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Attachment Parenting and "Wearing" Your Child

Moms constantly question whether they are doing too much or too little for their kids. Do you really need to "wear your baby" or breastfeed a child until age 4 to raise a secure and independent child?

 

“DARN HER for growing up and going off in the world,” my husband said after bidding goodbye to our eldest child at the airport on Sunday. It was a misty-eyed departure, at least for the parents. Granted our daughter is not leaving for good. But, after she had already spent a year across the country from us at college we weren’t entirely prepared for her to spend the summer away as well.

Yes, we are immensely proud that she found a great job at a cannery in Alaska. It will be hard work with long hours, but as she said, “It’s worth it, it will be great experience and I’ll be making bank.” The internet connection is spotty, which impacts her ability to stay in touch with friends and my wish to Skype once per week. This is a small price to pay, I assured myself.

After dropping her off, my husband and I headed to a local park to walk our dog on an unusual sunny Seattle day. We were starting to experience life as a twosome again, as our older kids were happily sleeping in. The contrast seemed quite sharp as we passed by an endless parade of moms pushing baby strollers. While I wouldn’t want to go back to that life-stage now, I admit to looking at the closeness of the families together with a little bit of wistfulness and perhaps a bit of envy. There could be no doubt, my baby was all grown up.

When my daughter was young, my social-worker mother counseled me, “Your job as a mom, unfortunately, is to put yourself out of business.” I really don’t wish that I had raised a dependent child, and if anything parenting has taught me, it is humility. Things change and I do still have three kids at home, so I will not declare game over, just yet.

MY SITUATION seems like a complete juxtaposition to the cover story of Time Magazine’s new issue, which asks, “Are You Mom Enough?”  The article is about “Attachment” parenting philosophy championed by pediatrician Dr. William Sears. The headline may not grab you, but certainly the picture will. A model-looking blonde mother is breast-feeding her 3-year-old son, whose mouth is firmly affixed to his mother’s boob while staring into the camera. I understand why they chose this picture; no one would be talking about the story if the photo had been of the 74-year-old physician. The cover is intended to be sexual and sell magazines.

Attachment parenting advocates a strong physical and emotional connection with a child. It encourages practices such as co-sleeping and “wearing” your child as much as possible. Supposedly by keeping them close they will be secure, empathetic and ultimately independent. I worked full-time so did not “wear my child” and I was really tired when I went to sleep so I went with the sleep-by-yourself-in-the-room-next-door style of parenting.  If I had known about Attachment theory at the time I was raising babies, I am not so sure I would have bought in anyways. It seems that catering to a child’s every mood and need might create very demanding kids and lead to an “intensive parenting” style.

I definitely could have used a little more attachment to my daughter this summer but that is about me, not her.  As a mom, perhaps my style is more aligned with the theory of “Unattachment parenting.” Ultimately, I am pleased to see a young, independent woman who has the confidence to spread her wings and fly into the unknown. While I am a little startled by how quickly I put myself “out of business,”  I would do it the same way again.

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Email Carol Lewis Gullstad at permissionslips1@gmail.com

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Wayne Kinney May 22, 2012 at 02:32 PM
I don't have kids, nor likely will I ever, but I have a strong opinion on this based on years of random observations and happenstance. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Catering to a kid's every whim, from what I've witnessed many times over, leads to older kids and then young adults who come to expect that of everyone around them. I think it stifles independence, innovation, and a true sense of self worth. Talk to them like another person, not like a baby. Teach them how to think and reason like an adult and by they time they are an adult, they will be really good at it. Set the expectation to be a productive member of a household and they will become a productive member of society. Show them how to care for others as much as you care for them and being a caring person is all they will know. I know I'm speaking out of turn because I don't have kids and my sisters and friends remind me of that point often, but I am speaking as an objective bystander who has seen the impacts that different parenting styles have had as kids grow into adults. In my personal experience and layman's opinion, "attachment" parenting is a recipe for failure that is greater than just that of the parent - it's a failure of society.
Greg Johnston May 22, 2012 at 02:42 PM
You're not speaking out of turn Wayne. You would make one terrific dad my friend.
Carol Lewis Gullstad May 22, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Thanks for you comments Wayne. You make an excellent point on how parenting norms impact society at large. We all hope the children in our lives develop into happy and productive adults. However, the practice of Attachment parenting applied to older kids seems to lead toward a constant desire to "help" kids in order to pave the way for success. However, parents who adopt this style may unintentionally erode the self-confidence of their children and breed a fear of failure. Hence they hamper the very independence they were attempting to inspire.
Kathy Slattengren June 14, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I'm glad to hear Hailey's doing well! Kristie is also spending her first summer away from home working as a physical therapy assistant in Spokane. I'm filled with mixed emotions as they "unattach" and fly on their own.

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