Attachment parenting surely led me down the wrong path.
Freshly pregnant, I was innocently reading about different ways to parent, wondering why it all left me so indifferent.
And then attachment parenting screamed my name.
I was no longer indifferent. I held its postulates close to my heart and with my child’s arrival, I followed them religiously. I did it all: we co-slept, we not only breastfed, but did so every 45 minutes to an hour for months, because the child demanded. He never left my arms, only when he wanted. No little peep went unanswered – I continued to amaze myself with how fast I learned to sprint across the apartment. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any faster, I beat the record.
For beautiful 16 weeks it was as nature intended it, mother and child – nothing clouded our sky.
The only problem was that I stopped doing it every day. I left him. Left him after the beautiful 16 weeks.
He did not understand that I was still with him, if only in spirit, that he could still trust me. He did not hear me, so he did not believe.
He did not believe that I would return.
Now, my baby is insecure and confused. He doesn’t understand what happens to Mommy, where she goes. Does she love him? Will she come back? He is nervous and he cries. He cries a lot. He cries at the sight of strangers, because he doesn’t know for sure that his Mommy will not put him into the strangers’ arms and leave. He cries the hardest at the sight of his own grandmother, because he knows that most of the time his Mom will put him into the grandmother’s arms and... leave. Once again. It never ends. He can never be sure. He can never trust again.
It was that promise of eternal trust that lured me into the trap that is attachment parenting.
Dr. Sears, you were wrong. The emotional distance you preach to avoid is an essential element in the relationship of a working mother and her child. You were wrong to tell me not to allow that distance, because in a few precious weeks, I would have to go back to work. I should not have listened to you, you self-proclaimed attachment parenting god.
By allowing that emotional distance, there could have been a promise of some emotional stability of my child, a different temperament. He could have been brave, he could have been social. He could have been free of confusion.
I can only hope the nervousness and tears go away. For now, my heart continues to ache. But worst of all, so does his.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem