We Are Both Right

Locked Up in Attachment Parenting?

© vancity197/stock.xchng

© vancity197/stock.xchng

I never knew defined parenting styles existed. For all the reading and research that I did when I was pregnant with my eldest, my son C., somehow I must have missed the chapters where it detailed the qualities and methods of the various ways to raise your kids.

But even if I had known that there were formal modi operandi (Woo hoo! My high school Latin is useful!) for us to follow, I doubt I would have been able to choose one. And even if I had — say I found one that stood out for me above all the rest — how could I have possibly adhered to it without knowing what I was getting myself into?

I mean, does parenting even work that way? Is choosing a parenting style as simple as shopping for a sweater in a catalog? (Although if you’ve ever watched me shop online, you’d know it’s not as much of an effortless expenditure as you would think.)

See, for my husband T. and I, parenting was always about following our instincts. If it felt right, we did it, whether it was deciding to breastfeed (even though some didn’t support our decision), choosing for me to be a stay-at-home mom or simply making our own baby food (something we did with our youngest, S.). And the thing about parenting by instinct is, that you do it differently every time, adapting for each child. While we stick with the same fundamental tenets for all three of them — Be kind and honest. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Laugh often. Things are never as bad as they seem. All you need is love. Look for a fastball on a 3-0 count. — we definitely have made some modifications as we go along. We are evolving, fluid — like Facebook. (Can someone please explain why my News Feed is now at a .5 font size?)

Anyway.

So I can firmly say, no parenting styles for us. I am a mother, not a sheep in a herd and I won’t be classified.

Except…

One night I was surfing the Internet looking to find the proper dosing information for infant acetaminophen. C. must have been teething or something and I had lost the paper where I wrote down the right amount as directed by my pediatrician. While looking, I stumbled on a most helpful parenting tool — the Medicine Cabinet at AskDrSears.com. (This is unrelated so I’ll keep it fast — basically it’s a listing of just about every over-the-counter medication you can buy and the correct dose by age and weight. It’s awesome.) Anyway, so thrilled was I with this discovery that I started clicking around the site, eventually landing on the Attachment Parenting page.

As I read, I found myself nodding my head. Breastfeeding. Babywearing. Co-sleeping. It is impossible to spoil an infant. “We do that!” “And that!” “That too!” “Hey, that sounds just like us!” For someone who had eschewed parenting styles in the past, I sure was happy to be suddenly classified in one.

And that’s why I didn’t mind finding myself categorized as someone who practiced attachment parenting. We came to do it on our own, simply by following our built-in mommy and daddy intuitions. We were doing what we thought was best for our kiddies, letting our natural parental inclinations be our guide.

(Now to be fair, there is one big aspect of attachment parenting that we don’t follow. On the recommendation of our pediatrician, we have always “Ferberized” (sleep trained) our kids once they hit four months old and I have no regrets about it at all — especially since they all sleep 11-12 hours at a stretch. Having said that, once they are sleeping through the night, we do bring them into our bed on occasion if they need some extra snuggles.)

But that’s the beauty of attachment parenting — it’s an approach, not a rule book. You do what works best. The major proponents of attachment parenting — Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha Sears, RN — write on their site, “Attachment parenting is not rigid. On the contrary, it has options and is very flexible.”

Celebrating and exploring the bonds between mother and child, for me, attachment parenting makes me feel more relaxed and more mellow about the parenting decisions I make every day.

Not everyone is a fan though.

Late last week, attachment parenting came under fire by author and feminist Erica Jong, who, in the Wall Street Journal, compared the approach to being incarcerated.

“Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization,” Jong writes. “Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.”

Hmmm. Well, sometimes I don’t change out of my pajamas all day and don’t leave the house, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because the kids have me tied up.

Look, I could sit here and could argue point by point against Jong of why I think she’s wrong. (And she is. Buzzwords and saying things for shock value are not the foundations of a cohesive argument.) But her words about attachment parenting aren’t what made me see red.

What got me so angry is that she attacked the way other people parent — one of the most personal decisions there is. She raised her daughter one way — leaving her with nannies while she traveled the world — not a method I would employ certainly, but hey, it’s what worked for her family. How dare she criticize others for their choices, choices that we are all free to make.

I don’t appreciate being judged because I love being with my kids, because I choose to spend my time mashing bananas and pushing toy trucks on the floor instead of going to an office every day or seeking some sort of outside achievement. I hate that some people think because I’m a smart woman who doesn’t put on high heels and a suit every day or use my neurons to come up with a cure for cancer, that I have somehow been brainwashed or bullied and am setting the feminist movement back decades.

We need to stop being so critical of one another and start working together to fix some very real social problems that affect all of our children — those raised by moms who work in an office and moms who don’t.

The lack of paid parental leave. Unequal pay for women. A broken healthcare system that has a terrible record when it comes to maternal and prenatal care, one that pays for penis pumps but not breast pumps. Women who can’t breastfeed in public without being harassed or causing some kind of incident.

This is the madness we need to address.  Not attacking women who, as Jong so nicely points out, are “giving up your life for your children,” instead of supporting all moms as they strive to live fulfilling, rewarding existences while raising tomorrow’s mothers and fathers.

“Do the best you can,” Jong writes at the end of her piece, “There are no rules.”  Good advice. I just wish she meant for everyone, not just the folks who agree with her way of thinking.

Do you employ a particular parenting method?

5 Responses to “Locked Up in Attachment Parenting?”

  1. I basically ended up being “classified” the same way as you. I just did all of the things that felt natural to me as a mom (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, alternate vacc. schedule), then one day I found out that meant I was practicing “attachment parenting.” Who knew? One great thing about being labelled is it made it easier for me to find resources (like Dr. Sears and Mothering Magazine); but I also found out once I was labeled that I don’t fit the label perfectly either (I’m pro-spanking). Just like how I can only be described as semi-crunchy…

    Either way, though, it irks me when people criticize my parenting choices simply because it’s not what THEY did (or would do). There are about a billion ways to parent and probably only seven of those which are universally agreed upon as bad. Sure, if a woman is BFing and carrying her baby around because it’s someone else’s choice [such as her husband's or some b**ch in the WSJ], then that’s close to incarceration. But if you’re doing what feels natural and normal to you as a woman and as a mother [whatever that "what" happens to be], then so be it.

    True freedom is in deciding for yourself what kind of woman / wife / parent / mother / co-worker / sister / daughter / whatever you want to be. And that kind of freedom requires that we ladies learn to shut the heck up when it comes to judging each other. If the kids are doing just fine, we need to learn to back off each other.

    And, P.S., I hate Erica Jong.

  2. amanda says:

    @Pop Culture Mom: That’s exactly it. As long as I’m not doing anything illegal, who cares? Not to mention she was wrong, wrong, wrong about how she defined attachment parenting, but much more mad about the judgement passed over.

  3. Diane says:

    If I had a nickle for every time someone told me AP was a prison, breastfeeding is hell, making baby food, cloth diapering and giving up your life is being a martyr I wouldnt have to worry about paying for college in 18 years. Yes I went to a respectable college. Yes I had a fabulous job but I find my new job is much more rewarding. Like you I didnt know what I was doing was concidered to be AP until I found a website on it :)

    Who cares? If you kid is happy and healthy it doesnt matter how you get there.

  4. amanda says:

    @Diane: It’s funny, not knowing that I had a “style” of parenting also meant not knowing that there was a big bruhaha surrounding it. So when I heard people criticizing something that came so naturally to me, you better believe I was annoyed. Especially because I wasn’t forcing “my” system on anyone else, just doing what I thought was best for my kids.

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