Saturday, June 2, 2012

Are You Mom Enough? Part III

             So, what was the purpose of "Are You Mom Enough?" article in the Times May 21, 2012, issue?  We have talked about the implications of the cover and the surrounding arguments (excuse me, discussions) it spurred, but we have not actually talked about the real topic of the article:  attachment parenting.  What is attachment parenting?  That buzz word has been around since the 1970's, but I did not take notice of that wording until this article popped up.  I suppose if I had heard that label and what it meant I probably automatically considered it not worth remembering, because–by the way it touches my family—it just means being a mom
            Essentially, the proponents of attachment parenting summarize it as a parenting technique which concentrates on a physical and emotional connection between parents and their children.  The most common components of attachment parenting are breastfeeding on demand (not a preset schedule), children sleeping with parents (or in a bassinet adjacent to the parental bed), and "wearing" children (rather than parking them in baby seats, etc.).  Many people also include not letting a child cry-it-out and a "gentle" approach to discipline.  The number of sites trying to tell you how to practice this style abound.
            So is attachment parenting something new or something old?  Both.  The techniques and practices have naturally occurred on one level or another since there have been moms, but the label attachment parenting is fairly new.  (New under this middle-aged woman's definition)  Despite the public outcry against labels, Americans crave labels.  Labels provide direction, organize thoughts, give comfort/security, and require people to think less.  Please do not consider the "think less" part as a derogatory mark.  When you go into the grocery store, do look for the "labels" of meat, produce, baking needs, cereal, etc.?  Wouldn't it be nearly impossible to find what you wanted at the store if it was not organized and labeled?  People do the same thing in their homes, offices, and anywhere else they want to have order—including in their minds and daily habits. So, when a woman needs a quick to way describe how she parents, a label—such as attachment parenting—can be the easiest way to do it.
photo courtesy of
            The original Times article centered on the guidance of Dr. William Sears.  His website Ask Dr. Sears calls the
 " 7 Attachment Tools" the "Baby B's":
            1.  Birth bonding
            2.  Breastfeeding
            3.  Baby wearing
            4.  Bedding close to baby
            5.  Belief in the language value of your baby's cry
            6.  Beware of baby trainers
            7.  Balance

            Sounds simple doesn't it.  Basically, it is.  Then why the big fuss?  In Part II of this series, I mentioned that a few decades ago that during the beginning of the "science-is-the-answer-for-everything" age some women were made to feel inferior if they breastfed.  About this time, too, some "experts" insisted moms not hold their children and to "let them cry it out."  Despite the agony these practices caused young mothers, they either did it anyway attempting to do the best for their children or they quietly followed their instincts instead and did not tell anyone else.  Giving the label attachment parenting to what many mothers wanted to do provided those mothers encouragement and enabled them to resist the extreme of seeing children as something to be monitored, studied, or managed. 
            While attachment parenting brought confidence and reassurance to one set of parents, the behaviors of those who practiced extreme attachment parenting brought intimidation to another set of parents.  Do those who practice attachment parenting to the extreme (the definition of extreme is to be decided by the reader) need to apologize?  No, but also those who don't do not have to apologize either.  If you want to wear your baby in a sling while grocery shopping, go ahead.  If you want to click your baby's car seat onto your cart, go ahead.  If you want to leave junior home with dad while you run to get groceries, go ahead.
             The main idea is to just love your baby.  Remember "sacrifice" and being willing to make changes for the sake of your children are parts of being a loving parent.  Are you doing that?  Teaching your children as they grow that the world does not revolve around them and that they should think of others before themselves (hopefully following your example) is another part of being a loving parent.  Are you on your way to doing that?  Then you are probably doing o.k.
            I recently saw on Elizabeth Foss's website a quote from Mother Teresa when she won the Noble Peace Prize and was asked, "What can we do to promote world peace?"  She answered "Go home and love your family."
            Ignore the media hype.  Do not worry about labels or parenting fads.  Listening to advice does not mean you have to follow it.  God put you in charge of your children, not the "experts," not the government, and not your best friend.  You get to decide what habits or practices touch your family.  Are you mom enough for the job?  I think so.

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