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is attachment parenting "conservative"?

post #1 of 77
Thread Starter 
I was surfing around through kellymom's site and the book of the month is Nighttime Parenting by Dr. Sears. I went over to the site to read the reviews and was taken aback to see several negative reviews. I have often heard AP'ers criticize Babywise'ers and Baby Whisperer's, but I have not heard alot of criticism in the reverse.

One of the reviewers felt that Dr. Sears' AP philosophy was part of an "agenda of social conservatism and its imperitives of guilt and fear" and also said that Sears was basically sending the message that "difficulty in parenting is punishment for independence and gender parity"...

I'm not even sure what that last one means. :

Anyways, this is only one person's opinion but...it just seemed so backwards to me. Most AP'ers I know are very liberal. They are into breastfeeding, NIP, EBF, feminism, women's rights...I mean let's face it - lots of hippie-types, lol. I'm VERY liberal and I just don't see how this holds. Unless they are referring to the fact that AP can be very hard on WOHMs.

Would anybody like to comment on this?
post #2 of 77
I'd guess this is maybe about gender roles and how heavily Sears emphasises the importance of mothers to babies. If you look at it a certain way, this could be interpreted as a version of "a woman's place is in the home".

And honestly i have been irritated by Sears and LLL's stuff on working -- but that's 'cause they seem so sure that not working is always an option for every mom. It's not. it's just not, and to ignore that reality is just clasist.

(beyond that i love the Baby Book and the Womanly Art of BF...)

Me, I find ap is an extension of my anarchist politics, actually my goal is to come up with a brilliant analytical arguement for that idea, so that all radicals and anarchists who have kids will be ap.
post #3 of 77
Hi-interesting post. Although I've used a lot of Dr. Sears's books since becoming a parent (we AP), I've definitely been a little offended (maybe that's too strong a word) by some stuff that he exposes. I certainly understand the importance of the mother in raising a child-but sometimes his views seem a little old-school. Like what about the newer family dynamics? What about gay couples raising children? I have a feeling that Sears would not approve b/c I think he is Christian-and pretty conservative.

We are not a religious family. I sometimes get these vague religious references and YES I am one of those people that gets slightly offended by it.
So, YES, I definitely see how his books can be seen as conservative.
post #4 of 77
I do detect a conservative slant (Christianity wise). If you read some of the passages in Sears books you will find that Martha has left her children to go on business trips. I am under the impression the Martha is/was a working mother. As for LLL, most areas have night meetings to accomodate working moms. I know that LLL has a consevative veiw concerning birth control.

I think both Sears and LLL will say that whenever it is possible it is important for the mama to be close and connected with her child, especially when you are trying to establish a nursing relationship. I also think that the emphasis on the mother/child relationship is stressed in hopes that our society will recognize this point to the extent that women will be given the aid they need for longer maternity leave.
post #5 of 77
Actually, I think you find people at both ends of the spectrum, liberal and conservative to be AP.

Actually, I hate the terms liberal and conservative, they are too binding and try to fit everyone into the same mold.

I am anti-war, anti-capital punishment, pro-social justice and, pro-helping the poor and downtrodden as much as possible. Eat as naturally and organic as I can. I am in favor of women's rights, children's rights, minorities rights, and against animal testing. So that must make me liberal.

On the other hand, I am against abortion, and am a devout Catholic, and believe all the teachings of the Catholic church. I do not believe in free sex, and believe sex is special and should be saved for those who really love each other, are in a committed relationship, so that must make me conservative.

I am AP all the way, very much pro-breastfeeding and pro-extended breastfeeding, I nurse my 12 month old anywhere and anytime, so pro-NIP (I try to not expose my breast too much, but don't hide behind blankets and I don't sweat it if I flash a little) I am anti-spanking, anti- CIO, anti-schedule, use gentle discipline. I plan to homeschool/unschool.

Many other devout Catholics from my church practice AP. In fact, my church is the ONLY place, besides LLL meetings that I have seen anyone else use a sling.

I think I am having an identity crisis, I don't know if I am liberal or conservative. HELP!!!

I guess I will just be me!
post #6 of 77
Someone I know wrote Sears a letter asking for clarification about some of his assertions about the role of a "mother." His reply was pretty starkly anti-feminist. To the effect that *all* women are made for to purpose of having and nurturing babies and should recognize the blessedness of this calling.

