I am so tired of reading articles complaining about "those awful attachment parenting moms" and how much pressure they're putting on "the rest of us" to fulfill a certain checklist of attachment parenting things. Apparently elimination communication and placentophagy have been added to the "list" because celebrities did them and now we all are being pressured to do them too.
Whatever. I just don't feel pressured by someone else's choices, least of all by some celebrity I never even heard of before reading the article.
So, for the record? I don't do this attachment parenting thing out of guilt, a sense of obligation, or fear that I'm going to raise a psychopath.
Scientific proof is hard to come by when it comes to analyzing parenting methods. I mean, say you co-slept, breastfed, spanked, and homeschooled, and your child grew up to be a criminal mastermind. Which of your parenting decisions is at fault? It's not like researchers can randomly assign parents to parent different ways. And you certainly can't placebo-control spanking ... guaranteed, if you're being spanked, you know you're being spanked.
Anyway, there tend to be two opinions that are generally supported by some kind of statistical evidence. One is that attachment parenting really does produce better kids. Breastfeeding makes them smarter, co-sleeping makes them more secure, not spanking makes them less aggressive. Every "attached" choice you make helps your kids later in life. The other opinion is that what you do doesn't really matter, it's all genetics, and your kids will probably turn out fine whatever you do.
So, there isn't really any scientific or statistical evidence that attachment parenting hurts anything.
But that isn't why I do it, really. Why I do it is quite simple. It helps me enjoy being a mother.
I mean, I could obsess over sleep training and nap schedules. Sometimes I do. And when I do, it takes away my peace and makes me obsessive about something stupid that really doesn't matter in the long term anyway. Someday, no matter what I do now, my kid will hug me goodnight and leave the room, and that will be the last I hear of him till morning. But meanwhile, I found I slept a lot better when I turned the clock to the wall and just nursed him back to sleep when he woke up. (I miss those days.)
There's a lot of touching in attachment parenting: nursing, cosleeping, babywearing all require a lot of touching. It seems you'd be touched out after awhile, and honestly I thought I would be, since I can be sort of picky about being touched. But in my experience, the touching was the key. Being physically close made me feel so much more emotionally in tune. The nursing hormones didn't hurt, either. Every time we coslept, I woke up feeling patient and loving. It really is a neat trick of human nature, the way touch makes us feel so connected and happy. Science shows it's good for babies, but I maintain it's just as important or more so for mothers.
Nowadays, the struggle is usually over discipline. Having a toddler is rough. They are so determined to do what you don't want them to. And yet, when I yell or threaten or get rough in any way, I feel angrier and angrier. It still doesn't work. But as an added bonus, now I feel like my son and I are adversaries and I seriously resent the fact that he's not knuckling under and accepting who's boss. When, on the other hand, I try to put myself in his shoes and just keep gently redirecting and redirecting and redirecting him, moving him to a new place and comforting him when he cries about it, I feel so much less frustrated. I'm able to see him as a little person who is having a really hard time doing what I ask, but it isn't his fault. And I see myself as his hero, the one who can help him to do what he needs to do. I feel like a Good Mom. And every mom needs things to make her feel like a Good Mom.
Trying to "train" my son, to rush him to grow past nursing or nightwaking or babywearing or snuggles, would just be an endless source of frustration to me. I would see him as broken, defective, because he didn't do these things on my timetable. So I do everything I can to skip that source of frustration and just go with the flow instead. He wants to eat? I feed him. He wants to be held? I hold him. He wants to spend an entire year potty-training, and still has accidents every day? I don't really sweat it. He'll grow up eventually. All kids do. When the time seems right, I gently suggest the new thing I'd like him to do, and slooooowly he learns it. But if it turns into too much of a battle, I back off and try later. I don't need battles in my life.
It's pretty much the same as the revelation I had as a teenager, babysitting my little brother. I used to spend the time surfing the internet, and then leaping up every few minutes to extricate him from danger or attend to some need of his. I would get more and more frustrated. And then I finally realized: the problem was not the kid. The kid was going to have needs, that couldn't be helped. The problem was that I was trying to do something else at the same time. So I logged off (yes, this was in the days of dial-up) and sat on the floor playing blocks with my little brother. I was a little bored, sure. But I felt so much more at peace, happy, connected. And I realized that it's so much easier to just give up your grown-up ideas of entertainment, getting stuff done, setting goals, if you're going to be taking care of a child. They demand that kind of dedication -- but it's okay, because when they receive it, they're happy and, surprisingly, you find that you're happy.
Sure, I do my own stuff too. I do kind of a lot of it, because for all I complain, Marko's pretty self-entertaining and does leave me plenty of time to "get stuff done" as well as monkey around on the internet half the day. But some days, he won't accept that. He whines and cries and has a million things he wants. It usually takes me quite awhile to realize how miserable multitasking is making me. But when I do, I leave the computer, scoop him up, take him to the couch, and read books. Within five minutes, peace returns -- not just to Marko, but to me. I stop feeling like the harried housewife with kids climbing all over her and start feeling like the earth mother welcoming children into her arms.
I have the feeling, too, that if I take the time to enjoy my children, I won't find myself offering them to the nearest bidder later on. (At least, not too often. I am positive there will be days.) I chose to have kids, I like having kids, and I mean to spend their childhoods enjoying my time with them. As the old ladies I run into like to remind me, it won't last. Someday I'll have plenty of time to clean the floor, buy groceries by myself, and sleep alone. This time in my life is for storing up love and memories to think of later.
It's worth reminding myself, as I continue to freak out about the new baby (due in three weeks now!). I'm so worried of being harried, hassled, stressed. I worry that my "me time" -- my gardening, my blog, my incessant Facebooking -- will be a thing of the past. And let's be honest, for awhile, it probably will be. But what will happen if I don't even try to reclaim it for awhile? What if I focus on the moment, filling my two children's "love buckets," and listening to their needs? Will I be totally overwhelmed and "lose myself"? Or will I find, as I found with my little brother and with Marko, that when I lose myself, that's when I find myself? My Self is not some single woman with all the time in the world on her hands to grow tomatoes and comment on everybody's blog. My Self is a mother, a mother of two, and the best way to find that new Self is to quietly listen ... probably while nursing a baby and reading endless books.
Do I think attachment parenting is the best and you should all totally try it, if you haven't already? Sure. But that's because I like it and think you might too. There's no "list" of things you have to do to be a good mom. If you love your kids more than life itself -- and who doesn't -- you're already a good mom. So as far as that goes, I don't care what your individual choices are. I just advertise mine because they make me so very happy.