According to Dr. Sears, the person who originally coined the term attachment parenting in his popular books about child rearing, “attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents.”
“Well, sign me up!” was my first thought when I read this eight years ago when my second daughter was just an itty-bitty thing. Who doesn’t want to bring out the best in their baby and themselves? There was no question! I had tried other parenting methods, but this one promised something far more important to me than a baby who can learn the alphabet by aged 2 or a baby who sleeps 10 straight hours a night. This method seemed to be promising me a baby who was not only happy, but who would have a life of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence–something I never had. I quickly recalled how painfully shy and awkward I was as a child, then I got online and ordered myself a sling.
Of course, it’s never that easy, is it? Attachment Parenting was actually hard work for me. All the things the book said would make my baby happy–co-sleeping and wearing her for hours every day–seemed to only annoy my very independent daughter. It was an uphill battle trying to make my baby love attachment parenting as much as I did, but I was determined to make it work. Despite how parenting methods start out solely focused on doing what’s best for the child, they often take on a life of their own and have a sort of cult-like grip on some of the mothers. Particularly those of us with painful childhood memories of our own. Before long it seemed everywhere I turned was someone proudly slinging a toddler, or reading
The Fussy Baby
book, or eating the Dr. Sears toddler snacks. Yes, snacks. Because apparently some pre-packaged snacks provide our kids with more self-confidence than others. Go figure.
And then forums were created, more books written, and books about books, and videos about books and blogs about books. Mothers, like myself, flocked to informal AP gatherings at homes, parks, and even mall food courts with babies strapped to our sides. As we passed by one another in the grocery stores or mall, we’d each give a knowing nod as if to say, “Hey, you’re a good mom too, just like me!” And thanks to several well-intentioned and emotionally charged mothers perhaps lashing back from their own latch-key childhoods, new rules were even created! A type of code of ethics for APers ranging from using cloth diapers to staging nurse-ins to small farm living. In fact, it seemed every time I turned around there was a new rule or expectation for AP moms.
Finally there was this point, which in short basically involved me prying a pacifier out of my hysterical 14-month-old’s mouth while trying to hide her stroller in my trunk under blankets because I was scared one of my hard-core AP friends would find me out, when I knew I had to just step back and ask myself just who I was doing this for–my child? Or myself? It didn’t take long to realize that at some point, my allegiance to my child’s best interest had been replaced with a fear of being ousted by a bunch of bully mamas. It was like the junior high lunch table all over again. I was more worried about them finding out that my daughter slept in a crib (or “baby jail” as it was affectionately known in my circles) than I was about how my daughter felt about sleeping in a crib.
Slowly I began to realize it was time I stopped hiding behind a philosophy and started standing on my own two feet. Parenting isn’t a popularity contest between moms, nor is it a chance to fix my own childhood regrets; it is simply about raising my own children and looking out for their best interest. Any thing else just dilutes the important natural bonds on which we rely between mother and child, and between mother and mother.
I’ve come to realize that psychopathic wackos aside, most of us mothers just want the same things: to be accepted by our peers and to do right by our children. No mother who is trying her best for her kids should ever be made to feel like anything less than a success. So, I decided to stop calling myself an AP mom. Not because I don’t like Dr. Sears’ basic principles (I do), but because I felt the movement had taken on a life of it’s own–something with which I wasn’t wholly comfortable. I stopped looking to Dr. Sears’ books as my parenting bible and instead as one of many tools in my large bag of parenting tricks.
And I stopped worrying about following anyone else’s rules. Because I make the rules around here now. I am the mom. Just plain mom.
For more on attachment parenting, read “There are No Attachment Parenting Police” by Mayim Bialik, “Dr. Sears Made Me Cry,” and “What if You Want to Attach, but Can’t?”