Wave-Making Moms Shouldn't Apologize
Concerned parents have a right to be overly-protective. One conscientious mom refuses to apologize for asking questions about chemicals, health, safety and development.
Hello, my name is Chelsea, and I’m not afraid to make waves.
It started timidly, when I was pregnant with my first son. Having heard about developmental issues associated with certain chemicals, I’d go out of my way to ask about artificial sweeteners in my food. I’d politely request that people stop smoking around me. My husband and I avoided harsh cleaners and paints. Our little boy was born following a detailed birthing plan, and his brother came along a year and a half later. I started tracking my children’s development and sought expert opinions. I read parenting books and participated in environmental awareness movements.
Over time, it became obvious that my health-focused life was a hassle for others. Doctors rolled their eyes at my immunization inquisitions, relatives didn’t see the harm in stocking up on soda for a quick kid-friendly treat. I became accustomed to apologizing that I caused a fuss. I didn’t like putting other people out when I was the one who’d chosen to operate outside the norm. “I’m sorry” became a typical sort of explanation that got blurted out when annoyed stares turned my way.
But then on my last work trip, a TSA official tried to strong-arm me into a newfangled millimeter scanner. Airports replaced the old backscatter X-Ray machines after tests showed an increased cancer risk and a potential for harm in unborn fetuses. I hadn’t had time to research the newly-implemented technology, so I quietly told the TSA official that I would opt out of the machine. It’s any person’s right to choose a hand pat-down instead, and it’s usually a simple matter of notifying the nearest employee.
This guy huffed. “You realize it’s one-tenth the radiation of a cell phone, don’t you?”
“Seriously? Now I’m going to have to call someone over to check you,” he hollered across the long room to a fellow employee. “This one’s refusing to walk through the machine!”
I felt the stares piling up on my neck, and blood rushed to my cheeks. I opened my mouth to start my usual apology process, when he piped up with another rude remark. Annoyed murmurs came from the line at my back. I saw a child walking through a metal detector with his mom, businesspeople rushing, aunts and uncles trying to get to dying relatives and graduations and important events all around the world. In that moment at the airport, it occurred to me that we all have different styles of living. I respect everyone else’s and they should respect mine. Just like that, it dawned on me…I’m NOT sorry.
What this employee didn’t know was that my husband and I are trying to conceive our third baby. He had no way of knowing that I’ve had a miscarriage, and that my over-the-top precautions are an attempt to make sure I never go through that again. I shouldn’t have to explain that my actions are borne out of fear, and it shouldn’t matter whether I’m a cancer survivor, an elitist or a control freak. Whatever the reason, every mom has a right to parent as she sees fit. Every person who is responsible for another living being needs to decide for themselves the method that makes sense for them.
At that moment I vowed (to myself, not aloud-I didn’t need to give people any further reason to stare) that when it comes to protecting my children, I would never apologize again.
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