When I decided to become a mom, and started thinking about what kind of mom I wanted to be, I considered a lot of things; my ideal lifestyle, my values, my goals for my children, and the things I learned from studying and working with kids. Now that I've been attachment parenting for a while, I still think about those things, but the one thing that has never factored into any of my decisions is how my parenting choices "rank" among other parents. One of the things attachment parents want everyone else to know, is that we do what we do because it works for us, not because we're judging anyone else.
When it comes to choices like babywearing, co-sleeping with my baby, or breastfeeding until my son self-weans, know that I'm doing what I do because given all of the choices we have, these are the ones that work for us. For me, "works for us" means "maximizing the amount of sleep and other physical necessities we all get, while minimizing the amount of crying and conflict I have to deal with on a daily basis. I'm not trying to prove that I'm "mom enough," or trying to prove that I'm somehow better than anyone. I'm just glad I have the ability to parent as I see fit, and want other people to feel that confident and secure in their parenting, too.
I don't care how other people choose to parent, as long as other parents and their children are safe, healthy, respected, and their kids are growing up to respect others. I'm not participating in any kind of parenting competition with anybody, because I'm too busy trying to keep up with my own life. If I'm competing with anyone, its with the idealized mental image I have of myself as a mom, and I'm actually working really hard to stop trying to compete with that imaginary person, too.
From talking to lots of other moms and dads, including many who identify as attachment parents, I don't think I'm alone in wishing that people would stop assuming we're judging, or that they'd understand the following things about us:
We’re Not (Necessarily) Judging You...
There are judgmental parents of every parenting style, because no particular parenting subculture has a lock on being judgmental. Please don't paint us all with the same brush; we're not all like that one attachment parent you've actually seen judge another parent. That's on them personally, not all of us as a group.
...And We’re Not Doing This To “Out-Parent” Anyone Else
As one of my favorite writers, Glennon Doyle Melton, might phrase it, we’re not attachment parenting at you. (To be clear, I’m not making any claims about her parenting style, just giving due credit for her turn of phrase.)
We’re doing what makes sense to us and what works for our families because it, you know, works. Our choices revolve around our families (and to a certain extent, what we think will make our kids decent community members). It’s not about making someone else feel bad for their choices.
We Talk A Lot About What We’re Doing Because It Interests Us...
Whether it's certain stereotypical attachment parenting habits like babywearing — or just about our parenting philosophies more generally — we like to talk about this stuff because it interests us, not because we think what other people are doing is bad or wrong.
(Especially if it's babywearing. I get sooooo happy when I can talk to someone else about babywearing. There are so many cute carriers and wraps and carries and finishes, and I need more people to geek out with this about in between BWI meetings. I'm not trying to convert anyone to a cult, I promise.)
...And Because We’re Excited By Information We Find Worthwhile
It's only natural for people who find something interesting to want to share it with others, especially folks we care about. I find this is especially true when it comes to information about children and parenting that we've learned, that goes counter to what we've always heard or seen throughout the rest of our society.
When you find something that makes you and your child happy — especially when you see others struggling to do something that doesn't seem to work for them — it's hard not to find the nearest rooftop to shout, "You guys! It doesn't have to be this way! Look what I learned!"
Attachment Parenting Can Be Tough…
As much as we love our kids and the choices we're making with them, that doesn't mean that it's not hard sometimes. No parenting style or choice exempts anyone from the struggles of parenting, because parenting is inherently hard. Being responsive to our kids' needs, especially when they're very young, can be really physically and emotionally demanding, and you might hear us say so sometimes.
...But It’s Enriched Our Lives
But the fact that attachment parenting is challenging sometimes, doesn't mean that it's not also worth it. The same can be said for parenting more generally, so please don't take our occasional exhausted sighs as evidence that we should do things a different way, or as an opening to tell us all about what you think we're doing wrong.
We’re Not “Spoiling” Our Kids...
You can't spoil a child with affection or responsive care. You can spoil them by giving them too much stuff, I'd agree, but there's no such thing as expressing too much love for a child.
It's frustrating when people suggest that proactively responding when a baby cries, or affirming a child's feelings during a meltdown or conflict, is "spoiling" them. Respecting our children's needs and emotions isn't spoiling.
...Or Letting Them “Manipulate” Us
It's insulting to us and our children to suggest that by engaging in a mutually respectful relationship, we are letting our children manipulate us. Though we may make mistakes like any other parents, overall, attachment parents are capable people who are giving the level of care and affection our children need from us. We deserve the same benefit of the doubt you'd give any other parent.
Our children, especially when they're very young, are expressing legitimate needs. It's not fair to give them a negative label for doing what they can to ensure their needs get met, particularly since they're often not able to meet those needs themselves.
The Parent-Child Relationship Doesn’t Need To Feel Adversarial
The suggestion that we're spoiling or being manipulated by our kids rankles many of us because it suggests that our kids' needs are somehow inherently at odds with ours. Part of why many of us are drawn to attachment parenting is because it gives us a way of working with our kids to meet their needs, rather than trying to change their needs so they become more convenient to live with.
For example, babywearing lets us meet a very young child's needs for physical affection and close contact while letting us more easily navigate public spaces or handle other things we need to get done. We're not being pushovers, we just recognize that our kids deserve to be heard and honored as much as we do, and we're trying to find as many win-win solutions as we can.
We’re Doing Our Best, Just Like You
We've put a lot of thought into our choices, but we're not perfect and we don't claim to be. We're just doing the best we can with what we have, just like you. Please assume as much before criticizing us or offering unsolicited advice.