Attachment parenting is a non-controversial parenting style in which parents parent the way they were designed to parent. The way it would be evolutionarily advantageous for them to parent.
Except there's more. The practice, its title coined by Dr William Sears in 1993, receives regular attention in the media because it is mostly portrayed as extreme, limiting, exhausting and - sadly, often - damaging to the child and parents.
Photo supplied by Chrissy Chittenden
It's none of these things, or at least it shouldn't be. But we're determined to see it as such. Why?
Because we - and by 'we' I mean 'the bulk of the population who've ever encountered the phrase 'attachment parenting'' - are brainwashed. We're more than brainwashed, we're culturally indoctrinated to think that what we now know as mainstream parenting is normal, and anything else is just...wrong. Our parents and grandparents did it, and they'll tell us - their generation - that THIS is the way you do it, this is the way you do parenting. This is how it's done. And then we tell teach other, THIS is how you parent.
Break it to them gently when you tell them they've been misled.
And their next question will be, brainwashed by who? Culturally indoctrinated by what? Well, this is a complicated and yet frustratingly simple question to answer: by the life you're told to live, by the hegemony that rules your every decision, by capitalism and patriarchy and the out of control consumer culture which now reigns supreme in our daily lives.
So what has all that to do with parenting? What is attachment parenting, anyway, and why is it outwith all that?
Attachment parenting doesn't acknowledge capitalism or patriarchy as deities the way mainstream parenting does. Attachment parenting (the practices involved in) supports a woman's right to understand how her body works, how powerful she is in the life of her child and in wider society and how awesome her biology is.
Attachment parenting is usually considered to comprise a series of parenting practices beginning with B. The most talked about of these are breastfeeding and bed-sharing. Why are they the most talked about? Because they're perfect media fodder, since the idea of breasts and beds (the marital bed) being utilised for something other than sex is isn't compatible with the patriarchal message that a man's needs come before that of his family.
We hear from all sections of society - from TV experts to online trolls - how breastfeeding is taboo and how bed-sharing with a baby or child is by its nature unsafe an not conducive to a successful adult partnership. That the marital relationship (read: the needs of the father) must come first, MUST come first, else the alliance will fall. But that's okay because we can then just blame women for the breakdown of the family unit.
So attachment parenting is anti-men?! No, don't be silly! Attachment parenting celebrates the role of the man in his children's young lives, from birth through the early years. And it takes no official line on exactly how it's principles are practically realised. Men are encouraged to be involved in child-rearing from the baby's very first entrance into the world, receiving, cuddling, rocking, playing with the baby as he or she grows from tiny to beyond.
Attachment parenting recognises the importance of attachment in a baby and child's life. This includes, not excludes, the role of the father.
In case I didn't make it clear enough: ATTACHMENT PARENTING IS NOT ANTI-MEN. Oh, and: FEMINISM IS NOT ANTI-MEN EITHER.
So how is attachment parenting feminist?
Mainstream parenting - with its cribs, infant formula (or its limits on breastfeeding) and controlled crying marketed as the norm, as go-to tools of raising children - cares nothing for and shows little knowledge of our journey, as humans, from way back when to now. I'm not sure why this is the case, except that it seems unlikely to have coincided coincidentally with the birth of industry and the sudden speeding up and centralisation of capitalist growth. It cares nothing for you either - mother or father - as a person, as a human being who is biologically programmed to parent in ways that the products of mainstream parenting don't and can't easily facilitate.
Attachment parenting is feminist because it rejects the myth that in order for women to have choice they must have an array of products and outside agencies to call upon in her parenting, that her body and her instinct aren't enough. It aims to support women in having the full facts about their bodies' capabilities. It aims for a more egalitarian family discourse, putting the needs of children and the biology of the mother - very arguably - ahead of the fully grown up men who father them. And it supports women in rejecting the lie they have been told from their own birth to the dawn of their motherhood journey, that their bodies are not their own, their bodies are a statement of how dedicated they are to the cause of conformity, their bodies are to be looked at through the male gaze, not utilised as the powerful life giving forces that they are.
And worst of all, the cultural consensus in which we all live holds the status of maternity in beyond-insultingly low regard, and the media representations of motherhood reflect and perpetuate this.
So I think it's time we threw off the shackles of 'the way it's meant to be done' and ask ourselves what are we missing out on when we offer ourselves up to the baby experts and sleep trainers we are told will make us good parents? What are we being denied when we are told that to parent 'right' we must consume, separate and start strategising?
Let's reclaim parenting from the maw of capitalist patriarchy, before it's too late.
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