Category Archives: Living

Back to school blues

Day one; grade unknown.


I have a confession to make: I have not dropped off my son on his first day back to school for going on at least four years. I didn’t even do it when I was on maternity leave last year. 

This fact is another on my list of reasons I’m glad I’m not active on Facebook or Instagram. Because I know what it looked like a week or so ago: moms (almost always it’s moms, not dads) posting pictures of their well-dressed children, smiling & holding hand-drawn signs announcing the year their child is entering this year. 

It’s not that these photos make me feel guilty per se, it’s just that they announce, to me, a gulf in mom-ness that I will never bridge. 

Social media has entrenched a part of mom culture that I just have never connected with. It’s the sentimentality of firsts. The over sharing of our children’s images. 

This particular first (the first day of school) also has deep ties to commercialism & consumerism, which makes me run away screaming in a knee-jerk reaction. 

Don’t get me wrong, we do privately document the first day of the new school year. I’m indoctrinated at least that much. 

But also, the transition back to school is a big deal to our kid. Starting a new academic year. Getting back to his friends & not-so-much friends. His work & the structure & the routine. 

It’s such a big deal that it creates a lot of emotional upheaval at our house. 

And for that reason, I think, my son is usually not a willing participant in my attempts to capture the moment with a photo. I usually have to coax him to smile (while complaining that I’m going to be late for work). 

Our #nofilter back-to-school photo this year features my son frowning, dressed in his first-day best (picked by him after I gently explained the problem, generally, with pairing stripes & plaid…) set against a clear blue sky. I got him to smile only after reminding him how much his baby sister adores him. 

I should have foreseen this. The night before presented unexpected challenges for me as a parent. My big kid needed help. I fumbled & grasped for the right things to say, but felt like a complete failure. I could tell we weren’t connecting. 

Big kids have big problems. Some days, I have big hugs, but not big (or the right) words. Our kids of every age deserve & need our parental love, but figuring out how to deliver that love is not always self-explanatory. 

The truth is, my eight-year-old is changing so much that I am scrambling to keep up. Figuring out how he needs me is like chasing a moving target. But it’s not for a lack of trying. No. And I’ll keep trying. He needs me now more than ever. 

Whoever tells you this parenting gig gets easier as they get older is (pretty much) lying. Sure, I may not be hovering over his every move anymore, but it’s not “easier” to be his parent. 

The issues these days seem to be deeper. Which makes them more challenging in many ways. And the solutions to these deep problems require effort & planning. 

But I’m also still trying to convince him that a hug can help lessen the hurt. 

Because sometimes the right words & the solutions will take time. Hugs can help now. My partner helped me realize that. When I’m hurting, he always offers a hug, because in the absence of the right words, human contact with someone you love & trust is as close as we can get to making things better. But it’s hard to accept, even when we’re lucky enough to have someone like that available & willing to try to help ease our pain. 

Trying to convince an older child that your arms can still bring comfort, at a time when they’re starting to peel away from you as the central figures in their lives, is a tricky endeavor. I’m still trying both tactics: hugs and the right words. If I try hard enough, I have to get one right at least. Right?!

In the end, I think it’s also for this reason that I don’t participate publicly in the back-to-school frenzy (be it shopping or posting pictures on social media): My son does not need me to be an active participant in this annual upheaval. He needs me to be a stoic by-stander, ready to give him a hand as necessary. 

And so, I find this fall is the perfect time for me to reflect on how I can be a better, more gentle parent this academic year. 

P.S. We did succeed in finding the right words of support the day after the first day of school. Or, I should say, my partner plucked the right metaphor out of the air. T ended up really connecting with the image of his emotions being like a volcano, with the pressure building until they burst forth. It helped him understand that sometimes we have little control over these moments but that releasing the pressure will eventually help us to feel better. And he did feel a lot better & is now quickly readjusting to the new routine. 

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Gentle Discipline, Living, Mothering, Parenting, Simplicity

A gift of a different kind

I did finally make it out the door, laden, as usual with pumping equipment & snacks.


The morning started promisingly. I woke up just before my alarm & successfully snuck out of bed without waking the baby. 

For a second, as I descended the stairs to the kitchen, I thought to myself, “How great! I’ll get ready in no time, nurse the baby upon her waking, & be out the door early!” 

