Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

Is Attachment Parenting Modern Martyrdom? (And How to Put the Joy Back in Parenting)

Published on July 1, 2014 by   ·   75 Comments Pin It
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Has anyone noticed how many articles bash attachment parenting lately? I sure have. While most attachment parents are quick to point out the benefits of full term breastfeeding, delaying daycare, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and anything else they found worked best for their family, one has to wonder… Is all the criticism based on something real? Could attachment parenting make parents miserable, and are we all sacrificing our happiness for the supposed sake of our children? Let’s dig a little deeper…

Most of the parents who end up going back to work when their children are under the age of 1 (or 2, or 3…) claim that staying home all day with their child was draining them of joy, and their children were not socializing enough. They felt miserable, and felt that their children were not thriving like they should. Once the parent was back at work though, and the child in daycare, all appearances pointed to a happier situation for everyone. Mom was fulfilled, baby was stimulated, and everyone was relaxed and happy.

When pressed for more details, however, issues often surfaced. The child did not take to the transition easily, and crying was common at drop off. Mom missed her child. Mornings were rushed, and bedtime came all too soon.

I had to wonder. Was there no middle ground? Could we not, as parents and infants/toddlers, have our cake and eat it too? The answer is surprisingly simple. Of course we can.

When Jean Liedloff visited the Yequana tribe in the Amazonian forest, she was compelled to write her groundbreaking book “The Continuum Concept” for one simple reason.

These people were happy. Parents were happy, children were happy. Sure, life wasn’t always easy, and these people had to work hard, but the parent/child relationship wasn’t a source of grief. Could their model work in our modern society? Yes. It can. It just takes a little forethought since there are no existing systems set in place to support and nurture new mothers. It is absolutely possible, in our so-called developed countries, to nurture our children with our presence while also enjoying the company of others.

co-sleeping

Because in the end, this is the way it should be. We should be able to chat and laugh with other mothers with children of varying ages while giving our children the reassurance that yes, we are here, we will always be here, and they are free to roam and explore the world knowing that whenever the need for a hug arises, we will be there for them. There should be no crying at daycare drop off. The children would “drop” themselves off whenever they are ready. The separation might last 5 minutes at first, only to increase gradually as toddlers feel comfortable taking off with a group of their peers to play. There is no danger. There is no anxiety. Mom is here. She may not be right here right now but she can be reached within minutes, and in the meanwhile, she’s having fun. This is the way life is supposed to be.

Some attachment parents are happy interacting almost solely with their children. They find joy and fulfillment in the process, and their children do too. Still, some parents find that loneliness becomes stronger with every day, and their children need more variety. Both situations are normal. If you find yourself in the latter group, you need not go through it alone.

InstasizeImage

Here are some suggestions you may find helpful.

– Join a La Leche Group: No one there will tell you that your 2 year old has passed the age to breastfeed! They are supportive of breastfeeding, and should you run into difficulties, their Leaders are there to help you get through them.

– Join an Attachment Parenting International support group: It’s easier to relax when you don’t feel judged for your parenting choices, and don’t feel the need to explain yourself. No group? Create one!

– Find a MeetUp.com group for like-minded moms, or create your own: Joining an existing group allows you to immediately meet other moms, while creating your own group lets you fine tune what you’re really looking for — and if you set up meetings at your house, it’s even easier to make it to meetings!

– Go to parks, or attend children-oriented events: I can’t tell you how many times I went to parks only to sit down with a mom for a relaxed chat while our kids plaid. Children, especially attachment parented children, aren’t afraid of other kids. My son will find a child around his age, and will offer to start a game (first by joining in, then verbally as he grew older). Libraries often have Story Time hours, which can be a lot of fun as well (you might want to try a few, as they probably won’t all work for your child’s personality).

– Attend events for adults when your child has gone to sleep: I could not do this when my son was very little, as I fell asleep at the same time he did, but if you have a sleeper who goes down when you still have some energy to spare, take advantage of it! Organize or join a Girls’ Night with your friends, invite people over for dinner, etc. Take advantage of it to have a date night with your partner if he or she has to work during the day.

You don’t need to turn attachment parenting into an exercise in martyrdom. From what I’ve seen and read about, the happiest families are the ones that find balance and nurture everybody’s needs. And yes, it is possible! If you find that you crave the presence of others, there are many organizations and events available, and a few are bound to suit you. Don’t forget, for every lonely mother is another one waiting to meet her. In the end, not only is attachment parenting the natural choice for many families, it is also the choice that is most likely to bring them joy and fulfillment.

Joanna Steven is the author of several books, including the first comprehensive guides to pregnancy and breastfeeding on a raw food diet, both available on Amazon, as well as the plant-based program Remineralize Your Body Now! You can visit her blog and Facebook page for more.

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Readers Comments (75)

  1. Krysta says:

    Amazing! Thanks for posting this. I’m so sick of the latest article and “mommy blog” whining about the big, mean attachment parents making them feel bad about their choices. Attachment parenting looks different in every family, and some parents who practice attachment parenting don’t cosleep, or weren’t able to breastfeed full term, but they still practice being attuned their child’s needs and responding with open communication. This was a nice way to share how wonderful and beneficial attachment parenting can be!

  2. Stormy says:

    AP bashers are just RACKED with GUILT for not doing right by their kids. They are too weak to be hardcore real deal parents and want to blame the strong.

    • Hi Stormy!

      I love how passionate you are :-)
      I think a lot of parents are completely overwhelmed, and a big problem is the total lack of support for parents. Let’s change that!

  3. Melanie says:

    Great article. When I first became pregnant I knew that the principles of AP were right for me, but I become very turned off at the false assumptions that a mother or father gives up all personal freedom and identity to meet the demands of their children. AP is all about being physically and emotionally available to your child, and shouldn’t be equated with a cultural competition amongst parents on who can sacrifice the most of themselves for their children. AP takes on a different appearance and style with every family in which it’s practiced seeking to foster natural bonding, I couldn’t imagine parenting any other way.

    • Melanie, exactly! My son does better not co-sleeping, because he’s such a light sleeper. We co-slept for 2 years, but he certainly woke up a lot more. We breastfed for 3+ years though. We’re all different!

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