When I came across attachment parenting (AP) blogs and articles, I immediately knew that this was how I wanted to raise my kids. I was impressed with the child-centered approach and gentle methods used instead of spankings or punishments. At that time, I was struggling immensely with raising my strong-willed eldest daughter and attachment parenting seemed just the thing we needed.
When I gave it a try, many things worked out perfectly: I could breastfeed on demand. We didn’t bed-share, but the children slept in our room until they were weaned off at 1 year of age. I often managed to stay calm and collected during temper tantrums. But soon my whole life was revolving around my children’s needs and I was feeling miserable. Soon I realized that AP wasn’t exactly the solution to my parenting problems and that I needed to find my own answers.
These are the issues people haven’t been discussing when they are engaged in full-on attachment parenting:
Through reading all the attachment parenting books and articles, I got the feeling that I was not doing enough. I wasn’t properly bonded to my daughter or not quick enough to respond to her needs. I didn’t co-sleep or baby-wear because it wasn’t working out for me (so selfish!). I was afraid that I was saying all the wrong things and scarring her for life. The guilt almost crushed me and rendered me unable to function. It took a long time before I realized that I’m doing just fine and don’t need any prescribed parenting philosophy to be a good parent.
I tried to explain the principles of attachment parenting to my husband because I thought that we needed to be on the same page. In reality, I was criticizing his every move. Also, I was so busy responding to my children’s needs that I started to ignore his. He soon began to withdraw from parenting duties, thinking that he really can’t do it right anyway. To be honest, I really wasn’t being fair. Now I say nothing when he uses a slightly stricter approach or gives rewards when I might do it differently. I know the children’s relationship with their father won’t suffer and he is more willing to help when he knows that I trust him.
I really hoped that attachment parenting would teach my children to be compassionate human beings. In fact, it did just the opposite: they learned that it was fine for them to yell at me or even hit me because I took it without complaining. It taught them that my time didn’t matter and soon they started coming to me with things they could handle by themselves. Because I was so scared of not bonding with them properly, I parented them more intensely than was actually good for us. It all changed when I introduced rules and routines (which were not in the AP lexicon) and the interaction between us improved immediately.
Looking for help and support, I joined some attachment parenting groups on Facebook. I was hoping to find good advice for parenting my rather strong-willed child without having to use punishment or harsher discipline. Instead I only felt judgment and contempt. In fact, I am also a member of other parenting groups and never was I judged so much as in AP groups who exhibit no understanding at all for other ways of thinking. It was like being in a cult!
I also started to notice that I was beginning to behave the same way: always trying to “educate” everyone and thinking I knew the answers to everything. In the end I left almost all the groups except where I felt the advice was more reasonable. I never looked back.
I worked so hard at meeting my children’s needs that I ignored my own. It happened so fast that I didn’t even notice! Only recently have I come to realize that detachment can be healthy sometimes because it teaches children to respect our boundaries and to be more independent. Taking time alone improved our relationship because I felt much calmer when I could take a break from being a mother.
The philosophy itself
Attachment parenting appears warm, cozy and fuzzy but in many ways, it is pretty tricky–if not dangerous! First of all, some Attachment Parenting doctors (like Jay Gordon, for example) are proponents of skipping or delaying vaccinations without any scientific basis for doing so. It has nothing to do with attachment theory it is purportedly based on, and the whole philosophy doesn’t appear very women-friendly to me. The truth is that AP is based on the idealized but false view of parenting in the “olden days.”
I’m not judging parents who follow this philosophy. In fact, many of my friends proudly call themselves attachment parents and it works for them.
It just isn’t for me.
These days, I prefer to choose whatever method fits my family situation. The truth is that I became an attachment parent out of fear of not being good enough. And that is never a good reason to follow any parenting philosophy.