But it’s not every morning that I wake without the baby. 

My actual instinct upon entering the quiet kitchen was to tidy up. It’s the kind of productivity that’s impossible with a one-year-old on your hip or under foot. For example: an open dishwasher that invites climbing rather than emptying dishes. 

So I did what any sane working parent would do. Rather than get ready for work, I put away the clean dishes. 

Having accomplished that task & still no sign of small humans being awake, I made myself a well-deserved pot of coffee. I sat down with my steaming mug of coffee and a magazine. And I savored it all. The quiet, especially. (Incidentally, I read the new Harper’s & Seyward Darby’s new article, “The Rise of the Valkyries“, which is terrifying for any woman who has read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.)

A morning like this is a gift, and a rare one at that. 

Eventually, I gathered my things & actually started to prepare to leave for the day. Of course, at that point the baby was awake & on my lap as I tried to nurse, read M’s favorite book, and guzzle the last of my coffee. Oh, and catch up with my partner, who woke up with the baby. 

Our first attempt at nursing (& by first attempt, I mean the first conscious nursing, since we have an open milk bar all night long…) was distracted & so as I was saying my goodbyes, M unsurprisingly gave me the sign for mama milk. … Okay… Hike up my dress, adjust my non-nursing bra & we nurse. Quietly. Staring at each other in the sun-lit room. 

Then my work phone dings & buzzes. A reminder that the early birds in my office have started their work days already & a reality check that this mostly-blissful morning cannot last. Baby M wriggles in my lap, signaling she’s done nursing. I holler at my partner & I’m out the door. 

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Sarcasm in trouble 

Ancient rock for breakfast


I am snarky. IRL. On this blog. I’m irreverent & my sense of humor tends sharply toward sarcasm. 

Pro tip: kids do not get sarcasm. 

Even big kids. Like my 8 year old.

Kids (big & small) are busy making sense of this world every moment of every day. Their brains are categorizing, compartmentalizing, absorbing. It’s all so darn real & immediate. 

So sarcasm is usually lost on them. 

Except it’s not. 

Turns out my son has been observing my sarcasm quietly & taking me at my word. And I need to stop! I’ve known I need to stop forever

One recent morning, I was joking (or so I thought) with my partner, MFA Dad. I threatened to burn his toast in jest. I forgot the exchange all together, but my son did not. 

As we sat down to eat (MFA Dad’s toast perfectly done… or burned entirely by accident… I can’t remember which…) T asked me (all sincerity & seriousness) why people just can’t get along. 

Me: Huh?

T recalled for me my very recent threat to ruin his father’s breakfast. 

Me: Oh. 

So, because of my sarcasm, I’ve basically ruined my son’s sense of loving partnership & human relationships. Probably forever

I explained (& apologized for) my weird sense of humor. I tried to rehabilitate my foibles … 

Truth is, he’s 8 & he’s basically an anthropologist. He is observing human interactions. Testing the limits of love & acceptance. (He also tests this by being a complete jerk & seeking love at the same time… That’s a whole other topic…)

This morning, bleary-eyed with lack of sleep & caffeine, I almost let my snark slip as I made coffee. I caught myself. Instead, I thanked MFA Dad for helping me get ready for work. 

They both deserve more sincerity from me. Not that I’m not sincere. I have my sarcastic moments & I get more sarcastic the more I feel overwhelmed or stressed. It’s definitely a crutch. But I’m also a smother-you-with-love type of parent. Still, in the hustle & bustle of work & parenthood, I realize it is my partner who needs more random kind words. More thanks. 

I can thank T for forcing me to be more present with him & my partner.

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What life with a one-year-old looks like in this house (part one)

Sweaty head hair flip


There aren’t too many examples out in the world of working* attachment parenting moms. At least, I think we’re woefully underrepresented in the blogosphere (do people say that anymore?!), parenting websites & books, social media, etc. So, I thought I’d post about some random days in our life. On AP mom’s play-by-play, so to speak…

Random day #1, which was pretty productive & sweet, was followed by random day #2, which was stressful & less productive. 

