Is Attachment Parenting a Feminist Crutch?

I read this quote the other day and I can’t get it out of my mind:

One thing I do know is that the more conservative women of my acquaintance don’t feel the same pressure to breast-feed until their kids are talking or to keep their kids by their side at all times, even bedtime. It seems that if you live in social circles where it’s simply expected that you curtail your professional ambitions and do most of the domestic work so as to avoid emasculating your husband, the psychic need to create elaborate parenting theories to achieve the same result—woman at home, tied to the kitchen—simply vanishes. Strange coincidence, indeed.

It’s from an article on Slate by Amanda Marcotte about a review of a book called The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. Sort of a new, Feminine Mystique. I won’t get started on the idea of a review of a book review.

The quote is snarky and reductive, but is it untrue?

It does fit my personal experience. The most devoted to attachment-parenting moms I know have also been weirdly defensive about their decisions to be SAHMs. They were  fairly young moms and former “rebel” girls who would frequently say things like “No one in high school would believe that I’m a stay at home mom” and “Being a mom is the most revolutionary thing you can do.”

Two of them also wound up cheating on their husbands. I’m not suggesting that co-sleeping with your baby leads to co-sleeping with people other than your husband. But, it has always seemed to me that the people who went most overboard with their parenting were also the least happy.

I always assumed that it was a cause and effect thing: If you walked around holding a 12 pound baby all day and whipped your boob out to nurse on demand for three years, you’d be unhappy, too. But what if it’s the other way around? What if being unsure or ambivalent about your choices as a mom leads you to making extreme choices?

Is attachment parenting something mothers choose when they feel like they need a reason to want to be with their kids? Is it something that women who are ambivalent about their parenting choices cling to? Is it a way that women who never thought they would accept oppression allow themselves to give in to the necessary oppression of being a mom?

I honestly don’t know. I’m just fascinated by this idea. Thoughts?

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3 Responses to Is Attachment Parenting a Feminist Crutch?

  1. zenmommy says:

    Can it be that I am the first to comment? This is sure to be controversial just by the very nature of the questions you are asking… which I for one love that you are asking. Not because I think it is so, but because I value introspection and that is what you are causing here. Why do we parent the way we parent? What drives us into different “camps” and causes all the judgement and defensiveness? The right/wrong of it all??? The mommy-wars as I here them called.

    Admittedly, your line of questioning could be offensive to someone that considers themselves an AP’ing parent. But I consider myself an AP parent and I am honestly not offended in the asking. I explore a different side to this coin here when I look at parenting and self love – said another way, parenting and LACK of self love – i.e. judgement, guilt, blame, etc.

    I’ve come to a conclusion: there’s a lot of guilt involved in parenting, and not only because we judge each other, but because we judge ourselves (which I thinks hurts worst of all). May your post (true to the nature i believe it was written) invite introspection for those that read it. I am currently nursing my twin two year olds and have two other kiddos, 12 and 9 and though I hold to much of the AP philosophy (‘cept co-sleeping which never worked for any of us at any level past the first 6-8 wks…) I am following my bliss, passionate about my place in the world, both in and outside our home. One need not vanish in being “self”less in nursing or in parenting from a place that values connection and attachment. But all things can be taken to an extreme. If one is hiding behind their parenting approach to distance themselves from others, their husbands, the real world, friends/family/etc… I would say this is not truly AP. It is what it is. AP gone to an extreme. Many good things when taken to extreme become something of a negative in and of themself.

    In the way I approach AP’ing, there is still a lot of me left over. ^_^ If we as parents – as mothers- give to a place where we have nothing left, what is the point?!??! How does this help anyone? Never be so selfless in parenting that you lose your SELF.

    ps: i write about AP and self love here and welcome your thoughts: http://mymommymanual.com/how-attachment-parenting-self-love/

  2. kantal113 says:

    Anything extreme is always bad. AP is fine, when you don’t go overboard like zenmommy said. She still has some of herself left over at the end of every day.
    Giving until you have nothing left benefits no one. As mothers, we must never forget to always put ourselves first. We have to be happy and healthy in order to give our all to our children and spouses. And I don’t mean we neglect our families, I just mean there is always a balance, and most of us tend to mess that up somehow. I know I did the first year of my son’s life, and I believe that is partly to blame for the end of my relationship with his bio-father.
    My son is now 5, and I’m newly married to a man who has 2 kids, and we’re learning to keep things balanced so that we never let our relationship suffer for the needs of the kids. It’s a tough balance to strike, but we’re getting better at it every day.

    That was a bit off-topic though. My thoughts on AP are mixed, because I wanted to be more of an AP parent when my son was a baby, but I wasn’t able. Now he’s 5 and I feel like I’ve missed a lot and would love to be able to incorporate some AP methods into my parenting, but at this point I’m not really sure if there’s much I can do. I think parents who go to extremes are afraid of the guilt associated with making mistakes, and I think it’s about control. With AP you have a lot more control over every aspect of parenting. If you go the regular route, there’s more room for error, mistakes and guilt.

    Sorry for the rambling. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Is Attachment Parenting a Feminist Crutch? (My Response) |

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