I like Dr. Sears and am willing to disagree on some points because it makes me happy to hear a Christian voice advocating gentle discipline, etc. I really think he is a hugely valuable resource in conservative communities who will *only* listen to a Christian voice, etc. I recommend his books and articles without hesitation!!!!

For myself, I have felt inclined to read things written by women lately. I'm not saying it is better, just that I find women often do a better job speaking to *my* reality. KWIM?
post #7 of 77
Mamaduck, could you recommend some ap books written by women? Dr. Sears is pretty much the extent of my ap collection.
post #8 of 77
Well, "The Continuum Concept" was written by a women.

"Our Babies, Ourselves" was written by a woman.

I have a number of discipline books written by women. I don't know if that is what you are looking for?

Piglet68 worked her way through a hefy reading list while she was pregnant. She can probably recommend more.

I have nothing against Dr. Sears -- honestly, I don't. I think he is great. Sometimes I just get tired of hearing from male doctors on the subject of motherhood though. Sigh.
post #9 of 77
Dear MDC:

Please do not stick labels on everything.

If you need to put a label on it, you can say:

"AP is common sense."
post #10 of 77
An excellent book by a woman is
'Attachment Parenting - Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child'
by Katie Allison Granju (1999).
(this one has a very good chapter about breast vs. bottle where she details the role of formula companies' impact on current mainstream beliefs.)

also 'The Natural Child - Parenting from the Heart' by Jan Hunt.
post #11 of 77
Piglet: I think people are drawn to AP for different reasons, and so they do many of the same things, and achieve the same closeness with their kids, but there might be another goal, KWIM?

If you are drawn to a traditional understanding of a woman's role, and want some support/validation for that role, you will find it in Dr. Sears, LLL philosophy, etc.
Like ameliabedlia says, lots of Catholics who are into the whole sacredness of motherhood through devotion to Mary as well as to the natural law foundations of lots of catholic philosophy, are going to be drawnt to AP...especially as it supports NFP.

OTOH, women trying to recapture womyn's power are also drawn to AP because it says that you DO have importance, that the next wave of feminism is to reaffirm our differences and fight for our rights to be women as well as people in the economic marketplace...

I think we each find in it what we are looking for...
post #12 of 77
Thread Starter 
amelia: identity crisis, lol! :LOL

mamaduck: that was sweet that you remember what a book-reading, question-asking, post-a-holic I was during my pregnancy, lol!

I was going to add Katie Granju's book. I also love Meredith Small's book. Then there is "The Family Bed" by Tine Thevenin and "Three in a Bed" by...oh crap, forgot her name and the book is in storage somewhere.

Interestingly, I don't see Sears' emphasis on the mother/child bond as being a return to "women should be barefoot and pregnant" ideals (though I do see how it could be interpreted that way), but rather I see it as a very progressive and liberating recognition of a woman's biological role as the Perfect mothering "machine". I don't believe society treats our mothering instincts with the value and respect they deserve. Rather, mainstream parenting seems to be all about denying those instincts and trying to convice us that wanting to be with our babies all the time, sleeping close to them, and wanting to pick them up when they cry are all signs of "weakness" that, if indulged, will actually "spoil" our children. I have commented before that I have thus found mothering and AP to really be feminist issues, a recognition of the respect we deserve as the Perfect vehicles for bearing, feeding, nurturing, and raising our children.
post #13 of 77
Interestingly, I don't see Sears' emphasis on the mother/child bond as being a return to "women should be barefoot and pregnant" ideals
I have commented before that I have thus found mothering and AP to really be feminist issues, a recognition of the respect we deserve as the Perfect vehicles for bearing, feeding, nurturing, and raising our children.
ITA. I'm just in a snit about advice dispensing men lately. Maybe I'll be able to shake it off soon.....
post #14 of 77
For me too, I worry that AP *can* mean that women should stay home. I don't think women need any more guilt about wanting or having to work work for money and/or sense of self.
post #15 of 77
In my small little world I've actually found "AP" to seem more liberal. Most of the conservative types I know IRL are not AP in any way, lean much more toward Ferber and Ezzo, etc.

But *I* am much more conservative than liberal and I AP.

