‘There Is A Burden In Knowing’: How Working In Criminal Justice Changed Me As A Parent
By Alison Tedford
PHOTO © onebluelight/Getty Images
Feb 16, 2018
I just want to push my kid on a swing and not think so much about if there might be someone hiding in the bushes.
There is a burden in knowing, and some things get stuck in your head.
It’s as simple and as complicated as that. I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand, but I need some space in my head for the light without thinking of the shadows.
Before I launched my business, I worked in criminal justice for well over a decade. I’m proud of the time I spent contributing to the larger goals of public safety, but I’m also glad to be doing something else now. While it was a career that paid well enough for me to be able to support our family, it presented unique challenges for me as a mom that ultimately contributed in part to my decision to walk away.
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Learning to manage the fear that came from knowing what kinds of bad things happened was difficult. Statistically, you know the risk of something happening to your own child is small, but when you are immersed in that information every day, it can be hard to keep sight of that and maintain a healthy perspective. There is a burden in knowing, and some things get stuck in your head.
I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand, but I need some space in my head for the light without thinking of the shadows.
In broad strokes, the language that is used to describe crimes that have taken place is easy to compartmentalize. When you are privy to the specifics, this becomes more daunting. You must confront the fact that this is someone’s reality and that it meant something to someone — something tragic, something difficult, something painful. At a certain point, the spreadsheet comes to life and you connect deeply to the fact that what is being counted is the misfortune of others.
It’s hard not to personalize. What if it happened to my kid? It can change the choices you make.
I was raised a free-range kid before that was a thing. Maybe we all were? I don’t know. But I do know I have anxiety thinking about extending that same level of glorious freedom that I enjoyed to my own child. Perhaps times are different now, but I know for sure that I am. I am grateful for the room I was given to explore as a child, but when you’ve spent time reviewing dusty files of unpleasantness, it makes you think twice about whether you should come along too, just in case. That unease makes you question yourself. How do you know what choices are made from a place of “good parenting” and what is coming from fear?
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I never worked on the front lines, but I did have interactions with people who were offenders and victims (and some who were both). I learned a lot about human interaction, compassion, capacity for change, grace and firm boundaries. I learned to trust my gut more and honour that nagging feeling in my belly that things are not as they seem. These are lessons I hope to have carried with me into private life after leaving criminal justice. I just reached a point in my life where the burden of knowing was too great, and I needed the darkness to not be a part of my day-to-day life any more.
I want to enjoy some time in the light without thinking of the shadows, while my son is still young enough for me to push him on a swing, and not think about if there might be someone hiding in the bushes.