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When Attachment Parenting Makes You Crazy


Every once in a while I hear about a mother struggling to be the perfect “attached parent” and feeling like she is failing miserably. I don’t know exactly what attachment parenting means to you, in fact, I am not sure what it means to me. But I do think that many of us feel like failures if we haven’t checked off a million things on our “perfect attached mom” list.


I hear women expressing guilt over the fact that they don’t :


-cloth diaper


-nurse two kids


-nurse past a year


-co-sleep


-do crafts


or are feeling overwhelmed and not good enough because they do:


-use a stroller


-use a pacifier


-use any type of infant care device (bouncer, swing, etc)


- let a baby cry for any reason


I am in no position to give advice on parenting.I am not being modest when I say that, I really am in NO position to give advice.


You should meet my two year old.


Despite that, I am going to say something. Parenting is not about check-marks on a list. It isn’t about looking good on some parenting forum or Facebook group. But it is about balance. Finding that balance is very difficult though, isn’t it?


It makes me sad when I hear moms saying they were so overwhelmed with trying to be the perfect parent that they actually decided not to be stay at home moms anymore. I don’t think the point of all that parenting advice is to make us feel like running away because we couldn’t do it “well enough”. I think the point is to help us be the best we can be.


That isn’t exactly the same for everybody though, is it? For me that means finding the balance between giving up what I need to of MY needs so that my children can be well-rounded, good, and happy without giving up SO MUCH that I am miserable and start to negatively impact them and their development.


If part of that balance is putting a baby in a swing every day so that I can make dinner, then that is fine with me. If that means that I use my stroller everyday so that I can exercise, breathe fresh air, and feel good about my body, that is great too. If it means that co-sleeping is not working for our family, then that works for me too.


I don’t know what that balance is for you but I hope that you can find it and find peace and joy in motherhood. One thing I do think I know is this- Motherhood is meant to be a joy for us and our children. It is meant to be the most important thing we do, but not the only thing. And we don’t do crafts in my house. Because I hate them and they are messy.


This article first appeared on the Mama Birth blog.


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.



Comments (6)

My husband was so opposed to cloth diapers it wasn't worth the fight and I'm glad everyday that my lactation consultant recommended a pacifier for my daughter....will be so much easier to quit than her thumb! (and she was a beautiful nurser)
Hello... I had to comment, because this post made me cry. And I don't cry easily over other people's posts. It is exactly what I have been struggling with lately. I love some parts of the attachment parenting philosophy, and my heart is filled with joy in some of these practices... But then there are the ways in which I've failed. My child is a high-needs baby. She's bright and sweet and won't sleep anywhere but across my body with a nipple in her mouth. And I have tried everything. I sleep so little and sometimes this makes my patience thin. Because of the lack of sleep, I have shifted from nearly full-time ECing, to just ECing during convenient times, and cloth diapering the rest of the time...which still means SOME success, but isn't what I had wanted for her...in this area, I do feel like a failure. Mostly though, I feel like a failure when it comes to schooling. My kids go to our country school-which is one of the best in the province (Ontario), but is still not home or unschooling. I wrestle with this choice every year for the first couple of months. I am building a business of my own, working from home-and I do not think I could give them the kind of time required for a good quality education and socialization opportunities. And so I send them to school. I breastfeed long term-I wear my baby on my back or front much of the day, I try to parent gently whenever I am not so sleep deprived I want to die. I cook all of our meals-99% are free of boxes or mixes, and I use herbs, homeopathics and other natural health tools to raise our children. So I know that in spite of my imperfection, I AM trying to do the most important things for my kids. Thank you so much for this article. Perfectly timed! Marcie
Thank you for this. I struggled during my maternity leave after my first with the need to be the perfect attached parent. Now with my second, I've given myself a lot more permission to just be happy, and I think that my baby is happier too. I really subscribe to a lot of the tenets of attachment parenting, but I think that we often take them too far, and I hated how judgemental I became when I was putting so much focus on it. I still wear my baby when it's convenient for both of us, I will breastfeed until it's no longer working for us (I nursed my elder one until he was 22 months and I was pregnant with the second, and then made the difficult decision to wean because it was just too painful. I think the weaning was harder on me than on him), I co-slept with both until it was no-longer working (and that happened a lot sooner with the second than with the first!), and I cloth-diaper whenever I can (but we use a disposable at night, and I've just given up on trying to find a cloth nighttime solution that works, and I'm okay with that). But I know my own limits now - I'm truly not capable of being a full-time stay-at-home-mom without losing my mind. Working outside the home at least a couple of days a week is good for me, and a couple days a week at daycare is great for my older son, as I'm sure it will be for my younger when I go back to work in a few months. Your post just suddenly makes me feel like it's okay to come out of the closet and say "I'm not the perfect attachment parenting mom, and I'm okay with that!", without fear of being ostracized from the entire community. Thank you.
Thank you all for your feedback! You GET ME! For me it is so very hard not to beat myself about stuff that when I step back and think about it...well, it isn't important or it isn't something I need to live up to in order to be a good mom. Lova ya-
L Ron Hubbard said that to decrease stress, try to control what you can control and do not try to control what you cannot control. So just do your best. You cannot control it the economy collapses and you cannot buy food for your baby, so so not worry about that. The key to attachment parenting is taking care of your self. The better that you feel, the better your baby will feel. The baby has needs like eating, defecating, uriinating and sleeping but those are easy to takke care of. Beyond that, the baby's quality of life comes from the love and joy it feels from you.
what the heck has happened to attachment parenting while my back was turned!??? omg, i can't believe what i've been reading. i am TOTALLY an attachment parent - i carried her in a sling until she was 10mo old and the only reason i switched to stroller was bec she weighed a mortal ton (28lbs) and my hips were killing me. i weaned her when she was 4yrs old - i felt bad about it but she's 5 and already her last molars are through (no idea how long they've been there - none of us noticed until she saw them in the mirror while brushing and went "hunh!??") so weaning "early" was just a matter of months anyway. we co-sleep - starting a cpl weeks ago, i put her in her room and sing her to sleep and about 2hrs later she weasels herself back into my bed and in the morning i tell her very firmly that she's to sleep in her room - none of this sneaking back into my room business and she solemnly agrees that yes, she's a big girl and should sleep in her own room now.

we both know she's full of it and so am i.

diapers!? omg, don't EVEN. there was NO WAY i would've survived 4 months of foamy green melted-lime-jello blasts of diarrhea with cloth diapers!

bottle? she used one - it was great for whacking her nana in the face.

solid food introduction? she did that herself by attacking a plate of orange mousse cake at the buffet (it was the waiter's fault - he moved it too close while he was clearing off the empties) and then growling at me when i tried to get it off her.

honestly - get your ego out of your nether regions and you're automatically an attachment parent. "attachment" didn't used to mean "velcro and duct tape"!
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