I had another epiphany tonight after posting about 5 breastfeeding related posts on Facebook (while nursing Gerry and typing one-handed). I've never really thought of myself as much of a "lactivist". I mean I love breastfeeding and it clearly works for me and my babies (going on 6 years straight come July 2!), but I've kind of been (relatively) quiet about it. There are lots of posts on Facebook that I just don't care to re-post and there is a huge movement trying to get them to not censor nursing pictures. I'm not sure why I'm not more "into" it. I guess I've been more drawn to birth and now peaceful parenting and unschooling. Breastfeeding was part of the package for sure, but not something I needed to get loud about.
Until TIME went and did an article on Attachment parenting (I guess - I haven't read the article) with a cover on it of a mom breastfeeding her 3 year-old standing up. One thing is pretty clear - people on "both sides" are riled up about this article. The title itself was very inflammatory, "Are you mom enough?" Moms who *do* live by attachment parenting principles are left looking "extreme" and "judgmental", moms who don't are left feeling "judged" and "not good enough". So who won? (answer: TIME magazine)
Anyways, back to my rambly thoughts. Although I'm not a hard-core lactivist I have noted an interesting trend in myself lately. Namely, I seem to tell everyone I meet that Gerry "still" nurses. I don't feel comfortable nursing him in public or in front of too many people, but for some reason I find myself telling neighbors, other moms at dance class, and anyone else who will listen. I guess it's my way of spreading the word, "Look, I at least appear somewhat normal... well, at least *nice*, and I nurse my running, tooth-a-liscious, talking son". This is what I wish would change - that it would be normal enough for moms to choose and do what is right for them and their children. That mothers would not have to feel uncomfortable feeding and nurturing their children anywhere, anytime if they need it.
A friend made a statement and followed with a question on my FB wall:
However, this whole "attachment parenting thing" seems to be more about the mother's personal issues and not about what it can do for the child. Given your interest in parenting and child rearing, have you come across any clinical, medical, psychological, or sociological critiques of Attachment Parenting? FYI: I could care less about the feminist critique, my main concern is long term effect on the child.
This is my attempt to respond in an intelligent, mature manner. First of all, I'm not exactly sure what is meant by attachment parenting being about a "mother's personal issues". I have heard comments to the effect that people believe mothers nurse their children past a deemed "acceptable" age for their own needs and not the child. I'm going to assume that may be what my friend is referring to. I guess the same might be said for co-sleeping - the mother needs the child for something (comfort, company?) and is using the child to meet that need (who needs a husband for that, right?).
I'm going to answer from my own personal experience and from other moms that I know in real life and through the internet. First of all the use of the words "personal issues" seems to me to have a very negative connotation. But because I know my friend somewhat, and that he doesn't have children, and that I believe he wasn't *trying* to offend me, I am not taking it to heart. (Trying to walk the walk, you know purple spots and all.)
So I will just answer short and sweet and directly - no, attachment parenting is not about "the mother's" personal issues. Yes, is is about what it can do for the child... and the parent. (Read here for an account of why this mom feels AP makes *her* a better mom)
Most people choose to parent in this way because it is the way that feels best overall for their whole family. Sometimes they didn't "plan" to do things the way they are, but guess what, BABIES HAVE OPINIONS TOO!
As for clinical, medical, psychological or sociological critiques, I am going to keep it fairly simple too. Parenting has led me *away* from "experts" and back to finding my own inner truth. (It takes a lot of time and effort. It can be challenging finding our true "instincts" versus the "voices" that have been programmed into us due to our social/cultural environment.) All of those perspectives boil down to "research". I like research - I was a science teacher. But more and more I find I don't really care about or need research. I only need to look at my own kids and listen to them and my own inner wisdom. I don't need research to see my kids learning and growing every day. I don't need research to hear their laughter or see the happiness shining in their eyes. I don't need research to tell me that they are healthy and thriving and whole and turning into exactly who they are meant to be.
