Fifty Thousand Shades of Grey

I’ve always thought that the idea of attachment parenting was particularly… um, weird.
If I’m honest, the idea, or the way the idea is portrayed in the media, has always kind of creeped me out.
Breast feeding until you child ‘decides’ to stop at the age of 7? Asking permission of your 2 year old to change his nappy? Dropping everything for the demands of a screaming toddler?
No Thankyou.

There was a segment on 60 minutes Sunday night featuring, among others, the mother shown on the now infamous Time magazine cover

Initially I’m watching the segment shaking my head in disbelief as I watch a grown woman ask her two year old son if she can change his nappy.  Correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t a two year old lack the ability to predict consequences? Consequences like nappy rash? I thought that was why children can’t be held accountable for their actions, because they have no idea where those actions might lead.

As the segment goes on I realise I’m nodding, I’m agreeing, I’m less disturbed, and more…interested.
Dr.Sears, who coined the term ‘attachment parenting’, goes on to supply scientific evidence to support my Mummy Superpower theory in regard to co-sleeping. In fact, it turns out, that it is his scientific evidence that I refer to in my co-sleeping blog post. A total coincidence.
Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor.

So I jump online for more information, as I do…isn’t technology wonderful! And I find the Attachment Parenting Australia website. Im sure i’ll confirm what the media has portrayed, that attachment parents are slaves to their demanding little monsters.
On the contrary, the APA describe attachment parenting as being based on the principle of understanding a child’s emotional and physical needs and responding sensitively to those needs.
Well, there’s nothing unusual about that.
They promote a number of practical applications to foster a strong trusting relationship with your child.

Demand breastfeeding. Check.

Carrying or wearing your baby. Check.

Co sleeping. Check.

Using gentle ways to help your baby sleep. Um…Check.

Minimising separation in the first years. Well, minimising? Maybe half a check. Does a night at Grandmas once every few months equal minimising?  I feel like I minimised separation.

But I don’t do ‘attachment parenting’

Imagine my surprise. Me. Always believing that I hated the very notion of attachment parenting, that the whole theory would only result in demanding, clingy, obnoxious children.

I do believe I may now have to eat my hat.

I begin to realise now, that I may have instinctively followed the attachment parenting philosophy when my babies were tiny; all the while pooh-poohing the very idea.
I did breastfeed on demand. That’s not to say I allowed a situation where I was some kind of 24hour dairy cow. On the contrary, my babies had routine.  If my baby cried out of hunger, they were fed. Why would I make my baby wait an hour just because it suits my timetable? Knowing the difference between hunger, and say fatigue, is the key to demand feeding. Sticking a boob in your baby’s mouth every time they cry is not demand feeding. Do that and you very quickly will become a 24hour dairy cow with a snack feeding baby that makes you both utterly exhausted.

I’ve already talked about my co-sleeping experiences. But I do want to add that this was not an extended occurence. In the first 6 weeks my baby slept with me far more frequently than they ever did again. And probably only very occasionally up to 6 months of age, by which stage they knew how to self settle.
This brings me nicely to using gentle ways to help baby to sleep. I used to tell people that I used controlled crying. I did. When I had a 2-year-old that I was weaning from a dummy, or a 3-year-old that didn’t want to stay in bed.  I absolutely did not use controlled crying when my babies were, well… babies. I never believed that it achieved anything other than a distressed baby that is going to cry longer than it would have if you just go in and pat the blanket for a minute or two. Having said that though, if you jump up at the first little squeak your baby makes you’re creating a problem. You need to give your baby an opportunity to settle themselves, at least a reasonable amount of time to try,  or you will end up with a baby that never learns how to self settle.
It’s all a balancing act.

It’s all about the level to which you take it.

I think I managed to find a nice balance between gentle nurturing, and clear boundaries. A balance that worked for me and my family.
Yes I demand fed my babies, but not until they were 7 years of age.
Yes I co –slept, but not in any prolonged or ‘family bed’ style arrangement. I’ve already said that my marriage comes first, and with kids in your bed every night, that is just not possible.

I could not relate to the medias hyped up version of attachment parenting, I could not relate to the extreme, so I thought that it wasn’t for me.
In parenting, as in life, there is black and white and 50 thousand shades of grey (an unfortunate reference, but you get my drift.)

The definition of attachment parenting on the ‘Attachment Parenting Australia’ website is quite broad and open to interpretation. In fact I would argue that the majority of parents are attachment parents.

“based on the principle of understanding a child’s emotional and physical needs and responding sensitively to these needs. …(It) is not a set of rules and does not necessarily mean following all of the above (applications). Attachment parenting extends beyond the early infant period and involves a life-long desire to know your child and to parent in an understanding and nurturing way.”

As much as it is cliche’ to say, there is no handbook to parenting. All we have is our intuition, sensitivity, love for our child, and some common sense.

 Six years after the birth of my last baby I realise that I check all the boxes, I might actually fit the criteria for a parenting style that I always thought I couldn’t stomach. A parenting style that I judged solely on the extremist example set by the media.
I do not fit the extremist, but rather, some diluted shade of grey.

In the end, it’s just a label. Just a reason to either judge those who do it or those who don’t, depending on our personal stance.

In the end, who really cares?
You do the absolute best you can as a parent and ultimately, that’s all that matters.

Oh, and just to be clear, my children are many many things, but demanding, clingy and obnoxious they are not.

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3 Responses to Fifty Thousand Shades of Grey

  1. Jennie says:

    Maybe I’m missing something here, aren’t all parents attached to their kids. So there fore all parenting is attached. Some to lesser degrees than others. You are right again, You do the best you can with the knowledge available at the time, dead right, ultimately that’s what matters. So long as what ever you do is done with unconditional love.

  2. Val says:

    I’m not a mother so can’t comment from that perspective but I’ve never been keen on the idea of attachment parenting as I think it would probably make a child fearful to be away from its mother.
    And anyway – it’s all just someone’s else’s philosophy. Surely each mother has to choose her own way, according to instinct?

  3. Natalie says:

    So I’ve been waiting to find the time to go to the Attchment parenting Australia’s website so that I could then make comment on this blog post. So like you Rach I completely disagreed with attachment parenting and after reading the website I still don’t like the sound of it and do think they contradict themselves, ‘it’s not a set of rules’ they say! But really it is, go to the section about going back to work where they give some ideas about how to still follow attachment parenting and go to work.. Bring your child to work! Work shorter days! What they should be saying is that you can go back to work full time or part time and have a fantastic loving relationship with your child who can develop just as well as a child who’s mother didn’t go back to work.

    There are parts that I do agree with and maybe second time I would do some things differently but I don’t think my daughter is any worse off because I didn’t follow attachment parenting (but like you I think I follow some of the principals)

    Let’s stop labeling parenting techniques and parent the best way we know how and the best way we think we should for our children. We are all going to make mistakes along the way and it’s how we learn from these mistakes and become better parents for those mistakes is what counts.

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