I’ve been wanting to write a series of posts about attachment parenting & working/studying for a while now (umm… so long ago it seems like a failed New Year’s resolution…).
Why write about attachment parenting & working outside of the home? Mostly because early on I got frustrated looking for resources & support… & instead finding mostly criticism of attachment parenting, working or both. It’s also become clear more recently (from some of the search terms that bring readers to this blog) that I’m not the only one looking for support. Consider this a beginning & an experiment.
But, first, a caveat…
I’m no purist & I’ve never been orthodox about … well, anything really. I’m too much of a skeptic (ahem, lawyer…) to drink anyone’s cool-aid. Which isn’t to say that I can’t throw myself into something I believe in since I also tend to be focused (uh, lawyer…). So this is just one woman’s story. It’s not about perfection or right vs. wrong (though it’s hard to go through this whole parenting thing without thinking we’re right, isn’t it?). I’ve met many attachment parenting families & every one of them does things a little differently, has different priorities for childrearing. It turns out, attachment parenting isn’t some rigid set of rules but rather a loose set of guiding principles (with a couple of “rules” that we all pretty much agree on & that logically follow from the principles).
With that caveat, I will admit: I like attachment parenting. I like the idea of it. I enjoy practicing it. I like the philosophy behind it. I believe it’s made my life as a new mom easier in most ways. It’s certainly changed my perspective on children (generally), my son (specifically), parenting, and my role in this world, my priorities.
Getting here has been a natural yet unexpected progression for me.
Neither MFA Dad nor I are into labels. We embarked on this whole parenting adventure pretty much determined to not pick a parenting philosophy, to not read too many books, to not approach parenting as if it were a hobby that required a manual.
What we did know about how we wanted to parent: 1) We weren’t going to be comfortable letting our baby cry himself to sleep, ever; 2) We didn’t want to approach discipline as dictators seeking to quell an uprising; 3) We wanted to integrate our baby into our lives as much as possible while respecting his needs; 4) We knew before meeting him that we would treat him with respect & as a person, not as a pet or a project or a pet project.
I had no idea what attachment parenting (“AP”) was until MFA Dad discovered Dr. Sears’s “The Baby Book” at (of all places) a Babies R Us. I devoured much of the book, reading about babywearing, healthy sleep, gentle discipline, & fostering baby-parent attachment. The whole idea of AP seemed to mesh with we already knew about how we wanted to parent. Plus, we really liked the idea that from a solid attachment parenting would become more intuitive.
We were pretty much sold on AP generally as an approach to parenting. And I did what I said I wouldn’t… I read a lot about parenting, especially anything related to AP. I soaked most of it up, but I kept my skeptic’s attitude. And, boy, would I need it! So much of the AP literature is focused on the mother-baby relationship at the expense of the father-baby relationship. There may be biological reasons for this (birth-bonding, breastfeeding), but this really didn’t (& doesn’t) sit well with my feminist orientation. As an extension of this problem, much of the AP literature advocates for mothers staying at home for long periods of time with their infants (at least one AP advocate argues for mom to spend a full 3 years at home!). This definitely doesn’t mesh with my feminist proclivities & it certainly doesn’t work for many with legal careers or in the midst of law school.
My solution has been to search out sensible solutions for working moms interested in attachment parenting, read critically & toss out the nonsense. Living out someone else’s ideal gendered family scenario isn’t something I’ve been willing to entertain… Not only do I refuse on principle, but it’s simply impossible given that I was already half-way through law school when I had the boy (& therefore already deep in law school debt). To accept the AP schtick about mother-baby bonding being the end-all-be-all (with no room for other caregivers) would also lead to the “prison” that Erica Jong has warned us about… I’m all for reevaluating priorities as a new mother, taking on my responsibilities with all my body, mind & heart, but I won’t go down that road.
With that in mind, I hope that sharing some of my own solutions & thoughts on attachment parenting will inspire other working moms & show them that it is possible (even if not always easy… though what about parenting is?!). I also hope that many of you will share your own thoughts on the different principles of attachment parenting.
And on that note, a question for readers: What made you choose AP in spite of (or because of!) being a working parent?