
My detective mind started to work immediately picturing the scenario, “Uh huh. Ok. Is the girl hurt? What kind of restraint was it?”
“Uh, ma’am. No, the other girl is fine. I don’t know what kind of restraint it was. She had the girl face forward in the grass and her arm was straight back behind her and the other child was screaming. We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior.
The illustrious arm bar.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out at moments like these, that I maybe started too young playing around with custody and control maneuvers and this resulted in an epic mother fail. Many parents introduce their children to self-defense such as Tae-Kwan-Do, Judo, etc.
However, cop parents do not always seek out professional instruction and home school in most of these categories. Apparently, the arm bar and other restraint tactics along with pressure points were not instructed properly nor used in appropriate settings.
That was not the first, nor the last time, police work showed itself as having a profound effect on my parenting skills. Many times I was chastised for being too strict or too liberal with child rearing. How does anyone find a balance?
Reminders of this popped up throughout her childhood. Most often the notices resulted from “talking to’s” by school officials describing strange instances about a child I remotely recognized as my own in those tales.
Once I was questioned about a show and tell where Madyson matter-of-factly told her classmates about a hunting trip. She gave details of the excursion. The hunting journey at a young age was not the part which alarmed the teachers. We were in Wyoming for Pete’s sake, so this was normal culture. It was the visual apparatus of the show and tell which sent them into panic overdrive.
Apparently, she brought one of my knives to show what you use to gut animals and some fresh plucked duck feathers which were jammed into her pockets. These were not typical 1st grader visual aids.
Law enforcement mom fail. Of course you do not gut a duck, you clean it. Vernacular and context are so important.
My explanations to them were not well received, “I apologize, law enforcement ruined me as a mother. “
“Perhaps you should explain proper educational choices and consequences of weaponry in schools,” they said.
I did receive a lecture on safe storage of knives as well. It was much appreciated.
As time went on, those type of calls from the schools ceased. My daughter was extra intelligent and her learning curve showed her attention to absorbing what was right or wrong within school regulations. She was eager to get straight A’s and stay out of the principal’s office much to my approval.
Entering the teenage years became quite a new parental challenge.
Enduring the rebellion of adolescents was a piece of cake on the street, because I could leave those families after brief consultations or resolve the calls by trips to the Youth Crisis Center with their unruly children. However, escaping these same issues on the home front presented more roadblocks.
I did not want my child to be a product of my work. To prevent such events in my home, it was important to have strict ground rules and exemplary screening procedures. My vetting process for her friends and associates was far superior to any conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies. Maybe that is an extreme analogy. However, I do think it is important to do a local background check and social media screen.
Scrutiny is at its finest when it comes to procuring the safety of my family. Meeting the parents of my daughter’s friends is also paramount. Incidentally, she does have a pretty good radar for choosing wisely in her academics and associations.
Over the years, I learned my unorthodox parenting drummed up some much needed discussion and adjustments to my tactics which included but not limited to: my “suck it up, buttercup” mentality, self-defense and firearms safety for adolescents, insensitivity training, and the “Trust No One” handbook for teenagers.
Although these methods were extreme, it kept my sanity intact and drove my instinct to protect. There are inherent tendencies coupled with detective know-how which I cannot shut off.
Simply put, law enforcement skills come in handy for teens. It defines the crux as a law enforcement mom. I find using my smooth and suave language from interview and interrogations skills most applicable along with my active listening skills. We could add in the mix some more crucial fact finding processes: forensic science, GPS phone tracking capabilities, and extraordinary networking. Cop moms are overbearing mama bears with many “friends.”
Parents have rules.
As my child waned on in the teenage years, so did her longing to disassociate herself from her mother. I had my own set of expectations:
- She did not want hugs in public.
- There was an announced safe space distancing of about 3 feet.
- I was to sit near the other parents with strict instructions not be next to her and her peers.
- She may approach me at some time for money during games with a friend who was used as a witness.
- Do not say or do anything to embarrass her. No policy manual nor details were provided of acceptable actions beforehand.
She was a teenager and I understood her desire for independence. This put a big dent in my surveillance plans. My feelings were hurt at times because I wanted to rejoice in all her victories. Law enforcement not only ruined me as a mother, it made parenting awkward.
My daughter was extremely embarrassed by my social issues and demands for sitting on the back bleacher against the wall. It did not mean anything to her that I was within response distance to a crisis and had my eyes on the entire gymnasium. I was definitely not the cool mom. In fact, I became an unknown and antisocial parent.
Despite her insistence to shy away from parental presence, I still wanted to be around my baby and found ways to do so. There were always family outings on the weekends. However, these events were out of town or in the wilderness so she could still be incognito.
To satisfy her need for public separation from me, I approached school registration with a new attitude this year. `
“Are you Madyson’s mother?” Apparently, either my distancing had worked or this was a new school administrator.
“No, her real mom is in prison.”
There, I had done it. She was completely appalled by my behavior. Consequently, my humor was not appreciated by anyone nearby and considered insensitive. My job there was done.
In law enforcement, we face social and police life stressors which can create a juxtaposition of political and professional accountability. These impacts shape our reactive behavior to work and life events. The job changes us. All of it becomes hard-wired into our character. Some positive transformations, some negative. Sometimes we are misunderstood. From time to time, I have to reflect on how I became this way. Police work. It ruined me as a mother. Being a law enforcement mom is a challenge. Yet, it is the greatest job in the world!