I actually have always felt that most of the literature was pretty "PC" when it comes to working outside the home, always saying you can "AP" *AND* work.
post #16 of 77
Well... There have been several discussions about woh / sah motherhood here that got more heated than abortion discussions... I think there's definitely an "sah is better" undercurrent in a lot of ap thinking including dr. Sears'. And he tends to "brag" about Martha's intuition as opposed to his own "experience," thereby confirming often-held notions about women's intuitive vs men's rational/experiential knowledge.

In the whole ap world, I've actually come across preciously little male confirmation, and I also think dr. Sears' upper-middle class white background colors his "general" advice more than I would consider ideal.

Through all his books, he still is the traditional male, white, middle-aged doctor, even if his coat is a bit more colorful.

I agree with the poster that said that, in part for these reasons, he's an excellent "sneaky" introduction to ap-ing. He sure got the message to me! But, because he is to a pretty large extent the main voice of ap in America, his social conservatism does color the general perception, I think.

I don't think that I'll be able to spend all my time at home with ds, due in July, for financial reasons. Still, he'll be as ap-ed as dd (3.5). And I know that I'll have to deal with a lot of guilt feelings for "not being there," and that a big part of these feelings will at least be encouraged by the ideals painted and perpetuated by dr. Sears. Also, dh has always worked at home since dd's birth, and he'll likely keep doing so (I'm more employable than he is). Among all the ap families I know, this is still a very rare occurrence.

I think AP often shortchanges and underestimates dads. And in my book that's as bad as shortchanging and underestimating women, and just as unfeminist.

Edited to add that, in practice, I think many liberals seem to be ap parents. One look at Activism here makes that clear. Though it also attracts politically and socially conservative people, I do think the philosophy can be applied in very liberal and liberating ways. But that's not thanks to dr. Sears, but to the men and women who realize that Caring for and Loving your children crosses all lines
post #17 of 77
I think that AP is completely independent of liberal and conservative labels.

In some areas of our lives we may fit either label. AP doesn't hit one or the other, because AP fits both. You can be an AP treehugging athiest, or an AP Christian, or heck, an AP treehugging Christian.

I am generally considered a conservative because I am a Christian, I don't believe that abortion should be unlimitedly legal, I do believe in capital punshment, and I do hold quite a few other conservative views. But I hold some liberal ones as well, about some environmental issues, spanking issues, and things like that.

I think that what it all comes down to is that all but the most delusional people will agree that NIP is fine, that EBF is fine, that women do deserve the same rights as men. Some vary the details of their beliefs, but by and large, both liberal and conservative personalities will agree on the basics behind AP. There are always a few psychos who think nursing is dirty or that children are inherently evil and need to be punished into submission right from birth, but believe it or not, I think you'll find them on both sides of the spectrum as well.
post #18 of 77
I've found this thread to be very interesting. I guess you do find a lot of libeal parents practicing AP. I figured it was because more liberal people are open to change and doing things differently.

I personally am politically conservative on most issues. I do find AP though to be in line with my ideas and values in regards to parenting.
post #19 of 77
I generally prefer mothering advice from women. I do recognize that Sears has popularized ap to a degree that female authors before him did not. Whether that speaks to society not valuing a woman's voice as much as a "gentleman doctor", or whether Sears was just a more savvy salesman of his books I'm not sure. Probably a bit of both.

As far as AP putting women "back in the home". To me the point of ap is to have a strong attachment, and you build that during the time you are with your baby. I'm not going to tell another person how much time it takes for them to form a strong, trusting attachment. Everyone has to work that out for themselves, and what works in their own life. But for me, and ds, being attached in his first 2 years meant being together all day every day. He wanted to papoose around in a sling or backpack, period. Ds had a very high need level, and, other than dh, would not tolerate other caregivers. That was my experience. And FWIW, I felt empowered, not oppressed, by the experience.

Possibly, an ap relationship is better defined by how the child responds. Some children are just easier, trusting of new caregivers, and breeze through separations. What might work in building attachment with one baby might be inadequate with another baby. I think this is the key . I don't think there would be so much "oomph" to the WOH/SAH debate if we thought in terms of what a particular baby expects, rather than what is expected of a mom. There are probably many moms who wind up staying home primarily because their baby just will not tolerate separation. And there are probably many moms who work because their baby is easy going, and has a high tolerance for separation. And moms in both categories might be doing things differently with a different baby, without wanting to admit it.

Great discussion....

post #20 of 77
I've never read Dr. Sears, but I'm a part of another AP board and pretty much everyone there is liberal. I think it could probably go either way though.
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