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Attachment parenting is ‘prison for mothers’? Oh pull the other one

Oh Erica Jong, how sad that you feel the need to attack attachment parenting based mostly on your own misperceptions of what it is and the guilt you freely admit to feeling for having left your child whilst you went out of pursue your career.

What bugs me most is that everyone, Erica included, continues to hold onto the line that you cannot be out there, earning a wage, following a career and still be an attachment parent.

What they seem to think attachment parenting is, is some kind of strange the ‘child is always right’ craziness rather than actually it just being a mindset that says that in the very early day the child’s needs do come first and that gradually, working at their pace, understanding their need for comfort and security, you create structure and discipline.

Yes, discipline.  In fact some of the attachment parents I know are the strictest I’ve seen – they know their child and know exactly what they can be expected to do (and not do) and also understand the value of a framework of right and wrong around which a child can feel secure.

But back to work and attachment parenting.

I guess that most people would assume that you cannot leave your child with another person and still be attached.


Not even if you’ve managed to find a caregiver who is equally loving, understanding and there for them?  All you are doing is introducing them to the concept that there is a wide circle of people who love them and care for them.  What’s wrong in that?  What’s to make you feel guilty?

And where did anyone suggest that attachment parenting had to mean you, the parent, being there entirely for them.

But you know what, even though attachment parenting is what feels most natural to me*, the big thing is that co-sleeping, breastfeeding and doing things at their pace actually meant my life was a little easier.

Co-sleeping meant I slept more (far easier to roll over and cuddle than have to get out of bed and into the cold – brrrrrrrr), breastfeeding ditto (again far easier to roll over and transfer to the other boob than to get out of bed and make up a bottle) and not fussing about potty training, puree making or progress charts meant I could, mostly, relax and enjoy my babies.

For me parenting is about giving my child roots and wings – security but also freedom and independence.

For me, parenting is about teaching my child that I am there for them, not about teaching them that if they scream in the night I will not come.

For me if they cry, it is for a reason, not because I am making a rod for my own back.

For me its about remembering that evolution gave children only a few tools to ensure their survival and that we are not a long way from a time when wild beasties would have made off with them if they strayed too far from their parents.

For me it is most certainly not a prison.

*I admit it, I have had major wobbles, like when Littler refused to sleep or to settle without me and threw the biggest strop ever – yes I admit I considered controlled crying, leaving her in her cot, but then realised it didn’t feel right for me – the right end place, just the wrong route to get there.

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4 comments to Attachment parenting is ‘prison for mothers’? Oh pull the other one

  • It’s probably prison to some mothers and perfect for others. Which is why it’s lucky we all have choices. I love breastfeeding and having my baby close all the time, but sleeping in the same bed leaves me awake, so I put him in a cot next to me. Pick and choose – the only way to go.

  • lapagefrancaise

    I agree with your post and with the poster above, thank goodness we have choices, it’s just such a shame that we mothers tend to vilify other mothers who are not doing the same thing as we are. Is it out of guilt, feeling we are not doing enough even though we are all doing what we can given our individual circumstances?

    I couldn’t agree more that breastfeeding, co-sleeping and baby-wearing are what saved my sanity in the early days after my son’t birth. I slept a ridiculous amount more than I thought I would due to not having to get out of bed, going into the kitchen, make up and warm a bottle, sit in a chair and give it to my son and hope he went back to sleep easily. All that two or three times a night. And then having to sterilize all those bottles. When I traveled with him, it was such a relief to not have to carry bottles and formula. I also use cloth diapers, only because we do so much damn laundry as it is, that I don’t find a load of cloth every few days or so to be all that bothersome. And plus it has worked out to be cheaper for us. So yeah, all those things worked for me, it doesn’t mean they work for someone else and that is fine.

    I have to say that I do carry with me remnants of a feminist ideology and it is for that reason that I find this argument of attachment parenters and so-called “green parenters” and their “foes” so interesting. Because in a way I can totally see the argument against it. When I sit back and think about it, yes, long term breastfeeding does seem like a prison for women. Co-sleeping, not having a break from your child, constant baby-weariing, yes, I can totally see how that could be perceived as a step backwards for women, back to being proverbially chained to the home. Wasn’t the invention of disposable diapers such a liberation to women in the 50s when they first came out? Aside from the ecological hazard they presented. Bottle feeding does mean that anyone can feed baby and that does represent a freedom for women. I currently live in France which is for all intents and purposes not a very breastfeeding kind of place (although ironically I have gotten no dirty looks here for doing it in public, as opposed to when I returned to the US for a visit). It’s very much seen here that the mother needs to “get back to being a woman” as soon as possible after the birth, wean early, get back to work, get the baby in its own bed so you can get back to pleasuring your husband, and get your figure back (actually, don’t lose it to begin with, just look like you swallowed a bowling ball when you are pregnant). It is interesting to me because all this is done in the name of women being liberated, but in my own personal viewpoint (and this is just my opinion again) I feel the pressure to do all those things to be quite imprisoning. However, I can totally see how they would be such a relief for someone else, to feel like you can have a child and still get back to the business of being you, and that is totally fine.

    I think the fact that we have choices, that we can choose to breastfeed but to be able to give a bottle if we really need to, that we can choose to use cloth diapers/nappies but still have a pack of disposables for when we really need them, that we can choose to safely sleep with our babies or put them in the cot if it we find that it means one of us isn’t sleeping well, is ultimately the thing that is liberating to us mothers.

    So yeah, I think the day when we can accept what works for each individual person, acknowledge that what works for you may or may not work for someone else, and not feel pressure or guilt to be doing something, is the ultimate goal.

    Hi by the way, I’ve been reading your blog for most of the calendar year but don’t think I’ve commented before!

  • I can see both views – and yes, it’s about choices and not judging, or even not labelling. I chose to breastfeed, co-sleep and ended up babywearing my first (and did it right from the word go with my second) because that’s what worked for me – I’d never heard of “Attachment Parenting”.

    I don’t feel imprisoned, after all I chose to have children and biologically, it’s after all the mother who produces milk and the consequence of this is a greater share of care for children. That shouldn’t conflict with gender equality or feminism. While I now do the majority of care for the baby, daddy has taken on the majority of care for the older child, so we do share a lot of the child rearing (ok I do a bit more just because I’m on maternity leave, but really, I have no complaints about having more than my fair share).

    I find attachment parenting easier. This time around, when I started co-sleeping earlier, I’ve totally missed out on sleep deprivation, can there be a better proof that attachment parenting can actually be liberating?

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