I own 3 baby wraps and an Ergo. I breastfeed, and our babies co-sleep with us for their first few months of life, but don’t call me an Attachment Parent. It’s not that I have anything against “attachment parents,” it’s just that I don’t want to be boxed in as any one type of parent.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned in my 3+ years of motherhood is that you don’t have to be all in with anything as a parent, no matter what the books, magazine quizzes, or online community will have you believe.
Let me reiterate that: Parenting choices don’t have to be all or nothing.
When I was a new mom, I struggled with where I fit in. A lot of the things I was doing (like cloth diapering, making my baby’s food, breastfeeding, and occasional baby-wearing) made me feel like I was part of this very specific group of parents who all did (or were expected to do) the same things. So I followed them, I listened, and then I started to feel inadequate because many of my other parenting philosophies (like modified sleep training at 7 months, and timeouts at 2 years old) that worked for me, for this family, didn’t seem to gel with their ideas (and I recognize that this was largely ME making MYSELF feel inadequate, I’m not placing the blame on the AP community).
Well, if I wasn’t one of them, who was I?
On a smaller scale, sometimes even the specific choices seem to be made for us because we can’t/don’t want to commit fully to the other option.
For example, my friend Stephanie just started cloth diapering her 2nd baby part-time. Her goal is to simply follow the Change 3 Things mission, and do her very best to use 3 cloth diapers a day. She told me that it took a while for her to realize she didn’t have to say, “I’m a cloth diapering momma, and so that is all I use and will ever use, and I will sacrifice for this cause because it’s what I do.” (Or something to that effect.) No, she could just do what she could… and that would be enough.
Even I found myself a bit of a slave to the cloth diapers in the beginning, feeling like a cloth diapering failure if I bought disposables on a road trip instead of washing our diapers while traveling. This time around, while I totally admire those who can cloth diaper while traveling, I don’t feel an ounce of guilt over picking up a pack of disposables to take with me on a trip to my sister’s in Austin. What I do is enough.
Sometimes readers and Twitter followers seem to be surprised or turned off when I start talking about things like sleep training or timeouts (or purees, but that is a whole other blog post). “But you breastfeed and cloth diaper! I thought you would do XY&Z.” Why? Why would anyone assume anything about me based on other, completely unrelated choices?
Ahhh, but I admit I do it, too. It’s easier to understand people when we box them in, isn’t it? It’s easier to find people like ourselves, who we feel safe to bond with, when we believe they feel the same way as us about every issue. (Or maybe that’s just me. I don’t mean to overgeneralize.)
Assumptions get us into very sticky, judgy, uncomfortable places as parents. It takes much more work to not assume things about other parents. It takes much more work to not box them in. Not assuming things means taking the time to ask questions, read their blog, and stepping out of our own reality to try to truly understand where they are coming from.
There is so much to learn, and so many great connections we can make if we do this, though. There is value in a circle of friends who are diverse, even when speaking about parenting choices. (And remember, even if their parenting choices are the opposite of yours, it’s okay! I’m 99% sure they don’t want to kidnap your kids and raise them for you.)
For ourselves, I think it’s important to remember you can be any type, types, or hybrid of parenting types that work for you. Even better? If that doesn’t work out, YOU CAN CHANGE. That’s another great thing about not being boxed in. You don’t feel like you’re stuck or have to dig your way out with excuses. That is the best lesson I’ve learned as a parent. It’s okay to change. You should try it sometime. Pick one thing that’s not working for you, and change it.
It’s a little scary sometimes to not have a box to hide in when I’m not sure how I feel about something, but, most of all, it’s just freeing.
(Please know this is not an attack on the AP community! I love my many friends who classify themselves as AP parents, and I find a lot of value in our relationships.)
Kendall is 3 years 3.5 months and Leyna is 7.5 months old