Attachment Parenting: The conflict without, amped up the conflict within.
Okay, I admit it. For a brief time (maybe 6 months) I was on the trending bandwagon, running with the popular thought that attachment parenting was the worst thing that women’s liberation has come up against. I am happy to say that I was finally able to do what my training in mindfulness taught me to do. I stepped back and saw the crazy monkey allowing my thoughts to run amok at the mercy of my defensive ego. When I did, I had one of those Aha! moments that I love so much.
Attachment parenting was named and promoted by the Sears’, who use attachment theory as the guideline for their parenting approach. This approach supports activities such as baby wearing, co- sleeping, family caregivers, and a number of other things, which encourage secure attachment, or a secure relational bond, of a child to it’s primary caregiver. What popular media and very angry mom’s were hearing was, women should be back in the stone age. Don’t have a life, give your child whatever they want, don’t work, don’t use daycare, don’t set your child down ever or your child will be ruined. Translation: Mom’s are solely responsible for the outcome of their children’s development good, bad or otherwise. Holy, blame, shame, repeat!
My initial reaction was hello fundamental, extremism. I was all fired up to go to bat for my fellow moms in defense of our independence and the overwhelming expectations and standards that we and the rest of western society place on us. I wrote a condemning blog (which will still come out in a tamer version), about the traps of fundamental attachment parenting. When I asked a colleague to review it for me, I was forced to wait, take a breathe, let things settle and put my curiosity hat back on. What did the Sears’ actually say? What were they really trying to convey with their suggestions?
I went back to The Baby Book that the Sears’ published in 2003. What I found, were authors who were so very aware of the impact previous generations of cold, detached parenting had on the adults they were working with, and the difference in the children of parents who did things opposite to the Dr. Spock prescription. They saw the negative cycle that we have taken on as “normal” parenting, and were providing an alternative way back to our human roots, our holistic way of being. When I understood, the context they were working from, I was able to see and take in what they were really advocating. I could set my defensive, angry mother self to the side.
What I experienced, reading their suggestions, was actually sadness. I felt sad, that our society has taken such a minimal view of the important role that mother’s play, to the
point where maternity leave times are questioned because work life is so much more important than home life. I felt sad that child development has become something of a pain or inconvenience because of our busy lives, rather than a joy, or something to be enjoyed with time. It broke my heart to read the encouragement the Sears’ give to the importance of fathers, knowing how many father’s abdicate their roles in their child’s lives. It pained me to read their emphasis on family bonds, which includes extended family, knowing how many families are torn apart for various reasons.
The statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is no longer an actual lived reality for most of us, so when the Sears’ came out with their parenting style, of course it’s going to be met with huge anger and attack. We are so far from feeling capable of adding more tasks or effort to the chaos that we are already living or take on more guilt/responsibility that women already carry every second of existence. We cannot tolerate integrating an approach that feels like it takes so much from us, when the bigger context of society provides little in the way of support, or acknowledgement of mothering, parenting or caregiving to keep us going.
So what now? In my heart and clear observational mind, I send gratitude to the Sears’ for what they are trying to remind us of, what we have lost. I send my thanks to them for highlighting the importance of human attachment because it affects every facet of who we are in relationships for the rest of our lives (not meant in a pressuring or shaming way). I hold a hope that everyone who has the opportunity to come into contact with a child, recognizes the importance of their impact in those brief or lasting moments with them, and uses their time for the best development of that little person, not their own egoic needs.
Finally, I wish that people would ease up on all the criticism and extremism that seems to be applied to so many topics as of late, particularly parenting. Open up to curiosity and other possibilities, including balance, compromise, and integration of opposites. With 6 billion people on the planet, it isn’t logical to believe that there is only one right way to do anything. Be your best self as a being, and a parent and your children will be the benefactors of all the goodness you share with them. That’s all I can ask of my self because that works for me and my children. Maybe being your best self, is what will work for you and your children.