And that’s pretty much how we roll around here… The good & the bad, the dark & the light (for you Star Wars fans), the sweet & the challenging. In other words, (a fairly privileged, very lucky) life. Here’s a peek…

5:30/5:45-ish: Baby M wakes up, or at least starts to… She alternately flops around the bed & nurses, sometimes getting quiet & still. Foolishly, I think she might fall asleep again, but she’s awake awake. A little cranky, but sweet, too.

6:15: I’m making coffee & breakfast while she explores the pantry & tries her hand at unloading the dishwasher. No broken dishes but I shut down the operation before it gets dangerous. She’s not happy with the fact that I’ve thwarted her two preferred activities this morning. I’m half-listening to the news on the radio & for some reason keep missing the weather report. I enjoy a few sips of warm-ish coffee & quickly eat breakfast while packing up my lunch & work-related things. Mentally, I’m planning what I’ll wear since I finally caught the weather report. 

7:00: My mom is visiting & she wakes up. Then my partner, MFA Dad. I take my coffee & baby to the living room to nurse one more time. I wake up my son, show him how to use hair gel (a new experiment for him) & get myself ready. 

7:30: I’m off. I get a nice morning walk in to the train. I plug into my music (TV on the Radio today) & work on my blog. 

8:20: I arrive at work. Meetings. Email. A few minutes of meal-planning before MFA Dad heads to the grocery store. 

11:00: I pump. I’m trying to slowly cut out pumping at work now that baby is one. I have a private office & I can work while I pump, which makes me incredibly lucky, but I don’t like being unavailable for those solid chunks of the day. M is eating a lot of solid food & loves water, so we’re at a good point, I think, to transition away from bottles of mama milk. I was down to once a day; however, I just had a run-in with a clogged duct (seriously?!) & so I’m rethinking things. Extra pumping today to make sure I empty out enough since I’m just recovering from the plugged duct & still experiencing some pain. 

12:30: I’m getting over a stomach bug, too (double whammy!) & the lunch I packed is decidedly unappetizing. I usually don’t eat out (especially following gastro illness) but I need to eat. I find a place that makes broth in-house for their soups. Yum. 

1:00: It’s an afternoon of collaborating with colleagues, working with legal interns, & meeting with my clients. And some legal research. With another short pumping session mixed in.  

5:00: I’m able to punch out on time today. More blogging on the train. I didn’t bring an umbrella & it’s raining when I get off the train (so much for that weather report…) Luckily, I catch a bus. 

5:45: I’m home. M greets me outside with a big smile, a hearty wave, & so many kicks. We nurse a ton. My work dress is not nursing friendly, so I have to strip down so that we can reconnect. She’s at the acrobatic stage of toddler nursing, which is both interactive & exhausting & uncomfortable. … Dinner! MFA Dad has prepared some curried chicken in our electric pressure cooker, which my son amazingly eats with arugula & without ketchup. Baby eats it up, too, but mostly whines because we can’t get her water fast enough. 

7:00: Clean-up & our big boy accidentally knocks our precarious pile of recycling down the stairs. We laugh & stare for a few moments, because what else can you do?! He gamely helps to pick it up & I take it out to the bin. I notice the grass is long & the garden overgrown but it’s too late to do anything about it today. My mom, still visiting to help us with a patch of childcare, leaves to visit her elderly mother—definitely a sandwich generation moment for her. 

7:15: M’s short bedtime routine. A bath is nice but unnecessary every night. Our abbreviated routine consists of a couple songs, diaper change on the bed & nursing in the rocking chair. Baby seems a little unsettled tonight but she drifts off. 

7:45: I lay her down in her crib & join my partner & our oldest child for a few rounds of Pandemic, a cooperative board game. Our son goes to get ready for bed while I load my pumping gear into the dishwasher & catch up with MFA Dad for a few minutes. I read Harry Potter (Book 6!) to my son & snuggle & chat with him about his day at drama camp. He proudly tells me how he wrote a couple jokes for the script they’re preparing. We talk about the roles that might be a good fit (to help prepare him for casting excitement & possible disappointments). Lights out!

9:00: I get myself ready for bed. Oops! Baby’s awake. I rush to get through my routine. MFA Dad has her. She’s quiet but I know she’ll likely want to nurse. Sure enough, I walk in & her head pops up from his arms. We swap. She’s all over the place. Wet diaper. Still unable to settle. Some more active movement & she settles down. I try to write this blog post but fade as I rock with baby in my arms. 

