is attachment parenting "conservative"? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 01:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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?

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#2 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 05:57 AM
 
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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.
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#3 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 10:25 AM
 
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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.
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#4 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 10:43 AM
 
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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.
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#5 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 10:50 AM
 
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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!

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#6 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 11:21 AM
 
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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?
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#7 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 12:18 PM
 
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Mamaduck, could you recommend some ap books written by women? Dr. Sears is pretty much the extent of my ap collection.
Thanks,
alsoSarah

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#8 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 12:37 PM
 
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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.
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#9 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 01:19 PM
 
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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."
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#10 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 01:27 PM
 
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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.
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#11 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 02:31 PM
 
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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...
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#12 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

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#13 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 03:02 PM
 
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Quote:
Interestingly, I don't see Sears' emphasis on the mother/child bond as being a return to "women should be barefoot and pregnant" ideals
Quote:
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.....
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#14 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 03:27 PM
 
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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.
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#15 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 08:08 PM
 
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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.
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#16 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 08:43 PM
 
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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
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#17 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 08:50 PM
 
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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.

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#18 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 09:07 PM
 
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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.

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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#19 of 77 Old 02-16-2003, 11:52 PM
 
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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....

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#20 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 01:28 AM
 
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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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#21 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 03:17 AM
 
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Heartmama, ITA on the "male voice" thing. Isn't that what also brought us Lamaze and the Bradley method? :
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#22 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 04:27 AM
 
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re: Books, Baby Matters and Born Dancing were written by women. the first isn't totally about AP, but it's in there, and the 2nd was written before AP was coined, she called it dancing intuitively. Sheila Kitzinger I believe has a lot of info along those lines, as well.

I personally don't care for Sears. He does have a lot of info, but I think the tone is pretty arrogant, perhaps that's not the right word, but I find it a turn off. I'm turned off by Bradley as well. However, I enjoyed reading Odent, Leboyer and Dick-Reed. Dick-Reed is very religious and attributes a lot to god, but this didn't ruffle me, as he was obviously a very caring practitioner and not (I felt) a condescending know-it-all.

Lamaze and Bradley actually originated from Dick-Reed's methods. Lamaze attributes it to Pavlov, but Pavlov did a lot of research w/Dick-Reed before he made his "break thrus" with natural birthing in Russia.

edit: 3 In a Bed was written by Deborah Jackson - the co-sleeping articles on the main mothering website has some more info on this book.

I kinda agree that AP seems to short change dads/men. I never felt comfortable calling it attachment parenting - but the scientific studies refer to it as securely or insecurly attached. I thought it was just "natural", but if it helps people understand what I'm talking about, I'll use the label so people know what I'm talking about. Although *IMHO* it's pretty empty to discuss labels and semantics and how we feel about words - because the bottom line is, if no one understands you, you have to go back to using the terminology they do understand - you can in your own heart think it's lame and call it something else, or you can describe in detail what you mean every time. Terms conservative and liberal may be too broad for most individuals, but it does well to describe group trends. [end edit]

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#23 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 12:14 PM
 
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My mom was heavily involved in LLL until years after she finished BFing because her experienced advice was useful to new moms. I remember in 6th grade, when several classes in my school had made election posters (each kid making one after learning about the election and choosing a candidate), I was surprised to see that a girl from another LLL family had made a pro-Reagan poster w/anti-feminist slogans. When I mentioned this to my mom, she said, "Well, there are two basic kinds of families who breastfeed: Those who do it because we feel natural ways are best and who also value taking care of the environment and having freedom, and those who do it because they believe mothers are the only people who can care for children and who generally believe in a very narrow role for women. I guess the H__s are in that second group." That made sense, but I was still surprised because the H___s were the only family I'd ever known who had a genuine family bed (as opposed to baby sleeping near parents only when very young)--one room of their house had mattresses covering the entire floor, and parents and 5 kids all slept there--and that seemed ultra-liberal in a town where people thought it was a total scandal that my brother and I shared a bedroom w/separate beds and that I had EVER seen him (much less my dad) naked! :

In the subsequent 20 years, as the health benefits of BFing have been re-established : and therefore a wider range of moms have been doing it, I would think this polarization of BFing families has been reduced. But when you look beyond BFing to the broader philosophy of AP, it seems that those who pick up on the whole philosophy tend to be one of those two types, because it "clicks" with other things that we believe.

Piglet, I think you have an excellent insight about AP really being "feminist" in that it emphasizes the unique abilities of women. Unfortunately, what is currently called "feminism" tends to be anti-mother and anti-everything-traditionally-feminine, with the idea that the only way to escape oppression is to do exactly what men do and let technology or "someone else" do the traditionally female tasks, and there's also a heavy emphasis on being victims. It makes me sad, because I feel that I'm a feminist but I can't use that term without affiliating myself with ideology I think is stupid and counter-productive! BEING A GOOD MOTHER IS NOT CAVING TO THE PATRIARCHY!! "Alike" and "equal" are not the same thing! Many traditionally female behaviors have great value for women, for men, and for society, and I think the best direction to take is toward making those behaviors valued and acceptable directions for everyone--males, too!--and valuing those things that only females are biologically able to do, instead of treating them like unpleasant embarrassing functions to be dispensed with as quickly as possible!

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#24 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 12:14 PM
 
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slapping myself in the head. How could I forget Shelia Kitzinger???


She rules.
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#25 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 01:16 PM
 
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A little off topic, but my first response when reading this thread is regarding books written by women: I actually prefer books written by mothers, rather than women per se. This was actually one of my only gripes about the Continuum Concept - I liked and agreed with what it had to say, but the author has never had children, and the tone of the book, to me, was that it was easy and obvious to parent this way, and it didn't take into account that the intended audience for her book didn't live in a tribal community, but rather in an isolated suburb. I think if she had been a mother she would have at least addressed this issue, having experienced how tribal parenting may not necessarily be so easy within our culture.