But some people like research to back them up. I get that. I recently read an awesome book, "The Old Way," by Elizabeth Marshal Thomas (who I am going to be interviewing soon - I'm so excited!) If one needs a sociological or evolutionary perspective on what we humans would look like "in the wild" before all of this Western civilization stuff, then I highly recommend it. Here is a quote that I found on the internet from the book that led me to seek it out and read the whole thing:
The Ju/wasi were unfailingly good to their children. An infant would be nursed on demand and stay close to its mother, safe in the pouch of her cape, warm in cold weather, shaded in hot weather, compete with a wad of soft grass for a diaper. Ju/wa children very rarely cried, probably because they had little to cry about. No child was ever yelled at or slapped or physically punished, and few were even scolded. Most never heard a discouraging word until they were approaching adolescence, and even then teh reprimand, if it really was a reprimand, was delivered in a soft voice. At least the tone was soft, even if the words weren’t always.
We are sometimes told that children who are treated so kindly become spoiled, but this is because those who hold that opinion have no idea how successful such measures can be. Free from frustration or anxiety, sunny and cooperative, and usually without close siblings as competitors, the Ju/wa children were every parent’s dream. No culture could have raised better, more intelligent, more likeable, more confident children.
Sounds pretty good to me!
I read horrible, vitriolic comments on articles often judging the very actions that go on in my everyday life. But I am learning: 1) AGAIN, DON'T READ THE COMMENTS (It's like getting beaten over the head with a stick repeatedly) and 2) When you fail to follow #1, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY (again, PURPLE SPOTS PEOPLE!)
I get why people are uncomfortable with some of Attachment parenting practices. They aren't the "norm" in our times or geographical location. What I don't get is people being so mean. I can honestly say that I do not judge people who choose not to nurse (and I know some can't), sleep with their children, or use punishments (to name a few).
It seems to me that these "Mommy wars" mostly exist on the internet. In real life I don't run into people saying nasty things to me because I am still nursing my son or sleeping with my children. Just like in real life I don't go around telling people that they should be doing things differently - because I don't believe that. In fact I just posted a Mother's Day Tribute to some of the most amazing moms I know, and guess what? They all do things differently than me.
Anyways, back to my epiphany. I realized something really important tonight as I lay next to Gerry, waiting anxiously for him to fall asleep (come on kid, mama's got to WRITE!) . I keep wondering "why" am I writing here, why am I sharing? And tonight a part of the answer came to me. I'm not sharing to try and convince anyone or to change anyone's mind. I actually don't believe it is possible to change another person - the individual must decide they want to change. I'm not even that interested in defending my choices - although when push comes to shove I will if I get fired up - I feel good about what we are doing here. But I do want to shine my truth for others to see who maybe want to try things a little different, or who are interested but aren't sure, or who need to know someone else out there is doing this "crazy" thing and they aren't all that crazy. That is why I'm writing here.
You know what? An amazing thing happened! When I got down here there was a message on my computer from a friend whom I haven't spoken to in ages asking for advice about breastfeeding because, "You are the only person I know who has breastfed for an extended period of time (at least the only person I know who isn't afraid to let it be known). I hope you don't mind me asking questions and looking to you for advice."
Holy Synchronicity AGAIN! Seriously? Life is so unbelievably good sometimes. Um, no I don't mind you coming to me at all. And THANK YOU for affirming to me my purpose here. That's what it's all about people - love. There is so much more I could say on this, but there is always a new day and a new post. And I need to go to bed so I can be a respectable mama tomorrow. Good night to all!
ps I will get to the "feminist" part of this issue someday... maybe. When I'm feeling brave and rested and have oodles of time. (might be a while!)
5/12/2012 01:31:23 am
Read through your post a couple of times. I feel that you and I are coming from fundamentally different philosophical perspectives on the nature of Truth. For me, I get nervous when I hear people say "inner truth" or "what works for me" because that implies a certain relativism and can lead to overly defensive responses to honest inquiry. It is a strange phenomenon really. In my philosophical studies the relativist seems to be the most open-minded on paper, but in practice tends to be the most close-minded.
5/12/2012 12:40:30 pm
Great blog post, Susan! And I'd love to read the feminist take on it too, when you do find that free time. :)
5/13/2012 12:22:04 am
You know, I've actually been having a lot of back pain to deal with, but at least it's giving me a chance to practice my Hypnobabies techniques. Which, I might add, are a lot more effective than Tylenol. :)
5/13/2012 03:04:42 am
To respond to Susan's questions from our facebook discussion:
Not to get too in-depth into the debate, rather to lend a bit of personal perspective:
5/14/2012 11:04:11 am
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