Life: Nice Shoes, Time Magazine & Forkfuls Of Cake
See those two words up there? They are, apparently, a bit inflammatory. The concept of attachment parenting (and breast-feeding older children in high heels or not) polarises and Time Magazine have (in my opinion, unfairly) used those two words (and a compelling Very Yummy Mummy image) to spark millions of conversations about parenting and breastfeeding, pitting parents against each other with the ultimate result of selling lots of magazines and feeling a bit smug, I am sure. Boo for Time.
After I virtually kicked Time in the shins for profitably baiting (what seems like) most of the media digesting world, I’m going to thank them for raising the subject. I think it’s good to turn a negative into a positive and a bit of smart, healthy discussion seems like a good idea. So let’s go.
You may think that attachment parenting ensures you’ll be nursing your kids ‘Bitty’ style, even as you sit in the old folks home, lap blanket in place, teeth on the side table (yours AND theirs) and Larry Emdur on the telly. Or you might think it’s a general term, used to explain the idea that you are happy to bunk in with your kids when need be and are going to give the child-led weaning idea your very best shot. Perhaps you think that the very phrase attachment parenting insists that everyone else is parenting in a detached way. Or you may assume that attachment parenting is for stay at home parents who don’t need to get out there and earn a living to pay the rent-slash-mortgage-slash-school-fees. Or perhaps you think none of these things at all.
The idea of attachment parenting is confronting to many. It’s a blanket phrase which covers all kinds of approaches to parenting, really, and I’m thinking that few families who parent under this term do it in the very same way. While some of these families may own that phrase proudly, I am thinking that lots of others are parenting in this style, but would never label it, possibly are doing it intuitively and would certainly not compare themselves to others.
I’m thinking that is like comparing people who wear brown shoes to people who were green shoes. The shoes are different, the shades are different and the miles they walk are different too. They serve the same purpose, but are fantastically unique.
I’m all for attachment parenting, let me say. But I’m all for many different kinds of parenting and I’m certain that placing labels on parenting styles does anyone any good. There are no teams.
Attachment parenting has been said to have its roots in the work of Dr William Sears. I had one of his books when my kids were wee and I turned to it all the time (it was when the internet was not quite sorted out yet!) What I liked about this book was not the idea of being part of the attachment parent posse, but rather that some of the things betwixt the pages spoke to me. I liked Dr Sears way of dealing with children, because it was gentle and because I am a complete wus who can not stand to let babies cry for more than 2.5 seconds. I guess I was attracted to the attachment parenting style because I’m a bit permissive, and I had the time and circumstances to let my days be fairly child led.
But really, Sears just coined a term for something that already existed. Jean Liedloff’s book ‘The Continuum Concept‘ talks about similar ideas, a bit more loftily. And before that there was John Bowlby. And before that there were mothers all over the world who toted their babies and co-slept because it was easy and necessary (and probably nice!)
I think the Dr Sears cannily updated a concept that’s existed for ages, and he made it relevant and accessible for many modern mums and dads. That said, I am sure that not all modern parents are interested in Dr Sears’ thoughts on parenting. They have other good ideas on growing their kids up, and that’s great. But for ME, some ideals that fall under the attachment parenting umbrella worked well.
That said, when my kids were babies I would look at other women with babies who were trying different approaches and admire their lovely offspring. Invariably we would each be struggling with different versions of the same core issues with our babies, and we were working through it in our own ways. My ‘attachment parenting’ attempts were no better or worse than my girlfriends’ very different endeavours with her baby. They were just that, different. We both came from the same place, a pretty fraught but rewarding place called ‘Trying To Do It Right’. She was wearing the brown shoes and I was wearing the green ones, but as we walked down our different streets with our different kids from our different lives we met in the same place, shuffling our feet under the same table, taking forkfuls of the same piece of cake and talking about the same kinds of concerns with our kids.
And I think that’s the point. Parenting is not a conceptual competition, with parents pitted against each other teamed by their differing approaches. These parenting manuals and ideals are there for us to pick and choose from, according to best fit. And often we don’t get the perfect fit. The labels peel off or fade, and we’re left with who we are and what we have decided is best for our kids, something that doesn’t need to be judged, labelled or used to inflate the sales of supposedly intelligent magazines.
Thank you. *steps off soapbox*
What do you think, JustBees?