Ok, I might as well dive into the fray…
Time Magazine’s recent article, cover & online coverage have made me rethink two things: whether I want to call myself an attachment parent & whether I will ever feel comfortable nursing my three-year-old in public again.
Thanks, a lot, Time!
More than any of the other coverage attachment parenting (“AP”) has been getting in the media lately, the Time cover story seems to have pushed all the wrong buttons. AP-type folks hate it, non-AP-types aren’t wild about it (or AP) either. (I guess we can all agree on disliking one thing, at least…)
I have considered myself an AP mom almost from the beginning but I don’t have a guru & while I appreciate some of Dr. William Sears’s wisdom, I don’t think he defines AP or the way I parent. I am not competitive or trying to be “mom enough.”
I am simply attracted to the idea of parenting in a way that that works for my family & fits with my overall parenting philosophy.
Yes, I read The Baby Book & it’s how I learned about attachment parenting… or at least that this way of parenting had a name. I took away from it that responding to your baby’s needs in an instinctual way might work for MFA Dad, me & little T. My favorite of Sears’s “Baby B’s” (his quick list of AP tools) was: Beware baby trainers. Which I took to include Sears himself.
I actually appreciate Jeffrey Kluger’s piece, The Science Behind Dr. Sears. Being a skeptic by nature, I started to read about the science supposedly backing AP this past summer. I came away thinking it’s unfortunate that AP is in any way associated with or based off of “attachment theory.” The two are totally unrelated. Attachment theory has little to do with every day parenting for most of us & more to do with traumatic instances of neglect. And attachment theory consistently teaches that healthy parental attachment is fostered by “good-enough” parenting. In other words attachment parents are not the sole purveyors of healthy attachment. (And, by the way, despite practicing AP, I mostly only consider myself a “good-enough” mom.)
I also don’t think science is the reason most (any?!) AP families decide to practice AP. We don’t do it to foster smarter, better little people. We do it because it feels right. Because it’s what works for our families. Because it makes parenting more joyful or meaningful for us. Because it soothes our babies, comforts our toddlers. Because it fits with our world views.
It’s truly unfortunate if someone feels pressured into parenting in this way because of the supposed science behind it. And I agree that Dr. Sears (& others so-called experts… Drs. Ferber & Weissbluth included!…) should stop using pseudo-science to push parenting practices that should be chosen by families alone, free of pressure from “experts.”
Reading The Baby Book, I also detested the way I perceived Sears as talking down to fathers, as if they have none of those “instincts” he talks about following or are only relegated to certain parenting tasks. Which is why I also appreciated Nathan Thornburgh’s contribution to Time’s AP bonanza: The Detached Dad’s Manifesto. I agree with a lot of what Thornburgh says, though I disagree with the basic premise that AP necessarily means attachment mothering.
Of course there are vast differences between a mother’s parenting experience & a father’s. Some of these are on account of biological differences, some are man-made. But this does not mean that fathers cannot practice AP. Again, though, I actually relate to a lot of what Thornburgh writes about & would love to explore this more in a future post (perhaps with MFA Dad’s help?) – I think it’s really important!
As for the cover? I love that there is a picture of a woman nursing an older toddler on the cover of a national magazine. I hate the camo pants, the deer-in-the-headlights look on the boy’s face, the I-dare-you-to-say-something look on the mom’s, the posed nature of the photo, the utter lack of emotional connection between mother & child… It screams confrontation.
I absolutely do not buy the photographer’s ex post facto explanation that he sought inspiration in artwork depicting breastfeeding through the ages. In almost every such depiction at least one of the pair is looking at the other & if not, the artist somehow captured an emotional connection or at least some positive sentiment. Here, all that is utterly lacking.
There is lots of other material on Time’s website, too. Belinda Luscombe has an interesting, if brief, piece called How Feminism Begat Intensive Mothering. I’m not sure I agree with her conclusion that feminists mother “intensively” because they need an outlet for the energy they formerly put into heir education or career. But Luscombe raises quite a few great discussion points.
There are a number of other little articles, but I’m finding it all a little tiring right now… all this defensiveness when what I really want to be doing is supporting mamas who are juggling work & family & writing about how those of us who really do want to practice AP can do both. And, yes, challenging certain aspects of AP from time to time. I’m always up for a debate, but Time has just thrown too much at me. Maybe after I get my hands on the cover story, I’ll have more to say.
I’ll leave you with a link to my favorite response to the Time cover so far, from the excellent Lisa Belkin: No. I Am Not Mom Enough.