Last week I shared a short post here on Mothering Magazine about how attachment parenting can make you crazy. I have actually posted many times on my personal blog about my difficulties, frustrations, and yes, love of attachment parenting. How hard this type of parenting (or really ANY type of parenting) is for me is no secret. I am a mom and sometimes I struggle.
When I share these thoughts on my frustrations with AP the response is overwhelmingly positive. There are many, many other mothers who struggle as I do. There are other women who are sleep deprived despite others saying it just “doesn’t last very long”. It feels like a long time when it has been 5 years of broken sleep people!! There are other mothers whose backs sometimes hurt from babywearing. There are other marriages who don’t thrive with babies in their beds. And there are simply other moms who have bad days, get overwhelmed, and need a place to vent and somebody to actually HEAR them.
So when I dare to admit that attachment parenting isn’t just roses and rainbows other women respond in droves. They understand what I am talking about. It isn’t that they don’t also love attachment parenting, it is just that even though you know something is right and is working, doesn’t mean it is easy all the time. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to adapt to your situation.
But there are always the critics.
“You just aren’t doing AP right.”
“You don’t understand the fundamentals of attachment parenting. It requires balance which you don’t get.”
“I don’t know how anybody couldn’t just love co-sleeping.”
“I actually enjoy holding my baby.”
I have a response for that.
I am actually quite sure that I am in fact NOT doing attachment parenting “right”. Of all the things in life I do wrong PARENTING is on the top of my list of things I worry about and fail at. There is a possibility I don’t understand true AP either. I DO try to balance my needs with those of my children. But any caring mother will admit that achieving balance (and doing it with out guilt) is DIFFICULT. Possibly it is the most difficult part of mothering. I know from other mothers that I am not the only one who struggles with giving so much from our cups that you have nothing leftover for yourself. There was even a time when I DIDN’T understand why everybody didn’t just adore co-sleeping. But I have been co-sleeping with at least one (and often more) children for the last eight years and eventually, it does lose some of it’s charm. And of course, I too enjoy holding and comforting my children.
The problem with the critics who say we shouldn’t even DARE admit the difficulties of attachment parenting is that they HURT MOTHERS.
Yes. They do.
When we act like parenting is easy, breezy, and always intuitive and natural and full of rewards we discount the experience of many (if not all) mothers. Not only that but we further isolate women from one another. Too many of us are scared to death to admit that we freaking use disposable diapers! I have seen women APOLOGIZE because they stopped nursing at 18 months or had a hospital birth or used a pacifier. REALLY? Do we really have to justify our choices about life and parenting to every stranger we meet? Do we really need to silently endure the challenges of parenting just to appear perfect? Just to preserve a facade of perfection for ourselves and our chosen parenting style?
Frankly, I think this is ridiculous and I think it hurts women and I think it makes them feel more lonely, more frustrated, and more insecure.
But I am not afraid. I will admit that despite the fact that I could be considered a very “attachment parenting” parent, I STRUGGLE. I don’t love every moment. I get tired. I get angry. I respond badly. Sometimes I don’t want to be touched. Sometimes I want to do something selfish. Sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t sound like something I want to do just now.
I will admit the difficulty of attachment parenting. I will tell other mothers that they are NOT ALONE in their struggles. I won’t pretend that everything is perfect when it isn’t.
Why? Why would I do this? Why should you?
Because when we are honest about our struggles with parenting and attachment parenting we build a community that is open, accepting, and much more likely to actually TEACH and HELP other people. We open our arms to women who are stressed and overwhelmed rather than frowning and mentioning something that we are perfect at that they aren’t. When we have the courage to admit our imperfections we help each other more than when we pretend.
This doesn’t mean we hate attachment parenting. It doesn’t mean we let our babies cry all the time or that we circumcise like crazy. It just means that we are honest that attachment parenting (like all kinds of parenting) has moments of difficulty within the beauty. We embrace ALL of what it means (yes, sometimes sleepless nights) and not just the stuff that looks shiny and sells.
I can guarantee that our children will also prefer a parent who isn’t afraid to love something despite it’s difficulties.
Speak up. Be honest. Admit your struggles. Somebody else needs to hear your voice.
About Sarah Clark
Sarah Clark is a mother of four children 7 and under. She writes about motherhood and natural birth at her blog Mama Birth. She is also a natural birth teacher and is on the board of directors for Birth Boot Camp, a natural birth education company.