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If I can't practice traditional "Attachment Parenting" does it mean my child won't be well-attached to me?

Posted Sep 10 2010 4:50am
Before I had become a mother, I didn't read up much on parenting styles.  In fact, like so many of us, I was more concerned with every developmental stage in-utero and what type of Nursery decor I would be purchasing.  I like to compare my pregnancy to an engagement.  You know those brides...the ones who obsess about the centerpieces and forget almost entirely that the point to a wedding is beginning a marriage?  Yeah, well, despite the fact that I SO wasn't that kinda fiancee, I was totally that kinda pregnant lady.  I spent hours perusing crib ratings and we must have hit the baby furniture store that we finally decided upon nearly a half a dozen times before buying bedding.  I forgot to read about what the newborn stage would be like.  I failed to talk to people in depth, and truthfully, about what my postpartum body and mind might encounter.  I refused to even research cesarean births because I was so certain I would have a natural, vaginal one.  Yep...I was all ready for the "wedding" and even though the "groom" and "priest" were there, the church (don't think I need to spell this one out) was closed.  Ah, but I digress...point being that I was not prepared to be a sleep-deprived, sore, post-op patient when I brought my tiny bundle home.

Here I was, a few months into motherhood, finally being treated for PPD and wanting to try to make some mommy friends.  Since my child was years from being school-age, I knew I would have to make an effort to track down parents of children similar aged to mine myself.  So, I joined an online mommy group for people who live in Atlanta.  Within the group, there were subgroups based upon the area of the city in which you live, the age of your child and your parenting style. The online mommy group seemed perfect.  There were lots of interactions on discussion boards there, but more importantly, there were outings scheduled for the group nearly every day of the month.  Surely, I'd find a group of mamas to hang out with if only I attended a couple of these gatherings, right?  So, in addition to joining the appropriate group for my zip code, I applied to the attachment parenting group.  I thought, well, I wanted to do all the things they list here...and I gave them a shot, so that should count, right?  And when they asked, "Where does your baby sleep?" and "Is your child exclusively breastfed?" and "Do you wear your baby (and never put them in a swing or bouncy seat)?" I answered honestly to each question.  I shared that my circumstances hadn't allowed me to do those things, but that I thought I might still have some things in common with the group, what with my whole organic, natural childbirth attempting background and all.  It didn't take long for me to get a note back from the group moderator that told me directly that my application had not been accepted and that I was not an attachment parent by their standards. 

In hindsight, they were probably right.  The reality is that I tend to fall more on the middle of the spectrum when it comes to such things.  The past three years have taught me so much about adjusting expectations and efforts to suit the situation and to allow for a lot more gray area than I ever thought would be possible for me.  So, no, now I realize that I am not an attachment parent.  Partially because I wasn't able to do all the stuff that supposedly defines the method (like co-sleeping), but also because I have learned that a healthier place for my family to live is in a more traditional parent-child setting.  However, at the time I was devastated.  My mind, riddled with anxiety and endless concerns, equated attachment parenting with good parenting.  And that moderator's note might as well have said, "You suck...you aren't an attachment parent.  You don't fit in, you won't ever be a good mom...so stick it!"  That is exactly how I took the denied application at the time.  And you know, what?  It makes me sad, because I don't think I am the only first-time mom out there who confuses, subconsciously if not with awareness, attachment parenting with developing a good strong attachment with your child.

There's more to parenting and motherhood than slings and bed-sharing, my friends.  While I totally respect people whose goal is to encourage parent-child bonding and a more gentle, responsive style of parenting than most of us probably experienced as children, I also take pause.  We have to support each other in this journey regardless of the exact path that each of us chooses.  What works for one mama may do more harm than good for another.  And sometimes, like when a PPD mama is taking sleep meds, it actually IS safer and healthier for a baby to sleep in a crib than right in his mother's bed.  See, folks, I have yet to come across a parenting issue that is completely black and white.  So let's embrace, accept and celebrate the many shades of gray that make the world go round.


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