10:45: Finally in bed, just in time for a lightning & thunderstorm to keep me awake. 

Fairly typical day. Non-stop, though I feel I moved only incrementally, if at all, in my work & home to-do lists. I generally find life & responsibility to be overwhelming & today was no different. But the day, as all those before it, is done. Goodnight!

* I am sometimes reminded of the rhetorical clash of language in discussions of mothers, specifically the reality that many of us get a salary from an employer & many of us get no paycheck but engage primarily in the labor of a functioning family. Others manage to arrive at a mix of the two. As many (most?) writers do, I use the term “working mom” as shorthand for those of us engaged in “outside jobbing” (even if we sometimes or always telework from home). This isn’t to suggest that those engaged in family labors do not work. It’s just that our language doesn’t have a great way to sort all this activity out. 

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So many drafts, so little time…

I have started so many draft posts during the past year, mostly since I started commuting to work again about 7 months ago. It’s frustrating to feel like I never finish my posts or don’t post enough, but you know what else is frustrating? Typos! Realizing post hoc that you’ve been a poor editor. My first order of (blogging non-) business is to fix my recent post on the “Science vs.” AP podcast. Yikes! It’s all over the place & typos galore. 

When I started this blog, I spent a lot more time at an actual computer. Now, I mostly write on my phone during my commute or sometimes on my tablet at home. I’m not sure either is conducive to my best writing self, so I may have to be (even) more intentional about my writing in the future & find some time with an actual keyboard.(Ao old fashioned, I know!) 

In any case, I have posts in the works (& in various stages of completeness) about cultural appropriation, sleep, AP myths, attachment theory (& the “strange situation” experiment) & a review of the recent book Being There.

What should I publish first? Or what else would you like me to write about on this blog?

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Baby M is one!

Time capsule.


What a whirlwind this past year has been! I feel like Baby M has sent our lives into a tailspin. Not a scary one, but one of those controlled tailspins… Think stunt airplanes at an air show. We haven’t quite pulled up & out of the tailspin yet, but it’s coming. It’s thrilling & scary & hard & fun, all at once.  This next year will hopefully bring with it walking, less nursing, less pumping at work (!), more communication, more sleep, more laughs, more love. 

Despite the utter chaos (seriously… you should see our home…), this past year has brought so much undeserved joy. Even while I feel utterly exhausted most of the time (& sometimes completely brain dead), I know I am very lucky. Even now, sitting in bed, sick, on a Monday that would have otherwise been full of meetings & work, with M napping next to me. 

Despite the exhaustion & hard work, M’s first year has flown by. It seems like just yesterday, I went to work, a little uncomfortable with “Braxton Hicks” throughout the day, unaware of the fact that my body was gearing up for birthing the next day. Whereas my son was a full two weeks “late,” Baby M was just shy of a week “early.” So, I was surprised, to say the least, early the next morning (after telling my boss I’d probably work from home instead of coming into the office) when the midwife told me on the phone that it seemed like I was in labor (… I then told my boss nevermind… no work, just labor…)!

I still recall the details of Baby M’s birthing day so vividly. I recall my son’s tears upon seeing his baby sister for the first time. I recall her napping peacefully in my arms, so tiny. I recall remembering (so meta!) the unreal exhaustion of that first night with a newborn after having given birth. I recall my favorite outfit we dressed her in often last summer, hot in the shade of our house. I recall my my mom & mother-in-law chatting with me in our bedroom, as I recovered after the birth. 

I recall my first outing with the baby, after the grandmothers had returned home & we were alone. I remember our crazy camping trip when she was just one month old. (“We can handle this!” we told ourselves.) I remember a fall of picking up my son from school when I was on maternity leave. I remember savoring the last days of my leave, not doing anything special, but knowing those days were indeed special in their own way. 

It’s all still so fresh… How is it possible that a year has passed already?

And I’ve been back to work for over six months. (And we’ve gently moved past the back-to-work worries like bottle feeding & naps without nursing.) And I’m exercising every once in a while. And I’m still not sleeping. And I’m still not back to my beloved yoga. And maybe my partner could get baby to bed one night & I could be out with a friend. Maybe. Maybe not yet. 

