When you become a parent, one of the first things that you will learn is that everyone has an opinion about the way you choose to parent. From friends, family, your doctor, to strangers in line at the grocery store, everyone will impart their own unsolicited brand of wisdom — usually by telling you what you are doing wrong.
However, in the five years that I’ve been a mother, one thing I have learned is that there certainly isn’t one right way to parent. What works for one family might not work for another, and that’s okay. As long as kids are healthy, happy, and safe, do what you need to do.
But don’t think that coming to this realization will stop other people from judging you for your parenting choices.
The latest parenting trend under the microscope is Attachment Parenting (AP). Coined by pediatrician Dr. William Sears, this parenting philosophy promotes a handful of basic principles with the goal of fostering a healthy and secure bond between parents and children. While the principles of AP have been around for many years, the media has recently latched on to the less mainstream aspects of the philosophy in response to Hollywood celebs sharing glimpses into their apparently controversial parenting practices.
January Jones received a bit of attention for admitting that she took pills created from her placenta in order to help with postpartum healing. While the only thing I did with my placenta postpartum was take a few pictures of it while my midwife gave us a quick description of how it worked (fascinating, really!), I really don’t see what the big deal is. Sure, it’s not something everyone does, but it’s also not harmful and may even have some benefits. Can we just leave it alone, already?
Anything food-related seems to draw a lot of attention, from extended breastfeeding (for the record I nursed my son until he turned three — I wonder what TIME magazine would have to say about that!) to premastication, Alicia Silverstone’s unique way of “kiss-feeding” her son. While we never really implemented the baby bird technique in our house, I will say that we’ve had moments when I may have prechewed a piece of meat or my son has swiped some yummy treat from my mouth. It just happens.
The New York Times recently jumped in on the action with their “Motherhood vs. Feminism” Room for Debate series, which really wasn’t much of a debate at all, and they really just substituted AP for all of motherhood. One of the participants of the debate, actress Mayim Bialik, is no stranger to the critiques of AP, having just released a new book, Beyond The Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Bialik’s book takes the reader through various aspects of AP and is peppered with real-life accounts of how the practice works in her own household. It’s not a “how-to” book, but rather a “this is how we do things in our home” read. But that did not prevent Barbara Walters from asking Bialik if she has sex in her kitchen. No, really.
For all the current controversy surrounding AP, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It is not quite the bourgeois, elitist, hippy-dippy, crunchy parenting philosophy the media is leading you to believe. Trust me on this.
Why? Because I practice AP, but, I call it something else: Lazy Parenting™. It’s true. While the media touts the various tenets of AP as strange, out there, and controversial, I’m here to tell you that you can also look at them as a lazy (and cheap) parent’s dream solution.
First off, AP doesn’t require a lot of extraneous stuff. For anyone who has ever set foot into a Babies R Us, you know that there is a multi-billion dollar industry devoted to convincing you that babies and little kids need tons and tons of crap (that you end up just throwing out or begging someone on Craiglist to haul away from you). And that stuff costs money. Co-sleeping? No need to buy a crib. Babywearing? Most slings/wraps/carriers cost much less than strollers. Breastfeeding? Much cheaper than formula. Cloth diapers? Over the course of your child’s life, you will spend less on cloth than disposable.
Beyond the cost-saving factors that drew me to AP, I was mostly excited by the lazy factor. As a co-sleeping family, I simply rolled over and fed my child during the night, barely conscious as I did so, allowing all of us to get a decent night’s sleep. Of course, we safely co-slept, and I encourage anyone who would like to do the same to learn how to do so properly.
There are many other facets of AP that make it the lazy parent’s dream come true, but you will rarely see it promoted as such in the media. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps headlines like “Nuts, Natural, or Normal?” garner more readers than a matter-of-fact article that doesn’t sensationalize or dramatize? Or maybe it’s our society’s inherent need to judge others who are different. Today it’s Attachment Parenting under attack, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll be focused on the “Helicopter Parents” again, or working mothers, or stay-at-home mothers.
Or, we can go a whole new, revolutionary route: applauding and supporting parents who find ways that work for them instead of treating them like jokes.
Avital Norman Nathman is the blogger at The Mamafesto. Avital can be reached at TheMamafesto@Gmail.com.
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