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5.24.2012

Attachment Parenting: In which I passively address the TIME magazine cover

I was pretty excited last week to find that one of my very good friends from back in California, Jamie, was going to be on the cover of TIME magazine for an article on attachment parenting and child lead weaning.  I was even a little jealous.  I was definitely not jealous, however, of the shit storm that followed the story.



Why is it that this picture is okay:

 Yet this picture, which shows less skin and roughly the same amount of breast, elicits such polarized opinions?
Photo courtesy of TIME magazine.
BTW, that's not the cover photo.  The cover photo was more posed and less natural.  Which actually added a lot of fuel to the fire.  You see, not only were those who are uncomfortable with child lead weaning bothered by the picture, but many in the attachment parenting and lactivist community were also up in arms about the way the picture was posed and, most especially, the headline underneath of it: "Are You Mom Enough."  I was a little miffed that people got so cranky about the picture, but they were justified in being upset about the headline.

Being an attachment parent is not about who is the better or tougher or more self sacrificing mom.  Let me tell you a think or ten about attachment parenting, and if it doesn't blow your mind then I haven't done my job.

I don't really consider myself an attachment parenting... parent.  I know I lean in that direction though.  However, I do have a lot of friends who have strongly followed all or most of the tennets of attachment parenting.  Nearly all of my mommy friends, actually.  I have a theory about this, for starters.  The women in my circle of friends are open minded and accepting, which is why they considered attachment parenting in the first place.  They don't judge, they don't gossip or speak negatively about each other, and for the most part we all genuinely enjoy each other's company.  I've never been in any other group of moms that was like that.  Never.  I've never been around any other group of women like that either.

Perhaps it's because since those of us who follow the various attachment parenting practices are so used to being judged we can't stand the idea of judging others.

And that's the first thing I want to tell you.  99% of attachment parents aren't going to judge or look down on any other mom who chooses to NOT follow any of these practices.  We are never going to imply that another parent who genuinely loves and has the well being of their child at heart is not a good parent, no matter what choice that parent makes.  Because we understand that no two families are alike, and that what works well for one family might not work for another.  I think a lot of the venom comes out because other mothers, especially those who haven't been exposed to attachment parenting, feel like attachment parents are all going to be like Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Away We Go:

And we're not.  I promise.  We are far more like you that you can imagine.  And we don't look at you and think "she's not a good mom because of ______."  I promise.

Another myth I often hear about attachment parenting is that it spoils kids.  I understand why people think this, too.  Because when they think of the tenets of attachment parenting- holding/wearing, co-sleeping, and baby lead weaning, they think of that friend they had who "let" their baby come to bed with them just because she was so sleep deprived and had a hard time getting the baby back out of their bed, or of that other friend whose 3 year old still drinks out of a bottle.  But I can tell you that true, intentional attachment parenting is nothing like this.  Attachment parenting is NOT the same thing as indulging a child's every want.  It is about meeting needs, both physical and emotional.  Just as in the conventional parenting crowd, there are a wide range of us using a wide range of disciplinary systems, but I do know that the children I know who were raised by parents who held them a lot and met their physical and emotional needs quickly (ie no cry it out, no "sit down and shut up" and no physical punishment) are kinder, have less separation and general social anxiety, adapt more quickly to varying social situations, and have more empathy than most of the non AP kids I have known in my life.  And now is a good time to remember that I was a preschool teacher for 6 years and have had my own kids for 5 (meaning lots of playdates and the like)- I have known a lot of kids.

Of course, the most ridiculous claim is specific to breastfeeding- that breastfeeding past a year or when a child can talk or whatever your arbitrary cut off is is somehow inappropriate.  It is not.  I can list facts and figures backed up by both scientific and psychological research until tomorrow, but if you're not open to the idea it doesn't really matter, does it?  Arbitrary cutoff ages are not backed up by any theory other than the theory of social acceptance, while breastfeeding until the child is done IS.  And if you refuse to accept that it's beneficial, at least accept that it is neither physically nor psychologically harmful to a child.  YOU are sexualizing the woman's breasts, but I promise you her child isn't.  So the problem is with you, and only you can correct it.

But the most important thing I want to say is that unless you are THE perfect parent (which I am saying is impossible, because there is no "perfect" way to parent, at least not one single perfect way to parent all children) don't judge.  The end.

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