My linea negra still graces my lower abdomen (albeit faintly), a reminder that my body still retains some internal memory of pregnancy & birth. Does this mean I’m still postpartum, I wonder?

The first year is in some ways the hardest & the scariest. Your former life vanishes in the blink of an eye. Replaced by a life in which you manage all you did before, just with the responsibility of caring 24-7 for the emotional & physical needs of a new person. Sometimes there’s more time, sometimes less (my days have certainly been shorter since M joined our family!), but there’s almost always more love, more joy, more heartache, more cuteness. 

Baby M has helped me to refocus on the joys of parenthood, even with my eldest. If even changing the nastiest diaper can bring some joy, why can’t all the rest? It’s not every day that your child sees the moon for the first time, but there is some of that wonder every day, especially during those first 365 days.

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“Science” vs. AP?!

A beautiful sky; makes me happy, like parenting.

Entering into a new phase of my parenting journey (back in the throws of babyhood), I quietly wondered whether Attachment Parenting (or, AP, for short) has relevance for me anymore. I started this blog as a space for writing about Attachment Parenting & pursuing a career. Would I want to get back to writing about working & AP’ing as a blogger? (Well… here I am, blogging about it…) Would I be practicing AP with the new wee one?

The answer to that last question is complicated.

My short answer is yes. But it’s not because it has “worked” so well with my first child. And it’s not because I believe that AP is the only or best way to parent.

Here’s the longer answer (sorry… long post alert!)…

Before T was born, MFA Dad & I had no clue what we were doing or how we were going to approach our new roles as parents. We were living away from our closest friends & family, some of whom were starting to have kids, so we really didn’t have any models close by. Our fuzzy (or non-existent) memories of our own early childhoods were not much help. Our parents had selective amnesia & seemed to suggest things were a lot easier than they ended up being for us.

And honestly, we hadn’t thought about parenting at all before I got pregnant. And even then, it took a while for our brains to catch up with all that my body was preparing for. (A law school classmate of mine who had previously been a doula, once warned me in the hallway about books that would scare or scar me… That’s when I realized that “Oh, people take this parenting shtick seriously & actually think about how they want to parent…”)

So it was with some relief that we happened across Dr. William Sears’s The Baby Book while shopping at my least favorite store in the world (Babies R Us). A lot of what Dr. Sears-the-Elder had to say just clicked with both MFA Dad & I. (Also, some of it didn’t click.) We didn’t think that our son would be messed up if we didn’t follow all of his “Baby B’s” (Dr. Sears’s short list of AP “do’s”) but in the book we had found a bunch of baby minding tactics that seemed to mesh well with our lifestyle & world views. (For example, the basic idea that wearing your baby is an easy way to integrate a child into your daily life while keeping them physically close seemed practical to us.)

In short, it was simply nice to find an approach to this overwhelming endeavor that suited us as a couple & new family.

While we are not, perhaps, the AP “poster” family, I am grateful for what I have learned because of AP. It gave me the tools & confidence to parent in a way that felt right when I was a new & inexperienced mom. Even while I was making many first-time mom mistakes.

But here’s the bottom line. I don’t think, nor have I ever thought, really, that AP is the sole owner of “good” parenting. There are also many valid criticisms of AP, as it is represented by Dr. Sears & others.

I don’t know that any of my friends or family who are parents would identify as AP. But I’d babysit their kids or have them over for a sleepover any day. Like us, they all developed their own parenting styles. They’re all great parents & their kids seem to be normal & healthy & secure (most certainly securely attached). They are all delightful kids. And we all also have our challenges with our children.

Still, it is with some wonder (& frankly, confusion) that I observe certain types of blanket criticisms of AP. For example, take the “Science vs” Attachment Parenting podcast, wherein the host challenges the unscientifically-founded scourge of attachment parenting. The host of the podcast managed to find an overzealous follower of AP’s “rules” who takes the role of “motherly sacrifice” to an extreme & then uses the poor woman as a diving board into an equally overzealous critique of AP. (I knew the critique was off base when it started with the premise that the sample mom’s home was “child-centered,” which is opposed to my own interpretation of AP… My own take being that AP is family-based in a way that posits the child is not the center of the family’s existence & if you walk into my home it may take a few seconds to realize there are children living there too.)

