|Annika, my African accessory.|
Last week the whole attachment parenting community was up in arms over an essay written by feminist Erica Jong.
I was annoyed by the article, but not because of her accusations against attachment parenting. She’s right, in a sense. The trendy attachment parenting pedigree would be a prison if you’re a mom who believes that name-brand slings, and fancy shit catchers make you a good parent.
There probably are moms out there like that. I don’t know any. I know moms who buy fancy slings and use cloth diapers because, well, that’s what they do. Some get into it more than others. It’s certainly a trend. But it’s not a widely held belief that using that stuff makes you a good parent. An engaged consumer maybe? An environmentalist perhaps? Someone who likes to buy cute stuff for their kids? Buying name-brand anything doesn’t make you a good parent.
For the moms out in the world who are spending lots of time worrying about what everyone else thinks of your parenting skills, stop.
I’m not parenting for the world. I’m parenting for Annika. I’m parenting the way I am because I want her to grow up feeling secure in herself. The idea behind attachment parenting, based in attachment theory, is that childhood preps you for adult life. If you are treated with love and respect as a child, it is a good solid base for your adult life.
Don’t get me wrong. I bought name brand slings. I had two. I had a Moby, which we loved. And for the toddler years, I bought a Babies Beyond Borders. They were both worth every penny. But I don’t consider that buying them made me a good mother. They made my life easier. Slings are easier to carry your kid around in than your arms. They make you more mobile. They free you up for carrying groceries and doing laundry.They keep your baby close. They are easier to transport than strollers. And they are cheaper.
But I didn’t need a fancy, expensive one. I could have used an old sheet to tie Annika to my body, as Toyin did once when he left the sling on the roof of the car before we headed to my parent’s for dinner. He tied Annika to his chest with a top sheet and she slept happily while we ate. But it wasn’t as convenient, and it would have only lasted for the infant months.
I used disposables, but looking back, I sort of wish I had used cloth, because it would have saved us a bundle.
I made homemade baby food.
Annika hated it. We never bought baby food either. Didn’t need it. Don’t use it. Baby food is this century’s biggest farce against mothers. Chop it up. Mash it up. Stick it in your baby’s mouth. Give them something to gum. It all works out in the end. Baby food is expensive. And all that extra packaging is bad for the environment. And really, the time it takes to make your own baby food is probably overblown. If you’re making your own baby food, you’re probably cooking for the rest of the family, and the baby’s gotta eat too. Right? It’s just a little extra boiling and mashing.
My point is, Jong’s essay was right in a sense, but she was just rehashing an old argument wrapped up in a parenting package. Women are imprisoned in our society by all the bullshit that we get fed about how we are supposed to behave to prove ourselves to the world. But underneath it all, her essay wasn’t really about mothers, it was just about trying to tell women to stop trying so hard to be perfect.
And I agree with her.
To quote Tyler Durden, from my all-time favorite movie, Fight Club, “Fuck off with your sofa units and string green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
I think that’s what Erika Jong was really trying to say. But the thing is, attachment parenting isn’t about women. It’s about parenting. It’s bigger than women.
Attachment parenting is just part of an evolutionary pattern that we women happen to be a part of. Every generation parents differently.
Real attachment parenting isn’t about cloth diapers and organic baby food. It’s about maintaining a connection with your child/children. That’s where we are in the parenting evolution. Next generation there will be something new.
Sure, there is that faction of moms, who obsess over breastfeeding, organic baby food, and Fuzzi Bunz. Not all of those women are practicing attachment parenting.
And for the ones who are, these are just the stepping stones toward getting to good parenting. They aren’t the only ones. They aren’t even necessary to being one. They just happen to be some of the convenient ones. And just because you do them, doesn’t mean your children won’t have any problems.
The slinging/co-sleeping/breastfeeding gets you into attachment parenting. The continual thoughtfulness about your child propels you into positive discipline, and maintaining a loving connection with your child as she/he ages and becomes less cute.
What annoyed me most about Jong’s essay is that she defined attachment parenting by sacraments and celebrity. She characterized AP mothers as if we are all watching to see how many African babies Angelina Jolie can strap to her back at once.
Real AP parents aren’t paying any damn attention to Brangelina or Madonna, unless we happen to like their music/movies. I don’t even know how many kids they have, or what their names are. Is Madonna still married to Sean Penn? No? Well shit, I guess I need to check People Magazine to brush up on my parenting skills.
Real AP parents know how fucking tough it is to be in the trenches of this lifestyle of parenting. Honestly, the hard stuff that Jong talked about, co-sleeping, nursing on-demand, baby wearing, that’s the easy stuff compared to what lies ahead.
For your first baby, it seems like the hard stuff. Because it is hard going though multiple nightly wake-ups for two years (or more) straight. Baby wearing is hard on your back. Nursing, whether on-demand-or-not is hard on your neck, and your nipples.
That stuff is tough.
But it’s nothing compared to toddler tantrums and the increasing/irrational demands of a 2-year-old.
And from what I hear, 3 is going to be hellacious compared to 2. I am scared. I don’t even know exactly what to expect.
But the cool thing is, those first hard-ass years toughen you up for the harder part. That’s the uphill battle. And when you get through it you’re a new warrior. Toughened for the battles of toddlerhood. Sweaty, but triumphant, ready to take on the challenges of raising an empathetic person, which is the real goal of attachment parenting.
Attachment parenting isn’t about following the latest trends. It’s about raising a solid person who is secure enough to go out into the world and forge through life, instead of wallowing through trend after trend.