Attachment Parenting is Hard When You Are Not Attachment Parenting

‘Attachment parenting will set you up for – I’m not going to say failure – but for a very difficult time’, says Jasmine Homer.  (watoday.com.au)

Entering a 42K marathon expecting to run a 5K race will set you up for- I’m not going to say failure- but for a very difficult time.  And if you’re training with running buddies that are sprinting or running the 5K race, you’re going to have a very difficult time. And if you start off running that marathon with those sprinters and those 5K runners.. You’re going to have a very difficult time. You’re going to start out running as fast as you can to keep up with the friends that are running a shorter race. But when they get to stop you still have far to go, and with resources depleted by sprinting to keep up.

Starting medical school expecting it to resemble your sixth grade biology class will set you up for- I’m not going to say failure- but for a very difficult time. And if all your friends are talking about how easy biology class was and you’re taking that and applying it to your medical school experience.. You’re going to have a very difficult time. You’ll wonder why you’re failing the tests that you didn’t expect, and why you’re up all night studying while your friends are out partying.

Deciding to climb a mountain and preparing to walk up a hill will set you up for- I’m not going to say failure- but for a very difficult time. And if all your friends are walking up hills and talking about how it just took them an hour to get to the top as you’re struggling along to reach that peak of a mountain.. You’re going to have a very difficult time. They’ll have reached their goals long before you have reached yours, and you’ll feel like a failure even though you’ve gone much further and over a much more difficult climb.

The problem isn’t with the goal, it’s with the mistaken perceptions. It’s with the lack of preparation. It’s with talking to the people who are doing things So Very Different from how you chose to do them that you feel as though your method is a failure rather than a different goal, a different set of choices, a different destination.

If you have accidentally stumbled into attachment parenting, you’re doing a great job following your instincts. Congratulations. But you still need the right support, the right people to talk to, the right resources, and an understanding of the beginning, the middle, the milestones, and the “end” of the race that you’re running.

Otherwise conversations go like this:
“I’m so tired.”
“Oh. My baby sleeps through the night.”
“How did you do that?”
“I let him cry it out.”
“Oh. I’m cosleeping.”
“I’d NEVER co-sleep. My friend’s niece’s daughter’s brother’s cousin slept with his parents until COLLEGE. Or maybe it was high school. But it was definitely for at least the first TWO YEARS. And it was horrible. It destroyed his parents marriage.”
“Oh.”
“You should let your baby cry it out. It’s the only sensible thing. Stop torturing yourself. A happy mommy has a happy baby.”

Instead of this:
“I’m so tired.”
“Me too. Last night was rough.”
“Sometimes I wonder if this will ever end and if I’ll ever sleep again.”
“Oh jeez. You WILL. This is my third child so I know how it goes. It feels endless in the beginning but that’s because your little one still has so many needs and is so dependent. But as they get stronger and bigger and can meet their needs better they become SO independent.”
“It’s just hard.”
“It is. Your baby’s six months old right now though. That’s a HUGE growth spurt. So what you’re feeling right now is burn-out from that. I try to know when the growth spurts are so that I know that’s why I’m struggling and it makes it easier to move through them. What are you struggling with most right now? Maybe I’ll have a trick that can help you get a little bit more sleep.”

If you’re attachment parenting and don’t have AP friends to talk to then you end up feeling like you’re spoiling your child, your child is manipulating you, you’re being yanked around by a mean puppeteer who is selfishly depriving you of everything that you need because children are horrible little creatures that need to be trained.

That doesn’t make for happiness.

It’s not that attachment parenting is difficult. It’s that being surrounded by people who are doing things differently than you.. Is difficult. It’s that being prepared for one thing and then doing something else without fully understanding the reasons why or how it will progress… Is difficult.

Attachment parenting is awesome and worthwhile. Yeah, it’s hard. Any path you choose is hard. But when you understand what you’re dealing with and when you’re surrounded by supportive people… It’s worthwhile.  An investment rather than time wasted.

Find your tribe. If attachment parenting is what you gravitate to instinctively, find people  who are also following those instincts. The language that you hear, the tricks you can learn, the companionship on your journey.. It all sets you up for a lovely worthwhile time rather than a Very Difficult Horrible Time.