Look, I get it… As the podcast’s host explained, there are books & websites & blogs (ahem…) laying out what may seem like “rules” at a quick glance. Dr. Sears & others use their authority as medical professionals and/or references to “science” to convince unwitting parents that AP is unquestionably better for babies & children. The idea of “rules” or getting things “wrong” (& possibly messing up your child as a result) makes AP simultaneously attractive & overwhelming to many parents.

Let’s get this out of the way: It’s never a good idea to blindly follow anyone’s set of rules when it comes to raising your children.

Discussions around different approaches to parenting typically present stark choices with severe consequences. The choices is almost never so stark (unless one of those choices involves neglect or harm—be it physical or psychological—of the child). But if you’re a parent, you are most likely an adult who should have learned the lesson that you don’t jump just because someone (even someone in a doctor’s or lab coat) yells “jump.”

AP’s “rules” are only rules if you let them be rules. Dr. Sears doesn’t care what you do or don’t do with your child. There is no test. You don’t have to prove yourself as parent of the century.

So, while I disagree with the “Science vs.” characterization of AP, I don’t disagree with the bottom line that using “science” to prove that AP is the only way to raise a healthy child is misleading & you won’t necessarily damage your child if you don’t follow the “rules” of AP.

But here’s the thing… There simply aren’t any such rules. Many AP families use strollers. 🙋 Many AP families have cribs (though we don’t always use them…). 🙋 Dr. Sears himself has advice on bottle-feeding. Sometimes, AP parents let their children cry because they’d like some privacy in the bathroom, it’s the nightly witching hour, or they literally just can’t handle nighttime parenting at the moment.

And I’d bet (if I were the betting type) that most of us don’t “do” AP because of science. AP empowers parents (or it has the potential to, in any case) to parent intuitively. That means I don’t need someone with an MD or PhD to tell me what to do when my baby cries, when she wakes in the middle of the night, or when my older child misbehaves. Nope, I got this! I know my children better than anyone & am not concerned with “outcomes” that have been tracked by researchers or artificially created in a lab.

This premise (that there are strict “rules”) pretty much guarantees “Science vs.” will get AP wrong out of the gate. I’ve already pointed out that AP isn’t necessarily a child-centered parenting philosophy, but it also isn’t parent-centered. The podcast’s host seems to corner the poor sample mom into stating that she doesn’t let her child cry because she can’t handle it. Then she leaves it at that, which is a totally inaccurate characterization of AP. I don’t like my baby’s cries either, but that’s not why most AP parents don’t purposely let their babies cry without responding.

So, let’s look at the topics the “Science vs.” attempts to cover: crying, attachment theory, and sleep.

Babies cry. It’s how they communicate. I wouldn’t ignore my older child if he came to my bedside & whispered “Mommy, my tummy hurts.” I wouldn’t ignore my bleary-eyed husband if he asked me to pour him a cup of coffee as I pour my own. So why would I ignore my baby simply because she can’t yet use words? I want to investigate, at least. I can usually figure out what she’s asking for in her prehistoric way.

But maybe I can’t figure it out. Maybe she’s crying for a long time. Maybe I’m so sleep deprived I can’t take any more crying. Well, then, perhaps walking away is the best thing I can do for her & for me. That’s certainly better than losing my temper or harming baby in some way. But that’s not where I start.

I start from the premise that this little person is completely dependent on me & it’s my job to respond. She’s trying to tell me something important. No matter what time of day or night. No matter if I’m tired. No matter if I don’t want to (though that’s usually not the case). No matter what.

That’s why I respond when my baby cries.

Now, back to those pesky “rules.” Quite simply, there are none.

The “rules” aren’t rules. The podcast unfairly characterizes common AP practices as “rules” when they are guidelines at best. Most literature on AP that I’ve read presents these ideas as “best practices” of sorts, but by no means have I seen any proponent of AP suggest that bottle-feeding, for instance will ruin one’s attachment with one’s child. That’s preposterous & untenable. AP folks tend to be hardliners on the issue of sleep training, but other than that issue, I don’t think most advocates of AP would suggest with a straight face that there’s only one way to do this whole AP thing.

