May 15, 2012

Am I mom enough?

Attachment parenting is not for everyone.  It wasn't for me.  When Emilu had trouble sleeping (constantly waking up during the night) I didn't allow her to cry, but I also didn't allow her to sleep the night in our bed, and co-sleeping is one of the tenets of attachment parenting.  Lately, however, I have grown more relaxed with allowing her to crash in our bed in the wee hours of the morning, from around 4 a.m. When I first saw the May 21st Time Magazine cover article on this very topic, I knew people would get hung up on the misconceptions, but I also understood why many  readers would think this "extreme parenting" style as excessive.

I'm half way in agreement with attachment parenting to the extent that I would never let my child cry out for any reason, much less for sleep training purposes.  I was rather surprised that our own Pediatrician would recommend this as early as 4 months, citing a myriad of reasons for it. I just ignored him. I also agree that organic and local foods (a priority in our household) should be baby's food. I breastfed my daughter until 10 months old, but I also stopped feeding her at night, because in my opinion a baby that's around 8 months old and is eating solids doesn't need food around the clock.  I established a schedule around this time that will go on to become a foundation of healthy eating habits for the rest of her life.  I babywore my daughter and sometimes still do around the house, but I also push a stroller everywhere and feel that this is the best way to be on the go.  And finally, cloth diapering was the best decision I've ever done.

When I read Time's Extended breastfeeding, I realized that I had unknowingly being following some of the propositions of attachment parenting, and that's when it hit me. Up until the other day, I had to use the bathroom or cook a meal with my daughter in arms, yet I don't consider myself an attachment parent.  This is what mothers do. All over the world. This obsessive need of categorizing and naming every little parenting method when raising our kids is becoming a corrosive ticking time bomb that will only, and ultimately hurt our society.

Is this about extreme parenting or more about our bruised egos?  A need for recognition and important titles for our maternal efforts in lieu of intellectual, social or professional rewards?  An attachment parent is most likely to be at home raising kids and so busy and attached to their offspring that it would be difficult for them to fill their intellectual and professional vessel -at least for a few years- which ultimately leads to a quest for valid psychological and social recognition for their way of parenting.   Surely when my mother raised us, extreme parenting wasn't even a word in their vocabulary.  Same when she was raised. There may not be a simple answer for this, but we may be becoming more and more obsessed with every detail, every milestone in our kids' lives.  My daughter is only one year old, and I'm becoming saturated with all the literature out there about the type of parent I should be at every stage.  I stopped reading when my daughter was born.  Partially because I didn't have the time,but also because I had a built-in instinct I was eager to use.  So what if your kid is overweight and you decide to put her on a diet? You are the parent, you should be able to do this! And what if you decide early on to home school or extend breast-feeding or allow TV (Emilu loves her CBeebies) or go non-organic. You are the parent!

I seem to recall how a few months ago, there was a buzz around the blogosphere about French style parenting. We were impressed by how French kids were well behaved and well-mannered, and how French mothers kept their womanhood and glamour intact.  Now that's what I would call the opposite of attachment parenting. Who has time for nail appointments and shopping? French women do. Are the French bad parents too?  Three months ago we were praising their techniques, now we strike them as inferior?

Are we not good enough parents, or worst yet, bad parents?  If there’s a problem in parenting today, perhaps it’s the pressure so many parents feel to be perfect (attachment parenting? French style?) and to find the right formula. But there is no perfect formula for parenting, only principles that can help guide the way. Ultimately there should be enough common sense to say that what's right for your family is the best parenting you can do.Can't we just relax and enjoy parenting, without feeling inferior or superior to other people or is it something that’s simply bound to be full of angst and pressure?


  1. Did you say that you wanted to “just relax and enjoy parenting, without feeling inferior or superior to other people?” That you cared deeply about the way in which you are raising your daughter, and much thought goes to it without obsessing? Well, I am sorry to do this to you, but I must diagnose you with the French Parenting Style Syndrome. Or at least you come very close. The main indicator is the vast amount of common sense in your response to the TIME article.
    Your view of extreme parenting as a function of our egos, our need to fill intellectual and emotional voids, and/or feel superior to other parents, is spot on. The worst part is that there are tons of “specialists” out there eager and ready to bank on these parental insecurities and qualms. And they will!
    I hope to be wrong, but I think this is just the beginning. There is money to be made, and parents’ egotistical leanings won’t ease, especially among middle and upper-middle classes. These propensities, coupled with a greater socioeconomic status, will just enhance competition among parents, propelling a quest to make their children better than the next kid. As you pointed out, this is bound to create degrees of polarity that ultimately will be detrimental to our children and our society. But we adults are great at self justification, and we will find a way to make it about the children, and not about ourselves.

    1. Some specialists are indeed in to make money, you are right, and the sad thing is anyone can write a decent enough book which mothers flock to buy. About the French parenting syndrome I really don't see anything bad about it, this method minus the label, is the common sense/nurturing structure/relax kind of parenting I enjoy the most.