October is attachment parenting (AP) month. You may or may not be familiar with this style of parenting but many green, natural, crunchy, granola parenting types are. It seems to mesh really well with lots of the other things we hold dear. A group of green/natural mom bloggers have recently gotten together to form a weekly column called Green Moms Weekly and the first question that was posed to the group honors attachment parenting month. The question is “How do you balance your busy lifestyle and manage to keep a focus on attachment parenting?”
For me, AP it is about letting my mommy instincts direct my actions. As a younger mom I loved to hold my babes close to me and breastfeed. I let them do this until they were ready to stop, to honor their need for this closeness and because I knew that breastmilk was the best nourishment for them. My mommy instincts also told me to go to my babies when they cried and that is what I did, ALWAYS. I never listened to mainstream advice that babies need to be on schedules and that letting them cry alone will teach them independence. I let them sleep with me as long as they wanted because it was easier on both of us. Mainstream advice that declares you will never get kids out of your bed once you let them in is just a bunch of hogwash. When my kidlets cried and wanted to be held when I needed to make dinner of do some other chore, wearing them on my back allowed me to meet their need for attention AND get my work done. When they misbehaved I knew that deciding I didn’t want to strike them wasn’t going to result in a brat… despite what all the “spare the rod, spoil the child” folks had to say. For me AP is all about listening to my instincts and my heart.
So why the question about how to balance a busy lifestyle and still be an attachment parent? Well, AP is “get off your butt parenting” in my mind. The contrary advice to let kids cry it out, stick them in bouncing seat when you need to do dishes, spank them when they run into the street, and give them a more convenient bottle is all a way to make parenting easier for us, but not necessarily better or easier for the child. An attached parent will likely create a family bed so that everyone can sleep together. They will wear their babies in a wrap or hold them instead of delegating that duty to a swing or bouncy seat. They breastfeed and/or pump well into the toddler years because it is important to their child and it is the best source of nutrition. They will be supervising their child closely so that the running into the street moment can be used to gently teach and coach. In fact they anticipated that moment because they have gotten good at reading their child. Because they always use their words instead of their hands… their kids respond well to reasoning. Hitting becomes a senseless and irrational choice.
Attachment parenting is very involved parenting, and for that reason it can sometimes conflict with the more hurried pace of lives today. I don’t know that what works for us will work or other attached parents but I know we have made many very conscious decisions to slow our pace of life and give our kids the attention they need and desire. Being too busy for attachment parenting isn’t an issue when you simply make sure you are never too busy. We wanted to stay attached at the heart AND live our best lives. I became a stay at home mom so that I could be the primiary caregiver for our kids. This allowed me to breastfeed exclusively and for extended periods of time. I chose natural childbirth for my last two births and we kept interventions to a minimum so that bonding and breastfeeding could happen immediately after birth. I wore two of my babies in slings and wraps and all of them slept in bed with me. My 5 year still does quite often. We decided early on to always try and use positive discipline methods and to respect our kids. We tried to find ways to meet everyone’s needs simultaneously and sometimes that was a lot of work.
Balance was much harder when our kids were young because very often we had to compromise and make sure their needs were met first and foremost. Their need to co-sleep trumped my need for not getting kicked in the stomach at night. Their inability to handle the excitement of traveling meant we had a staycation instead of a vacation. My husband’s need for a sane, well rested wife was trumped by the needs of a small infant who who used me as an all day milk buffet, which meant I was often hormonal and tired. I guess I feel that when our children are young they should be the priority. Aka breast feeding even if your dog tired or co-sleeping even when you’d rather have your husband all to yourself. As my kids get older I think they benefit more from seeing parents who love themselves, take care of themselves, and have varied interests that they actively pursue. I also think it is important for them to see that their parents prioritize each other too. As they get older they benefit less from having a shadow to meet their every need and more from seeing good examples of others doing and living for themselves. We don’t tell them how to live, we just live, and we let them watch. So in terms of priority for the first five or so years of their lives it was all about them. Now the priority list looks somewhat different but it works well because the foundation was so well laid, they are happy independent kids that are accepting of that much needed shift.
To keep things balanced and attached now, we mostly just have to listen. We listen to them daily, carving out certain times that are distraction free, and we stay attached by staying in the loop. We help with homework and we stay connected to teachers. We homeschool when or if we need to. We put our family before “things” and “stuff” so this means we work as little as we can and make do with less. Our kids may have fewer toys and electronic gadgets than the kids next door but we have more time to spend with them. We have a neighbor child who is always bragging about her toys and video games, trying to goad my children but then every weekend this same child looks at us longingly as we pull out of the drive to go apple picking, to a Pumpkin Festival, to a movie, or to some other local event that her own parents don’t have time for. I know how lucky we are and I think our kids do to. Balance is about spending time doing activities with them and yet allowing them to pursue their own independent activities when they need and want to. For us it is also about knowing which child needs a bit more attention and giving it to them. Since we have two a-typical kids… one with some severe developmental and speech delays and one with high functioning autism, it is helps greatly to be flexible and unhurried in our daily lives.
For us, life during these years of their development is less about balance and more about figuring out how to stay tuned in to them as we ALL become more independent and find new priorities and interests. I am sure it will be no less exciting than the baby and toddler years. In fact I am sure it will be even more so because with older kids it really does feel like we are all in this together… this wild and crazy journey called life.
Leave a comment to tell me how you stay connected to your kids in this fast paced life and be sure to visit the other Green Moms Weekly to read about how they answered this question. Enjoy!
Monday, October 3rd, 2011