Of course, some will take things to an extreme. But I try to avoid extremes in my daily life & parenting is no different. I have criticized those AP proponents who suggest extreme views of parenting, especially when those views are aimed at women in particular & have the potential to restrict rather than liberate. If someone tells you you must do something as a parent (be it baby wearing, bed sharing, breastfeeding, etc.) pause, reflect on their motivations, and then consider your own reality.

Interestingly, while the podcast correctly separates attachment parenting from attachment theory, it doesn’t quite get that right either. To be clear, attachment parenting as described by Dr. Sears et al., has a tenuous relationship at best with attachment theory. That said, the New York Times recently reported on new discoveries in the world of attachment theory, in an article entitled “Yes, It’s Your Parents’ Fault,” no less.

Of course, it’s not all our parents’ faults. As the “Science vs.” podcast points out, our pesky genes do influence our dispositions & the ways we interact with the world & each other. But, according to the new research reported in the NY Times, it does seem that parenting matters for our future relationships & …

Luckily, as I’ve pointed out previously, “good enough” parenting will usually do the trick. But to suggest that it doesn’t matter at all (as the podcast host does) is flippant & inaccurate.

Which leads us to sleep. Ah, sleep… so elusive with young children in the house! Yet it’s the one area where most AP’ers will agree on an honest to goodness rule: Do not leave your child to cry in order to “sleep train.” Many of us would say you should consider not sleep training at all.

Unfortunately for us adults, babies’ sleep habits are different from ours. In fact, they’re rather inconvenient. They interrupt our nights and our days. Annoying.

At least, we’re culturally conditioned to think that our babies’ sleep habits are annoying or, at best, less than ideal. I’m not going to argue that adult sleep is unimportant—Parents need sleep to function… to support their children & to be living, breathing members of society, even if barely sometimes. And I’m not going to tell you how you feel. Or what degree of exhaustion you should be able to tolerate. Or that your baby’s sleep is normal. Or that you should sleep next to your baby. Or that you shouldn’t.

You’re the parent. You get to make that call. Not some random blogger. Not someone hosting a podcast.

All I’ll say here is that there are a number of sleep configurations that AP families adopt. I’ve done a little of everything, even sleep training (short of intentionally leaving a child alone to cry). (I do have lots of opinions about sleep & I’m working on a sleep-focused post.)

The “Science vs.” podcast presents an extremely simplistic overview of the issue of safe sleep & a singular vision of what healthy sleep might look like.

I understand that folks might have legitimate disagreements over safe sleep. Parents need to talk to & consult sources they trust to decides whether or not a given sleep arrangement is safe enough for them. (I say safe enough because there is no 100% guarantee no matter your sleep arrangement, unfortunately.) “Science vs.” provides some talking points, but only scratches the surface. And it presents the safe sleep question as clear-cut, when I don’t think that it’s at all simple.

For instance, the podcast appears to entirely dismiss the research of Dr. James McKenna (without explicitly naming him) because he’s not an MD. But he happens to be the only researcher to study bed sharing & infant sleep in a lab. His work appears in peer-reviewed journals (some are medical journals). And his approach to bed sharing & safe infant sleep reads to me as being very nuanced. I don’t think he should necessarily be your sole source of information, but I also don’t think his work is so easily dismissed.

As for the sleep training bit, I have to admit that I just don’t understand why critics of AP much care that we don’t sleep train at all or in the conventional ways. I found sleep training to be more trouble than it’s worth. My older son has “slept through the night” (that silly but all-important “milestone”) since around 2 1/2, more or less. He’s 8 & just had his first sleepover with friends away from home, so he can sleep independently. I share these details only to stress that sleep happens. With or without parental fussing.

My 11-month-old does not sleep through the night. She still nurses a couple-few times every night. I’m tired most mornings when I have to wake up for work. Meh. … This, too, shall pass… So for now, I try to enjoy smelling the top of her head or the touch of her soft cheek during those nighttime feedings. For me, the stress of sleep training is not worth it.

I will sleep again. You will sleep again. Soon.

