On Attachment Parenting and the Mommy Wars

TIME Magazine’s cover package this week feeds into the antagonistic, Mommy Wars culture that has become rampant in the United States.

We live in a society dominated by metrics purported to determine merit, grades and standardized test scores, sales figures and evaluations. And somehow that mindset trickles down to parenting. Turning parenthood into a competition starts early. “How old is she? How many hours is she sleeping?” “Did you give birth naturally?” Mommy bloggers post about all the minutia of babyhood in a way that makes it seem like an accomplishment.

Dr. Sears coined the term attachment parenting, and brought some of its practices to light in mainstream American society. It makes me really sad to see his work equated with competitive parents who brag about how long they co-sleep or judge others for having their baby on a schedule.

However, the media seems obsessed with the idea that attachment parenting is about mommy martyrdom. Though there are AP moms who judge other people very harshly, that’s more about them and the culture of competitiveness in our society. If you never leave your toddler or preschooler in a nursery, with a babysitter, or even with your spouse, that’s a personal choice, not one that has been dictated by the philosophy itself.

I read The Baby Book after Kate was born, and I was already naturally adopting those principles based on my own instincts and philosophy of childrearing. I found his writing warm and flexible, for example: “Do the best you can with the resources you have – that’s all your child will ever expect of you… Use these as starter tips to work out your own parenting style – one that fits the individual needs of your child and your family. Attachment parenting helps you develop your own personal parenting style.” (from What AP is.)

Motherhood is hard work. In our own human effort to build ourselves up and find meaning in our lives, we turn our choices into accomplishments, our children into gold stars that show our worth. Whether we are bragging about how many hours they slept alone in their crib or how many kids share our bedroom, we are getting it wrong every time we find our value in life that way.

We are all different, and so are our children. There is no single approach that will work for all families or personalities. That’s not to say that we ought not ever talk about our choices or seek encouragement, we all need a little help sometimes. But we need to see our own choices as doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are and give our mommy-neighbors the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the same.

7 responses to “On Attachment Parenting and the Mommy Wars

  1. Cyndy Clendenin

    I love this Kristen! I hope you and your family are doing well!

  2. Really getting burnt out on articles making AP out to be a a contest on who is the better mom. I chose “attachment parenting” based on what my daughter needed. She had severe separation anxiety when I would leave her so she would cry until she threw up and, trust me, one time I thought, “She will stop” and she didn’t stop crying! That’s why I co-slept, that’s why I never left her with a sitter, that’s why I mostly sling carried her instead of putting her in a stroller. Oh, and that’s also why I got a 3rd shift job so I could be home with her all day. When I made the choice to have a baby I knew what I was getting into. I knew my time was going to be mostly taken up by my little peanut and I didn’t care. I didn’t have a baby so DAYCARE could raise them. I wanted to raise my baby. My husband was/ is very supportive and agreed AP was the best way to make everyone happy. My husband and I would lay down with our daughter until she fell asleep and then we would carry her and put her in her crib. The quiet bedtime routine and the break from our crazy day was nice. She finally didn’t need me to do that when she was 2 yrs old. Now, you would never know she had such separation anxiety. She goes and plays and has no problems with being away from me for a few hours. People would always say, “She is the happiest baby I have ever seen!” That’s because she knew mom and dad would always be there for her no matter what. So to the people who think AP is all about trying to win some kind of contest. GET A LIFE! If you AP, you don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks…you do it because you care what your baby thinks. and that is all.

  3. I can’t express how much I LOVE this!! Sharing on FB! Hope life is treating you well.

  4. Children as a parent’s “gold stars”. I like the imagery there, though not the concept of course and find myself being careful not to fall into the trap. My own ‘happy place’ in this area has been to realize that my kids will succeed because of some things, and in spite of some things and we just have to make do along the way – and try to remember it.

    My dad said he was always slow to take any responsibility for his children’s victories when we were growing up; the way he figured it, he’d have to start taking responsibility of our faults and mess-ups, too. :)

    Thanks for this.

  5. Thanks for this, Kristen. You are such a gifted communicator and writer. Hope you and yours are well. I miss running into you and your sweet girls.

  6. “we turn our choices into accomplishments”

    I’ve also caught myself claiming as accomplishment those times when good parenting has really been nothing more than dumb luck and God’s sovereign grace over all!


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