On Being an "Attachment Parent"

by Boon and Boys

Why did I put "attachment parent" in quotes?  Well, I don't like to label my parenting or anyone else's for that matter.  I think it's silly to title parenting styles when they're all just different approaches to the same goal.  Am I an attachment parent?  I guess so.  I looked up what attachment parenting is and Attachment Parenting International defines it as "[being] about forming and nurturing strong connections between parents and their children."  They continue, "Attachment parenting challenges us as parents to treat our children with kindness, respect, and dignity, and to model in our interactions with them the way we'd like them to interact with others."  So, yes, I guess I'm an attachment parent.

My parenting, however, isn't derived from or defined by any website or parenting theory.  I choose to parent the way I do because I believe it is best for my child.  I like to think that all (or hopefully at least most) parents parent this way.  Good or bad, they parent out of the belief that what they are doing will result in the most well-adjusted adult.

So, what does my parenting look like?  I co-sleep (and bedshare) with Henry.  I babywear.  I breastfeed.  I let him sleep on me and in my arms.  I include him in my daily activities.  I don't put him in daycare nor have I left him with a babysitter.  I'm with him 99.9% of the time, other than when he's with my husband while I take a two minute shower every other night (and even then sometimes they stand outside the shower waiting for me to get out).  At first I couldn't leave Henry for any amount of time with out him crying hysterically.  Videos and pictures of him with my husband depict such an upset baby that I cried when looking at them.  Now, he enjoys his time with his dad, but still doesn't relax quite as much as with mommy.

Could I force him to sleep in his own crib, be away from me, and be content at all times  in his car seat, stroller, and high chair?  I could.  Should I?  Maybe.  Do I believe I should?  Absolutely not.  

There's a definite downside and sacrifice to the way I parent.  I am often exhausted mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Carrying such a heavy baby all the time is physically tiring, not sleeping soundly results in never ending sleep deprivation, being with Henry all the time to meet his needs without time to recharge myself is incredibly draining.  There are times when I feel like I've had enough.  Times when I want to pass him off and let him deal with the consequences (and yes, I feel like a horrible mother for feeling that way).

But, there are also upsides.  I know without a shadow of a doubt that my son trusts me and feels safe with me.  He soothes so quickly with me.  He can fall asleep easily in my arms.  When he gets hurt exploring the world (even on my watch), he knows that he can come back to me for comfort, reassurance, and security.  I'm teaching him that there is consistency, safety, and love in his world.  That his needs will be met.  That his cry will be heard.

So, yes, parenting this way (whether it's considered attachment parenting or not) is exhausting, and it's definitely not always enjoyable.  It requires me to put my needs and desires on the back burner, but it's also so rewarding.  I am helping shape my son every day, giving him the upbringing that I believe is best, and nurturing the beautiful innocent soul that his is.  And, as a gift back to me, he gives me love every day in the form of precious cuddles, kisses, and smiles.