Perhaps critics of AP just want to make sure parents are getting enough sleep. Maybe. But I have a suspicion that the motivations are less generous. There’s a cottage industry built on selling us bleary-eyed parents on various sleep training techniques. And because some of these techniques don’t feel right, there’s a cadre of parents who have had to convince themselves that whatever sleep training they’ve engaged in is at best innocuous. Maybe, just maybe, critics of AP resent the non-mainstream, but more palatable, approach that AP’ers take to sleep. Maybe.

My point is not to make you feel guilty if you personally have tried sleep training. My point is that there’s a strong cultural current moving in one direction & I think AP’s approach to sleep is the focus of so much criticism (as seen in the “Science vs.” podcast) precisely because it resists that current. It’s really no one’s business how you or I, individually, approach sleep.

We deserve to be able to make informed decisions without folks badgering one particular method, particularly when there is absolutely zero evidence that choosing to forgo sleep training (or choosing gentle sleep training techniques) will harm children or babies. And yet, parents are pressured constantly to “do something” about their babies’ sleep. The “Science vs.” podcast host practically begs parents to sleep train for their own sanity with no discussion of normal infant sleep patterns.

It’s just weird. I mean, it’s worth exploring whether your child’s truly deplorable sleep has an underlying medical cause, but beyond that I truly do not understand the cultural pressure to sleep train.

And I say this not as the parent of a unicorn child who slept or sleeps well. Nope. I’ve been to the depths of exhaustion & back. I’m there again. Sometimes I still touch upon that irrational anger that is the special gift of sleep deprivation. I have fitful sleep. Weird dreams.

In other words, I can sympathize with parents of “bad” sleepers. And if your baby is an normal bad sleeper, I have been there. I’ll be there again tonight.

AP is an easy target for parent trash talk, but it doesn’t have to be a caricature. For most thoughtful families who have picked up a technique or two or three from AP, it’s not a silly, old-fashioned, anti-feminist endeavor. It’s not a cult or even a club. It’s just another set of tools in the parenting toolbox.

Just because the science has not definitively shown that AP is the best way to parent doesn’t make it any less or somehow worse than other ways of parenting. It is not necessary to prove that it’s somehow awful. It’s not. Engage in in-depth critique with an open mind, but don’t dismiss out of hand for no good reason.

It is telling that almost none of the critiques that I’ve come across recently have posited another parenting philosophy as a replacement as the proven winner in the (unfortunately) endless competition between parenting styles. Because, let’s be clear, “science” hasn’t proven that other approaches to parenting are “the best” either. We may turn to science for a lot, but on parenting, the science is lacking.

I’ve recently finished reading Our Babies, Ourselves by Meredith Small. She also uses science to provide an analysis of parenting styles from biological and cultural perspectives. You can find a lot to support practices typical of AP families in the book (e.g. bed-sharing, breastfeeding, responsive parenting, etc.) but the interesting thing is that it is clear from the book that these practices are not owned by AP or any particular parenting philosophy. And Small, though she has a clear preference for these AP-type practices, accepts that every culture will place its imprint on parenting practices. She also insists that babies are adaptable little beings & that science has not determined that any one parenting style is likely to result in better adapted or happier adults. (Not that results should be a goal of parenting…)

Now that I’m doing this baby thing for the second time, I can say that I love AP because it makes life easier &, more importantly, it makes being a parent more enjoyable. And even more importantly, I do it because the little person in my care is weird & has prehistoric needs built into her DNA & she doesn’t talk & AP is the best way for me to learn her language. I don’t do it because science or even pseudoscience tells me it’s better. I don’t do it because some “professional” says it’s better.

My journey on this earth as a human has made me appreciate that we are living every day we get to be here (wherever that happens to be). That is, our hours here are not (solely) in service of some yet-to-be-attained goal. My journey as a parent has taught me to enjoy the simple things in life & to connect fiercely with my family, among others. The two together have taught me to enjoy parenting. Sure, not every moment. But, most moments. Even the moments that don’t seem enjoyable at first blush.

AP is just one tool that helps me work toward that connection & enjoyment. It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. That’s ok. What’s not ok is the hell-bent determination with which some approach AP, on either side of the fence. We are more than our parenting philosophies.

If you’ve read this long post: Thank you! And let m know what you think. What did I get wrong? Right? What helps you enjoy being a parent?

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