By now, we have all seen the controversial TIME cover and developed our own reactions. Mine was initially one of anger that I was quickly able to temper by reading posts by other bloggers with a message I could relate to; of course you are mom enough. Don’t take the bait; no matter how you parent you are a great mom.
With the approach of Mother’s Day, a provocative picture, and a titillating title, the TIME cover was clearly nothing more than an opportune-timed jab at the old-fashioned and worn out ply for “mommy wars” and a play on the insecurities of all mothers, regardless of parenting style. As I read articles denouncing the cover with pleas not to play into the controversy, I was able to nod my head in agreement and compose my own piece focusing on the joy of being a mother rather than the style in which you chose to execute that privilege.
I could be at peace with it, because of course there will be talking heads and uneducated media articles feeding into the flame, but it seemed most people in the blogging world were not taking the bait.
Then, I noticed a link to a blog article in my Facebook news feed. I thought it would be another eloquently written post about the ludacracy of the cover. I clicked and looked forward to nodding along as I had with previous pieces.
The underlying message was the same; don’t buy into the cover’s ploy to enrage you or tell you that you are not a good mother. But in taking down TIME, this article also took down attachment parenting. The writer stated,”most moms who subscribe to attachment parenting are older hippie moms with gray hair and saggy boobs and Subarus.” She went on to list the reasons that she thinks attachment parenting is ridiculous and throw Dr. William Sears, the person who co-wrote The Attachment Parenting Book with his wife, Martha Sears, under the bus.
Perhaps these are common stereotypes. But they are, indeed, just stereotypes not actually steeped in reality.
So here’s my big reveal: I am an attachment parent. I breastfed my son on demand until he was two. We still co-sleep even though his third birthday is approaching in September. I always used the Baby Bjorn instead of a stroller and in one particularly memorable episode, I joined a mommy play group for a walk in a park, and I had no idea how to open my stroller. It was embarrassing, and it was clear I did not fit in with this group of moms who used strollers and formula.
But maybe, if you subscribed to the stereotypes represented by the above blogger, you would not guess my attachment parenting tendencies. I am a fairly young mother, (I was 25 when my son was born) I try to wear stylish clothes, (on the days I’m not running around in work out pants) and keep my hair and make up presentable. My go-to color for clothes, nail polish, and lip gloss is pink and I carry a Coach purse. I’m a girly girl in disguise as a busy mom and wear flats due to the impracticality of the heels that reside in my closet. My decision to attachment parent is not one born out of a “hippie identity” nor one that narrowly encompasses my entire personality. It is simply the parenting style that I chose, that I believe in, and that my son thrives on.
Perhaps the idea of attachment parenting seems scary and extreme and it’s a little too easy to buy into the hype that you have to be an “older hippie mom” to do it. But perhaps that comes from a misunderstanding of what attachment parenting means. The principles of attachment parenting are birth bonding, breastfeeding, babywearing, bedding close to baby, belief in baby’s cries, balance and boundaries, and beware of baby trainers. Basically, skin to skin contact after birth, breastfeed, hold your baby as often as possible, sleep close to your baby, respond to your baby’s cries, establish clear boundaries of yes and no for you and your baby, and listen to your instinct and your baby rather than taking advice from others about your child’s care. In an even more concise summary, attachment parenting is high-touch, responsive parenting. I missed the birth bonding part due to my emergency c-section delivery. For me, the breastfeeding led to the co-sleeping, my baby’s constant need for touch and my desire to hold him led to the baby wearing, and my belief in responding to my baby’s cries and cues allowed me to establish boundaries, ignore bad advice, and feel confident in the way I was parenting my son. I believe in attachment parenting, and I practiced it. But that doesn’t mean that you have to, or that you have to judge others who do.
The idea that attachment parenting requires breastfeeding a child until they are old enough to spell is simply not true. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a child receive breast milk for the first year of life (source) and The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for up to two years (source). The idea of extended breastfeeding may not be normal in America, but it is normal worldwide, and it is not an idea established or solely supported by Dr. William Sears.
The idea that if you co-sleep your kids will sleep with you until they are in middle school is also not an idea advocated by Dr. Sears or attachment parenting. In the attachment parenting book, it says “children wean themselves from your bed when they are ready…in many families this process begins sometime around age two.” The attachment parenting book even gives you tips on how to make the transition. The misguided belief that attachment parenting requires a child to sleep with you into late adolescence is not an idea put forth by Dr. Sears.
Attachment parenting does encourage baby wearing, or holding your baby in a wrap or sling as often as possible. Again, this is not a new idea. Many countries all over the world have been carrying babies in slings or shawls for years. And, if you read The Attachment Parenting Book, the baby wearing practice is really only for the first 6 months. As soon as the baby starts crawling, attachment parenting babies are highly encouraged to explore their environments.
Nowhere in the times I have read or referenced the book have I read the lines “If you do not do attachment parenting you do not love your child” or “You are “screwing up” your kids if you don’t practice attachment parenting.” In fact, Dr. Sears and his wife are parents to eight children, and they only started formulating and using attachment parenting after the birth of their fourth child. I’m sure that doesn’t mean they did not love their other children.
Attachment parenting is not a bad word. It is a style of parenting. What parenting style you use and how you weave it into your own parenting will depend on you, your family dynamics, and the baby (because my goodness these little people have big personalities). Time’s cover is obviously meant to illicit a response rather than give an accurate depiction of what attachment parenting is. It is also clearly meant to draw on women’s insecurities of their own parenting style with the provocative ”are you mom enough?” headline. Though many people are choosing to rise above the blatant attempt to ruffle feathers, I was disappointed to find out that some responses further propagate the same message in a different way; you are only mom enough if you do it my way.
Making fun of attachment parenting while attempting to scorn TIME for their poorly thought out scheme to boost sales contradicts and diminishes the stance all mothers should be taking; however you decide to parent, you are absolutely mom enough.
We will not be able to truly change the conversation until we can fully convince ourselves that all parenting styles are acceptable. Basing our knowledge of all parenting styles on facts rather than on assumptions or titillating magazine covers is an excellent place to start.
*For more information on Attachment Parenting, read The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears. http://www.attachmentparenting.org/ also has some good resources. Their piece in response to the TIME ploy is a well written summary of what attachment parenting really stands for and what TIME actually acknowledges about this style of parenting.