My one woman war on "Attachment Parenting"
I am an Attachment Parenting International leader. I’ve read the books. I’ve studied the research. I believe wholeheartedly in Bowlby’s theory that a baby human needs to have her primary attachment figure(s) nearby in order to ensure survival, and the extent to which she is able to accomplish this goal defines, to a large degree, her ability to have stable relationships throughout her lifetime.
I just don’t like the term “Attachment Parenting”.
Only recently did I figure out why it bugs me so much. One clue came from a recent article in the Huffington Post, “Why I Am a Detachment Parent”. While the article is riddled with hyperbole, the description of attachment parenting as “masochism” really struck me.
I have found AP to be the easy way. Who wants to be tied down to the house during nap time every day when your kid could just sleep in a wrap while you go about your business? Why deal with a baby screaming for a lost pacifier when you could pop in a boob? If some parents are over the top, that is less about Attachment Parenting and more about the parent. AP is about meeting the needs of all family members – including, but not limited to, the children. Parents’ needs are important too, they are just not more important than the needs of the child. I am baffled by the proud assertion of parental detachment.
It all became clear to me when I read a quote from the Dalai Lama:
“Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.”
When most people hear the word “attachment”, they don’t think of Attachment Theory. Most people I’ve met, even those who identify themselves as AP, have no idea what that is. ”Attachment” connotes codependency, clinging, smothering, and that is a big turnoff for many people.
But there is a third choice in between attachment and detachment, and that is equanimity.
I think it’s obvious that all healthy parent-child relationships involve some degree of attachment. Otherwise, why bother? But instead of being attached to a particular outcome for the child or the relationship, we accept what is true now for this child in this place and time. I want certain things for my children but I work to accept, to the best of my deeply flawed ability, that they are their own people with their own lives to live. I hope to have close relationships with them as adults, but all I can do for them is offer them my unconditional love and presence and tell them that they are fundamentally valued and cherished, and then let go.
When Bess was a baby, she wanted me and only me all the time. She would not take a bottle, she would not sleep for more than 90 minutes at a stretch, and she cried frequently at high volume.
Yes, I lost sleep. Yes, it was outrageously stressful. But you know what? It passed.
Now we have a great relationship where she is willing to talk to me, and I am able to help her. (We shall see what happens during the teen years…) She trusts that I am there for her even when the timing is inconvenient or she has ugly things to say. Would we have had the same kind of relationship if I were a 7 am to 7 pm parent? Maybe, but I doubt it. And Harry, who was parented the same way, is totally different. It’s just the way they came into this world.
This begs the question: if not “Attachment Parenting”, then what?
Equanimous Parenting is really hard to spell. Respectful Parenting? Peaceful Parenting? They’ve been used. Mindful Parenting? I think Humane Parenting comes close.
I’m currently leaning toward “Nonviolent Parenting”.
I like “Nonviolent Parenting” because it goes so much deeper and speaks to a fundamental starting point of a deep and abiding love for all beings without judgement.
Do you have a good alternative to the term “Attachment Parenting”? Do you think we need one?
Photo credit christyscherrer
I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and nonviolent parenting. Learn more at my blog http://ahimsamama.com.
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