In the strict sense of the term, I’m not someone who practises Attachment Parenting.
How awful does that sound?
Well, it’s supposed to sound awful.
It’s supposed to sound awful because the PR machine behind whoever wrote the attachment parenting book first and wanted to sell it, very cleverly thought, “Who wouldn’t want to be labelled an ‘attached parent’?” And indeed, they were right…why? Because the alternative is the not nearly as cuddly, sexy or loving detached parenting. It means that if you don’t happen to subscribe to the full AP theory, then you have to be unceremoniously dumped into the ‘detached parent’ camp.
It won’t come as a surprise to know that I don’t like the terminology being sold here. The implication is that if I don’t co-sleep, or breastfeed, or wear my baby at all times, I’m not a bonded parent, I’m not attached to my child; I am in fact detached from my child and you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that doesn’t sound great.
It also relies on the premise that every parent falls into one of the camps when, in reality, we pick and choose certain bits from every camp. I wear my baby in a sling sometimes, sometimes I push her in a buggy. My baby sleeps in her own room but sometimes, if she’s sick, I’ll bring her into my bed. I sleep trained my baby but when she cries I go to her in a heartbeat. I only breastfed for nine weeks but I did baby-led weaning when she was six months.
See? It’s not that easy to label one parent ‘attached’ and one parent ‘detached’. I like to think of myself as semi-detached. I have a wonderful bond with my baby even though I use a buggy, and sleep trained her and only breastfed for nine weeks. I don’t subscribe to everything that Attachment Parenting deems to be the way to bring up your baby, but I also resent being labeled a ‘detached parent’.
The only acceptable parenting theory these days seems to be the only that is based on an invisible and unspeakable competition about how much you can sacrifice and suffer and give up for your baby. If you’re not sharing your bed until they’re moving out, or popping into primary school to give them a boob then you’re a terrible parent. If you manage to get more than three hours sleep a night or you squeeze in a date night, or miracle of all miracles, you get a shag then you are a selfish, lazy parent. Unless you are devoting every waking (and sleeping!) minute of every day to cater to every need, desire, wish and whim of your Small you are quickly and simply lumped into the box called Detached Parent.
There’s got to be a better word. There must be a label that’s less inflammatory, less accusatory and generally more accepting of the different choices out there and the different decisions that wonderful parents make everyday based on their own set of circumstances and believes?
There is. Quite simply, it’s called ‘parenting’. I know it’s a radical though but perhaps we don’t have to label parenting? Perhaps parenting isn’t about theories and science and what they did in the caves back in the day. Maybe, just maybe, parenting is about an individual mother and an individual father figuring out their own way through parenthood based on their own individual baby because, let’s face it, we’re all so bloody different that the thought of us all subscribing to one theory of parenting is, frankly, bonkers.
To suggest that directing any love or emotional energy towards anything other than your baby is selfish, lazy or abusive is so unrealistic. I don’t know about anyone else but my life includes my baby, myself, my husband, my family, my friends, my work, my house, my health and a whole host of other things that I balance every minute of every day. It’s crazy and chaotic but never, not once, in the middle of all this planning and scheduling and running around and working do I ever feel that I am sacrificing my bond with my baby.
We make it work; we all make it work and because of that we are all motherfucking sorcerers. Maybe that’s what we should call parenting: Motherfucking Sorcery.
Image courtesy of Time Magazine