Thursday, August 30, 2012
The Problem With Attachment Parenting
I have probably approached this topic from a hundred different directions. Still not quite sure how to say it nicely. Today, as a change in programming, I am just going to come out and say it.
The problem with Attachment Parenting is that it is impossible to do perfectly.
There. I said it.
I love the ideas behind attachment parenting- kindly responsiveness, respect, balance, etc. But we have to be honest- no matter what AP is SUPPOSED to be, what it usually end up being is very different.
What does AP end up being? Often it is a laundry list of mom resume accomplishments- breastfeeding, baby wearing, no circumcision, natural birth, no cry-it-out, co-sleeping, organic food and toxin free clothing and of course- cloth diapers! I even hear people say they don't believe in saying "no" to their children and think time-outs are as bad as spanking. (Spare me, please.) The truth is it probably doesn't have to be ANY of those things, but that is what it gets turned into.
I know my love affair with AP ended when I found myself pregnant with my second child.
I had been busy for the previous two years co-sleeping, breastfeeding on cue, and just generally striving for perfection. When I became pregnant again, I knew one thing- I could not SUSTAIN the mom rules I had set up for myself in my AP strive for Dr. Sears approval.
I was exhausted. EXHAUSTED. I had not slept through the night since my first pregnancy over two years before. Throughout my second pregnancy my two year old woke up every night and crawled into bed with me around 3am. In my big old pregnant state I couldn't get back to sleep. I was tired and not just physically. I was emotionally exhausted and fed up with constant contact and lack of sleep and doing it all for the good of my baby. I had lost myself in the shuffle.
Maybe that isn't what is supposed to happen. Maybe I was being unwise in my expectations for myself. I am pretty sure though that I am not the only one. I think AP burnout is really pretty common and the fact that other moms SEE how burnt out AP moms are makes them a little afraid to even TRY it.
I am ashamed (or just frightened) to even admit that my second child didn't sleep for even ONE night in our bedroom as an infant. She went into a bassinet in the room with her brother (swaddled even! GASP!) and she slept like a champ.
I was home with my two kids by myself for about 18 hours a day. I was over 1000 miles away from family. The problem with AP at this point was that I COULD NOT DO IT. I physically couldn't be there constantly, answering every emotional whimper, need, and diaper with perfect, attached, surreal calmness.
The baby swing- ummmm, yeah, I used it. And I LIKED IT. I have also owned a Bumbo (double gasp!) and strollers (I know- we can't be friends any more! Real AP moms only baby-wear!) and bouncers and all that jazz. Do they all work for every kid? No. But sometimes they worked. Sometimes they kept me sane. Sometimes they made life bearable when I was overwhelmed.
The sad reality is that most modern families don't have 10 adults living in a house together. Most people don't have half a dozen children and grandmas all under one roof. If you do then it is pretty possible for somebody to always go straight to a fussing baby and you can raise a child who never cries for more than a few seconds. But for most mothers the reality is much more lonely (and private) and those gadgets we buy- well they replace grandmother or an older sibling or a mom who simply needs to feed her other children.
The problem with Attachment Parenting is the rules and the restrictions and the impossible perfection and of course- the JUDGMENT. Not just judgment that we throw at each other, but the judgment that we hurl at OURSELVES when we perceive that we fall short.
Today- more than 7 years after my first baby, I don't consider myself an "Attachment Parent". I just try to be the best I can be in my circumstances. I try to baby-wear when it works for me and my baby (and my back). I try to get my babies when they need me but it doesn't always happen immediately. I try to make them feel loved but that doesn't mean I meet their every grunt and noise with a nipple. I breastfeed but sometimes I don't like it. I still love my stroller more than is healthy.
The biggest difference now though is that I no longer feel guilty or ashamed of all of these truths. I am more comfortable in my mom skin than I was seven years ago and I am more accepting of my own imperfections.
I hope that we can all get to a place where we find real balance and where we are so sure of how we are parenting that we don't care how other people are looking at us. I hope we can raise healthy, well rounded children who don't believe the world revolves around them and are sensitive to others. I am not sure how perfect parenting is done or how to raise a child into a fantastic adult.
I am pretty sure that it means doing our best and letting go of the rest. Nobody wants a mother who has lost her joy in trying to be a perfect mother.