I’m not having a Very Difficult Horrible Time. I’m having a difficult but worthwhile and meaningful time that is incredibly joyful and amazing. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Even though I really do love me some sleep. 

  10 comments for “Attachment Parenting is Hard When You Are Not Attachment Parenting

  1. May 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I feel like that article is a bit odd. I can understand feeling trapped by a child that will only nurse to sleep, that wakes several time a night, that doesn’t settle to sleep (and stay asleep) unless a caregiver is close (although I think it is a sad reflection of our society that these behaviours are considered so unacceptable) I don’t understand the blaming of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting didn’t dictate to her that she made those choices.

  2. Jen
    May 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for being a voice for our tribe Sarah – your words bring us together and provide light in the darker hours. You also show us how you celebrate this amazing, but challenging, attachment parenting journey. I’m honoured to be a mother who is a part of this tribe.

  3. Simone
    May 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Hooray!!! Thank you!!!

  4. Sarah
    May 3, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I needed to read this because I do not have a “tribe” as you said and this was like a breath of fresh air to my soul! I’m going to start praying for a tribe so I’m not always the odd man out when talking with girls friends – it gets so exhausting some times!

    • sarah
      May 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      wanna come join our online tribe? many of us have found our tribe with the “Wait It Out” or Joy in Gentle Parenting groups over on Facebook. :) can’t beat real life tribes, but it helps us all stay focused. :)

  5. Kemma
    May 4, 2013 at 5:00 am

    This article is currently doing the rounds in the New Zealand media and it makes me pretty mad!

    Although I’m more about “gentle” parenting rather than full-on “attachment” parenting, this article does a complete disservice to a parenting philosophy that works for a lot of families! And it strikes me that whilst the author might be utilising some of the tools of attachment parenting (co-sleeping etc), she isn’t actually practicing attachment parenting, she’s practicing desperation parenting.

    Because at the end of the day, attachment parenting is a philosophy that isn’t a quick fix at all and is focussed on the long term rather than the “right now”.

  6. Suzy
    May 6, 2013 at 9:00 am

    I never even thought about AP as the woman who wrote the article on WAtoday does. So I laughed about it… as I do with any (sad or sick?) joke….
    But I agree with the post on top… It’s a very sad thing that society sees infants needs as horrific manipulating acts…. in staid of what they are…needs, simple as that.
    So I go on… breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping and enjoying my 15 month old girl as much as I can. Until the day she can handle the world on her own…
    Thanks again Sara for your encouraging words and giving us that “tribe’ feeling 😉

  7. Emily
    May 8, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I have not found AP to be difficult. I feel centered, proud, in love with and able to understand my baby. Of course, this is in part because of this blog and AP groups online. Thank you!

  8. Emily
    May 10, 2013 at 6:08 am

    Yes, yes, Yes! Thank you Sarah, you are so right.
    I’m a daycare teacher in a mainstream centre. This job works in that it allows me to help support my family, and have my son nearby. But being surrounded by fellow staff, who tell me that I’ve brought tiredness upon my self… It starts that “other” little voice of doubt in your head.
    I am, however, glad that I get to be a different voice for our parents. Someone who will say – Thats really hard! Do look after youself. You are the expert on your child. No, sometimes, they do just need to be held, to have time-in, to be forgiven.

  9. August 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    GOOD attachment parenting is about respecting and meeting EVERYONE’S needs as best they can! It is NOT just becoming a slave to your infant. I think there is a middle ground missing here- yes talking to mainstream parents who haven’t done much research and just tell you horror stories (like cosleeping until college) may not be the best company to keep but neither are moms who just tell you to ignore your needs and scold you for being anything other than a martyr:/ I’ve seen far too much of that within the AP community both IRL and online. Frankly when it comes to sleep with my next baby, I plan to make “The No Cry Sleep Solution” my Bible. I can’t believe how many hardcore APer’s shun even that! It saved me when I was nothing but a walking zombie literally running into walls (I stopped going to play groups when I started walking into other ppl’s kids EEK!) from a 18mo who insisted on nursing all night long. No philosophy is worth a d*** without a good dose of pragmatism! Keeping yourself away from the cult of martyrdom mothers is equally as important as staying away from the nay saying mainstream AP critics.

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