Extreme Parenting- When Being An Attached Mama Makes You Crazy

Every once in a while I hear about a mother struggling to be the perfect "attached parent" and feeling like she is failing miserably.

I don't know exactly what attachment parenting means to you, in fact, I am not sure what it means to me.  But I do think that many of us feel like failures if we haven't checked off a million things on our "perfect attached  mom" list.  I hear women expressing guilt over the fact that they don't :

-cloth diaper
-nurse two kids
-nurse past a year
-do crafts

or are feeling overwhelmed and not good enough because they do:

-use a stroller
-use a pacifier
-use any type of infant care device  (bouncer, Bumbo, swing, etc)
- let a baby cry for any reason

I am in no position to give advice on parenting.  I am not being modest when I say that, I really am in NO position to give advice.

You should meet my two year old.

Despite that, I am going to say something.

Parenting is not about check-marks on a list.  It isn't about looking good on some parenting forum or Facebook group.  But it is about balance.

Finding that balance is very difficult though, isn't it?

It makes me sad when I hear moms saying they were so overwhelmed with trying to be the perfect parent that they actually decided not to be stay at home moms anymore.  I don't think the point of all that parenting advice is to make us feel like running away because we couldn't do it "well enough".  I think the point is to help us be the best we can be.  That isn't exactly the same for everybody though, is it? 

For me that means finding the balance between giving up what I need to of MY needs so that my children can be well-rounded, good, and happy without giving up SO MUCH that I am miserable and start to negatively impact them and their development.

If part of that balance is putting a baby in a swing every day so that I can make dinner, then that is fine with me.  If that means that I use my stroller everyday so that I can exercise, breathe fresh air, and feel good about my body, that is great too.  If it means that co-sleeping is not working for our family, then that works for me too.

I don't know what that balance is for you but I hope that you can find it and find peace and joy in motherhood.  One thing I do think I know is this-  Motherhood is meant to be a joy for us and our children.  It is meant to be the most important thing we do, but not the only thing.

And we don't do crafts in my house.  Because I hate them and they are messy.


Thanks for your post! I am definitely one of those moms who struggles with being a fabulous attached parent and still trying to maintain some semblance of sanity and self-satisfaction. I try to remember how temporary childhood is and what a lasting impression we are making on the rest of a child's life. It's nice to hear that I am not the only one who is constantly reevaluating what's best for my family even if it isn't "textbook AP". :)
OK - I love this article - that is me in so many areas! I love to babywear but I do, gasp, own a stroller... I don't use it much because I never got in the hang of it, but I do use disposable diapers and for 5 months (ages 7 months to 12 months), my son was a "binkie baby"... but I am finding my balance and following my "mama gut"... also, I am SO honored you used that picture of me and my son, jacob! See - he's smiling! And he's in a disposable diaper and probably had some of the formula we supplemented with (I worked part time as an interpreter and my milk supply in the mornings when I worked went to pot because I couldn't pump on client sites)... ;-)
maureen said…
It's true. I just can't imagine that there is ANY "attachment parent" that hasn't given their baby a toy or set them down for awhile- even those so-admired mommies in Africa who wear their babies and who supposedly don't cry! If we don't set our baby down, it's hard for them to learn to crawl! And I have no idea what crafts have to do with attachment parenting, although since I've become a mom I've wanted to do things like sew, but there's no direct attachment.

The method of diapering has nothing to do with attachment parenting either, goodness it's their POO! Having their butt covered in cloth will have NO bearing on their future mental health or trust issues. How was this ever linked to attachment parenting?

One thing I do want to say is that there are so many mommas out there who want to be attached, but are told or have the impression that their babies are "spoiled" or don't want them to get too attached. Those mamas should know that they don't have to do anything special, just follow their instincts- hug baby when you feel that urge to, play with them when you feel that tug, and just get in touch with your instincts. This means something different to every mama, because some mamas need different things and different amounts of space to survive and thrive in their new role.
maureen said…
Thank you for this article and thanks for being a real, thinking mama. Reading your blog has been really grounding for me in these past few months in my new role as mommy. You've addressed things that I only think about and feel sad/guilty/happy about inside, and lay it out in a very thinking way. Thanks and keep rocking on.
MentalMom said…
I've been at this parenting thing a while now, my oldest is 18 1/2 and the youngest 18 months. I have friends all over the parenting spectrum, mostly of the 'attachment' variety. Personally, I do what works for our family and couldn't give a horses's patoot about whether I fit into any particular label. TBH, I'm too attachment for the 'right away obedience' crowd and too authoritative for the attachment crowd. I see this struggle to be the perfect AP mom a lot among friends over the last 18 years. Most of the moms seem to get eventually that they can't be perfect no matter what the books and blogs say and that good enough has to be just that, good enough. Unfortunately there are a few mothers that try to attain the unattainable and you know what happens every.single.time? They burn out. Badly. I have AP mom friends that were the 'perfect' AP mom when their children are little. Bake their own whole grain sprouted wheat bread, have someone or 2 nursing 24/7, go on field trips, park days, enrichment activities constantly, they never leave their child with anyone including the child's father, every book they read is to their child or about parenting, never go out with their husband or other friends and just have fun, their 'mom' is always on etc.... by the time those children are 10 or so, if not sooner mom checks out. She goes from being the 'perfect mom' to being the absentee mom physically and mentally. Is it best to have a mom give so much of herself in the first few years that she has nothing left to give the rest of a child's life or for her to take some time to make herself happy and content and rested so she has staying power. Mothering is a marathon, not a sprint.
There were times that I felt like I was missing the mark in my parenting goals, not necessarily because I was not 'fitting the mold' per se, but because I was not meeting my own expectations when it came to my own behavior towards my son. I was raised under traditional parenting values and I want to move away from that type of parent-child relationship that relies on punitive methods to control behavior and it HARD to go against my conditioning. When I fail to meet my ideal parenting groove, I do feel guilty at times but I've learned to forgive myself and simply work on the areas that need improvement. If that means that I don't always seem like an 'attachment-parent', that's okay because I'm learning along the way like everyone else!
Jane said…
I needed to read this today...My second child is 3 months and my oldest is 3...life has really changed these last few months and Ive felt like I needed to do so much and keep up and be "fabulously crunchy" or something...Ive completely overwhelmed myself and currently working to get my sanity back.
Elizabeth said…
Well-said! There are a million kinds of mommas, and millions of awesome kids out there. There is no one way to raise a healthy, well-adjusted kid, and you are so right about the need to find balance!