Wednesday, November 10, 2010

great post on the FREEDOM of attachment parenting

Hear that clankity, clank, clank, clank around your ankles, mama?

Those are the chains you're sporting from attachment parenting -- babywearing, breastfeeding and cosleeping, just to name a few.

Wear your baby?

Add a link.

Blend his veggies yourself?

Attach another.


Bring on at least a dozen more shackles.

Oh, you didn't feel them?

I didn't either.

In fact, I didn't even know I was being "victimized" and "imprisioned" until I read Erica Jong's Wall Street Journal article Mother Madness, in which Ms. Jong renders Attachment Parenting practices like babywearing and breastfeeding them imprisioning and likens them to modern-day tortures that actually bind women into parental slavery.

Respectfully, I must say, Ms. Jong, in regard to Attachment Parenting, you don't get it.

Jong states:

Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It's a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women's freedom as the right-to-life movement.

Jong rehashes her memories of being a single mother with a career in relation to a few AP practices. She says she liked breastfeeding, but her daughter hated it. And how on Earth was she to keep her child close by snuggling her daughter in a carrier while she was working when the workplace barely supports breastfeeding {a whole different issue!}?

Well, I wish someone would have shared with Jong quite a bit about Attachment Parenting and its "rules", as she calls them -- as likely she would have found AP practices to be freeing rather than binding and guilt inducing.

AP practices like sleep sharing, breastfeeding, babywearing and responding with empathy are tools we mothers {and dads} can use to help lesson the anxiety that comes with parenting a new life {or two or three or four} and help us mothers maintain a sense of ourselves while parenting.

By breastfeeding, we can go anywhere with baby and exert little planning. We don't have to fret over finding water or a place to mix formula or even remembering to bring the formula.

By babywearing, we have to free hands to go about our daily tasks while keeping baby close, easing mom's mind and the load on her arms.

By responding with empathy, we get to know our babies and understand what they need instead of becoming frustrated by their cries.

And the list of benefits extends beyond those few experiences that serve as examples of how mothers find freedom to maintain their normal activities while parenting.

Babywearing, for instance, doesn't have to be utilized by working parents solely as a way to take baby to the office; but rather it provides a means of being close when mom gets home, has to make dinner but also wants to snuggle her baby.

As Jong elaborates, her misguided perspective on AP becomes sadder and more absurd: she also blames AP for keeping parents from being active in governing decisions and positions:

Indeed, although attachment parenting comes with an exquisite progressive pedigree, it is a perfect tool for the political right. It certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process. If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit. What exhausted, overworked parent has time to protest under such conditions?

Attachment Parenting doesn't call for me to tackle parenting alone, without community {or family} support -- it encourages relationships between families and between our children and other trusted caregivers.

Our local Lake County AP group has been the opposite of isolating -- it's a community of overflowing support. I know if I need help, I can call anyone of my fellow AP moms, and they would extend care in a heartbeat -- I know this because I've been there, in a position of needing help.

When my dad died, some brought meals. When I needed a last-minute sitter so hubby and I could go to a group meeting, another AP mama was there. And so on.

As for AP practices making us parents too tired or worn out to engage in the political process? You'd find the opposite.

Many mothers in my local AP group are very involved in our goverment and political processes through voting, petitioning our congress people and even teaching classes -- and we pass these values onto our children as well.

This kind of involvement in the political processes obliterates Jong's theory of parenting being an avoidance strategy for us to escape bigger, global problems. She says,

It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child's home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.


As AP parents, we are simply trying to raise children who will be thoughtful, compassionate, contributing members of society.
And with AP, we do that by MODELING behavior.

We act out what we expect -- whether that means treating others the way they want to be treated, clearing the dishes from the table, casting our premeditated votes on election day, sharing our food with those in need or volunteering for causes in which we believe.

Mamas, don't let anyone tell you that your job as a mother isn't important or that being a mother is just a trendy, fashion statement.

Don't let confused women like Jong persaude you into thinking that responding to your child with love and grace and affection isn't one of the most empowering and important jobs we women have.

While I raise my coffee mug in a toast applauding that we shouldn't place shackles on each other by creating lists of "you musts" or hinge our entire our lives on being successful parents, we must not take lightly the job of raising our children to become THINKING, COMPASSIONATE, CONVICTED people.

AP gives us tangible ways with which we can respond with thought and love, which, model for children how they, too, can respond in thought and love in small situations as well as very grand ones.

And our tools -- babywearing, breastfeeding and responding -- are just that -- tools that help us respond well and teach well how to interact with people and situations.

Mamas, you are, indeed, raising small people to become bigger people who will take on the larger problems we face as a global community.

And you, AP parents, are teaching them how to do it through expending great thought and great love that your little ones will one day echo.

It's not AP practices that are imprisioning me, shackling my feet and attacking my spirit-- rather it's women like Jong who insist that mothering is not an honorable, necessary job.

I've taken to heart advice dispensed through my Vantage Point 3 Emerging Journey leadership class regarding jobs, vocation and calling:

"Go where your deep desire and the world's deep need intersect."

For me, in this season of my life, that place of deep desire merging with the world's deep need is here, at home, mothering my children.

And this place, Ms. Jong? It's not a prision; it's a beautiful labor of love rooted in the deep soil of a soul who was created to be, yes, a writer and a teacher and an activist, but also, {equally wonderful} a mother. 

I'd like to add that it also seems to be the most instinctive, natural, God-intended way to parent children. The rewards have been tremendous, every, single, day.

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