Anyway, back to Dr. Sears. I can see where he would be called conservative, but I wouldn't go so far as to say anti-feminist (this is just based on reading the Baby Book). Just because he stresses the mother/child bond, which could be taken to mean that the mother needs to stay at home, I don't think is anti-woman. I think it is our society that is anti-feminist, making it necessary for so many mothers to have to go to work. I mean, biologically, historically, the woman has had to stay with the baby. Our modern world has made it possible for the mom to work (pumps, bottles, cars). I don't have any problem with moms who must work, or who choose to work (I have thought about it myself), but I don't think it is anti-feminist to point out that there is an inherent need within the child that only the mother can fulfill. In fact, many women here in many different posts have spoken about how important it is to them that they not be separated from their children. I don't think that they are anti-feminist.

Okay, I have rambled on long enough. I'm really hoping that no one misinterprets my post as having anything negative to say about WOHM, because that was not my intent. I'm just saying that I think that this is where Dr. Sears is coming from by emphasizing the mother/child bond as being so critical.
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#26 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 09:14 PM
 
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I do worry that I am just buying in to an ideology whose end is to make women feel a “natural,” “biological,” “historical” imperative to keep their bodies near their babies bodies. Because this imperative ends the same place as that of conservative ideologies, I, as a liberal, am doubly worried.
Whenever I hear things like "biologically" and "historically," and "natural," I get a little uneasy. Biology (and science in general), narratives of history, and ideas about what is natural are such powerful but elastic creations that they are able to justify whatever we want, whether it is women’s separate sphere (in the Victorian period), or racial difference (first half of twentieth century), or mothering (now). I DO believe in the idea that attached mothers and babies is what “nature” intended, an intention perverted by modern marketing, but I worry about what this belief serves (i.e. women racked with guilt about their mothering are a more pliant and less potent political force).

I love this thread!
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#27 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 10:56 PM
 
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Most of the AP famlies I know irl would be considered "liberal". However, there appears to be an abundance of "crunchy conservative" women on many of the AP boards I have visited. I think AP parenting appeals to people on many different levels.
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#28 of 77 Old 02-17-2003, 11:22 PM
 
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Piglet-

Very good question. As you well know, I am neither mainstream or Ap, but pro-Goo. This is the best way for me. But, I do think the traditional mom roles are reinforced by AP. This can or can not be considered "conservative". It depends on how you feel. Some, like you, feel that this is more feminist while some would feel that it is forcing the woman back to the days when raising children was the only goal in a woman's life.

I personally believe that Goo is a major part of my life, but she is not the reason I am alive. I can still persue my goals in life and grow in my career and skills, but these are in balance with Goo's needs. This tends to fly in the face of both "conservative" parenting and some people's views of AP.

I don't know if this is making sense or not. To be honest, I've only read "baby whisperer" and I've only used parts of that book. Most of my parenting comes from logic and comfort for me.
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#29 of 77 Old 02-18-2003, 02:20 AM
 
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This is something I've wondered myself...

During my pregnancy when I first heard about attachment parenting, I was initially turned off by it because it did seem to reinforce traditional gender roles. Literally speaking, the idea that women should be attached to their babies seemed very conservative, limiting and even backward to me.

I never in a million years thought I'd quit work to stay home with my child. I earned my degree and I was gonna use it, dammit! Yet here I am - tomorrow is my last day of work and I'm quite happy about it.

At the same time, a part of me feels like I'm letting down the feminist cause - progress women have made for equality in the workplace, all that. I can feel the satisfaction my truly conservative, very religious inlaws have over my quitting - they told me motherhood would derail my career plans, and I just proved them right. They win! They win! (but i swear, i am *not* conservative!).

I'm rambling here. I guess what I'm saying is that I feel like I need to be with my daughter, but I'm also secretely afaid that if most women were SAHMs, we'd really roll back the clock to a time of major inequality. We'd re-create strict gender roles and stereotypes of 'women do x and men do y' - and we'd just plain screw ourselves out of a lot of social progress.

Anyway, I suppose it's the reason behind the way we parent that determines whether we're conservative, kwim? I am choosing to quit work simply because *I* want to, not because I feel God or my husband wants me to. There's power in that, right?

Still, it's interesting how two completely different perspectives - and please forgive my use of labels - but conservate and liberal mindsets make the same parenting choices but for very different reasons.

ARgh! This is complicated but a great topic. I feel like I could go on and on but this would get even more scattered than it already is so I better stop here.
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#30 of 77 Old 02-18-2003, 04:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Friendlymama, I so totally know what you mean. In my "pre-baby" days I would have looked down an a woman who gave up her career "just to be a Mom". And, I poo-poohed those who warned me that I would end up wanting to do the same. Yet, here I am, having no interest in my career right now and feeling incredibly happy to spend my days devoted to DD. I'm not sure I can even "blame" AP for that...I just fell in love with her the day she was born and everything else just took a side seat to her!

The thing is, though, our children are babies for such a short time. Do we have to "give up career" to be there for our babies? For those who have kids earlier: can't one persue a career when the children are in school? That's only about 5 years or so to wait. Or those of us who started a career and had children later in life: can't we go back later? (I plan to, although it may not be in the capacity, or along the track, that I originally expected). And certainly there are those who want to homeschool, or be SAHP permanently (or have lots of children), and that should be valued, too. But somehow I feel that to be AP and SAH with your babies doesn't mean you can't be a career woman, too. Who was it here who said "you can have it all, just not all at once"?

bah...random thoughts! I'm ready for bed!

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