It's Not Attachment Parenting You're Mad About – Kveller
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attachment parenting

It’s Not Attachment Parenting You’re Mad About

Yesterday on Raising Kvell, Tzipporah La Fianza wrote a post about her frustrations with attachment parenting, and why she stopped associating with AP. Today, Mayim responds.

Hey, Tzipporah. So… I’m kind of in the middle of a divorce and I am really stressed and it’s really the least fun week I’ve had in a long time, but did you think you could sneak this one by me and I wouldn’t respond!? I mean, come on, sister. I WROTE A BOOK ON IT!

In all gentleness and camaraderie, I would like to respond to some of your points as best as I can as someone who is not a perfect AP mom, or a perfect any kind of mom (ask Carla Naumburg), but just a plain mom who has also been through the parenting wringer, AP and otherwise, and lived to tell about it.

Attachment Parenting as you describe it sounds like some new fandangled trend that Dr. Sears came up with to make money. What AP is is parenting in line with the way primates do it. Believe in the ability to naturally and safely birth your baby, breastfeeding it, sleeping with it, carrying it, and responding to it intuitively as all primates do and have done for all of primate history. (And for the record, don’t buy Dr. Sears’ products if you don’t want to; he’s a business man and I don’t begrudge him that, do you?)

In addition, in almost every indigenous population on the planet parents do it this way because it’s in line with our hormones and our biology. It’s not a trend. It’s the scientific and biological way that primates parent. It’s good for babies to be born without drugs. Breastmilk is the food made for them. Sleeping together ensures strong milk supply which means survival. Carrying babies reduces fussiness and they simply need and love to be close to mama without being told when to sleep, eat, or cry.

Does AP match our culture and the hyper-competitiveness that only modern moms seem to engage in as ferociously as we do? No. In a culture where excess is lauded, where consuming is emphasized, and where who has more/better/shinier rules, AP can feel very discordant and it has indeed, in some arenas, become a source of competition.

The emphasis in many AP groups is often on buying all the cute accessories like the “right” sling and learning the catch phrases and being all self righteous. That’s not AP. There are annoying competitive moms in every parenting style. I don’t know what city you live in, but LA and NY moms have to be the most intensely competitive moms of any kind, I’m almost sure of that. And here in LA, we have celebrity AP moms to compete with, too.

Your attack is not an attack on AP, though; it’s an attack on annoying moms and dads who make everything a competition. I don’t like those people either. If something isn’t working for you, don’t do it. But if you feel guilty or conflicted about your needs versus your child’s, find out more about it and see if a better support group, more education, or more resources can help you.

Almost daily for the first years of my boys’ lives, I wanted to give up on things I now know I would not have wanted to give up on: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, gentle discipline… I had to find women going through it to help me, women who were not snarky or “all-or-nothing.” Those women helped me find ways to reduce my stress, reduce my workload, and stop feeling judged and stop judging. And lo and behold, with more support and education, I was less stressed, my kids cried less, and everyone was happier. We are not made to parent alone. And nannies is not what I’m talking about: AP is a style of parenting for groups of supportive women. Not meeting in breast pump stores or at the park; women helping women with their workload, their stress, and their lives in a deep and meaningful way. There’s not one content AP mom who used to curse all of her AP choices who doesn’t have that.

You can’t parent like it’s an Olympic sport. It’s not about endurance and who can pound the pavement harder. You can’t parent like it’s an office competition for “Best Employee.” If you approach it like that, it does become more about you than your kid. But it’s on the parent to recalibrate their priorities and expectations. And please don’t blame moms who have figured it out. Don’t call us martyrs or losers. You can do whatever you want, but we can, too.

AP is not made of bully mamas by and large. I suggest as you go on in your parenting that you develop not a rejection defense mechanism but a researched and educated one. No one can bully you unless you let them. I had to learn to ignore people and be friends with only the people I felt I could have productive conversations with. And I had to be educated about what the child-parent bond is. I had to accept my personal limitations and find what works for me and my family. There are no hard and fast rules in any kind of parenting.

Many of us find support in wonderful organizations (which are infinitely less expensive that all of the sign language classes and music classes and gymnastics classes and playgroups most moms think they “have to” join): La Leche League International is one example which “anti-AP” moms love to accuse of being militant, rigid, and on crack. Um, they’re not. There are tons of kinds of moms who attend their free meetings for information about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, gentle discipline, and feeding your family.

Holistic Moms Network is a non-profit that hosts playgroups, educational meetings, and is a wonderful resource for the more holistic issues of parenting, especially non-toxic products, alternative healthcare, and a non-consumer lifestyle.

I applaud your bravery and your journey. And I am sorry you have met mean mamas. And I am sorry you may not (yet) have a group of support that cares less about what you call yourself and more about how your family is functioning and what they can do to support you.

Now that my sons are 4 and 7, the pressures and competition is much less pronounced, and I am grateful to be out of that “rat race” of who can be the perfect AP mom, or the perfect any kind of mom. And I hope that all women can start supporting each other rather than turn every parenting decision into a competition.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to my crummy week.

For more of Mayim’s perspective on attachment parenting, read why her “controversial” book is still pissing people off, her note to Alicia Silverstone and January Jones, and her promise that there are no attachment parenting “police.”   

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