August 16, 2005

Salon Wants You To Shut Your Attachment Parental Piehole

August may be a slow month for parenting news [book review contest *cough cough*], which may explain why novelist-married-to-a-novelist Ayelet Waldman falls back on a classic topic in her parenting column: unsolicited, belligerent, and judgmental "advice" from other parents on such touchy subjects as breastfeeding, circumcision, cloth diapers, Ferber-izing, stay-at-home moms, basically whatever you're doing wrong as a parent.

The scene of these parental flame wars isn't Urban Baby [for once], but its crunchier West Coast counterpart, the Berkeley Parents Network, and the organic grocery stores of the Bay Area. And the culprits, according to Waldman, are often Attachment Parenting diehards on a mission to save the children of the world from neglect, formula, and Chicken McNuggets.

I feel like I sound like a broken record, but there isn't one mention of a dad in the whole piece. [except for: the BPN does give advice on dealing with "philandering spouses."] Do dads get into Attachment Parenting, and if they do, do they get all in people's faces about their parenting choices? I know we've had our share of formula/circumcision/ cloth diaper flareups here, too, so maybe I shouldn't be too smug, but would this be different if there were more dads involved somewhere in the process? [And I don't mean telling women in coffee shops that "you know, breast is best," although I'm sure hilarity would ensue.]

Mind Your Own Kids [salon, via dt reader JJ]


I find the whole judgemental parenting issue with dads to be almost nonexistant. No one ever asks my husband anything about our daughter except "how's she doing?" Whereas I am queried and badgered constantly about "When will you stop breastfeeding? and blah blah diapers, and blah blah Why does she still sleep with you?" etc... It's really annoying to me that people assume that my husband doesn't have just as much say in how we raise our daughter as I do.

Dads do get involved in the process, but not in a way that you might think. From my circle of acquaintances, I've seen that the most bohemian, egalitarian, feminist couples get attracted to AP. Unfortunately, the implications of ideological breastfeeding/cosleeping/babywearing mean that the child is basically attached to the mother's body for the first several months. The effects have been surprising, in that fathers tend to get shut out of child care--in one case, "family bed" means Mom and children in one bed, while Dad is in another room--and comes under incredible pressure to get an office job and become a sole provider. If you'd have asked me ten years ago which of my friends would be most likely to end up living 1950s-style lives, these guys would have been the last on my list.

I'm sure there are exceptions, but from what I've seen, AP is a ticket to "traditional" families.

[Wow, that's exactly what I started wondering about. -ed.]

I started to post something along this track yesterday but every start I kept making was inadvertently turning out to be horrifically offensive. In general though, I do see much less rampant judgement from outsiders of how dads do things than moms. I'm worried about what my family and hers will say about how I learn to do things, but not at all about how my guy friends with kids or the public at large will look at my daddying skills.

I read that Salon piece and it kinda cracked me up. I was, like, you have HOW many kids and you're still all touchy about getting unsolicited advice? Toughen up, sister.

We do all the AP stuff -- breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping -- and we're pretty neutral in how we deal with "advice" about it, nor do we preach it, unless someone specifically asks. And then the main benefit I cite is that, for us, APing is ALL about personal convenience. Consider this:

breastfeeding = no expensive formula to buy, no bottles to wash, no smelly poop, and you can go anywhere and still feed your baby on demand

babywearing = no huge stroller to lug around, no strangers glaring at you in crowded stores or on busy sidewalks

co-sleeping = no bedtime drama, no tediously elaborate bedtime rituals, no night-time crying, and the ability to sleep in

At the end of the day, I guess I'm kind of lazy. I just do whatever's easiest. Somehow, though, the end result is a baby who is -- by all accounts -- unusually calm and communicative for his age.

To answer your question, my husband (without being at all a granola type) is probably an even bigger proponent of AP than I am, partly because APing actually allows us to get out and about almost as much as we did before our son came along, but mostly because we've all been sleeping 8-10 hours a night -- peacefully -- since the baby was three weeks old. In his opinion, we'd be nuts to give this up.

Also, being a "typical" guy (heh, let the flaming begin), he digs all the terminology: "attachment parenting", "co-sleeping", "babywearing". All these terms actually kind of embarrass me, because they sound rather dogmatic, and I'm not the dogmatic type. I just do what comes instinctively. Everything I know about AP, I learned after we were already doing it.

Interesting point, and I have no actual data to back this up, but I suspect it would still happen. Perhaps I'm basing that opinion entirely on how my brother in law looked at me aghast when I shut my exhausted two year old in his room for a nap and let him cry, though.

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