Don’t Box Me In: Why I don’t want to be called an Attachment (or any type of) Parent

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


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  1. The funny thing is that not all parenting styles work with all children. In any case, people have to do what is right for them and their own kids. That can vary from day to day, as much as it can from parent to parent. I agree. It’s good to avoid labels and just be.

    • It’s true. I remember being pregnant with my 1st and thinking I needed to settle on a parenting style to adhere to before he was born, like it was as simplistic as picking out a piece of baby gear. Flash forward 3 years, and not only has my parenting approach evolved with him, but it’s also had to change as I’ve added another baby to the mix.

    • I totally agree with this! We co-slept with our almost 4 year old daughter for, umm, almost her entire life (just recently trying to discourage it), but our 2 year old son hates sleeping in our bed save the rare occasion. One liked to be rocked to sleep and the other hated that. Amazing how it all works out.

  2. I agree! I was lumping myself in the AP circle when my daughter was born. I do many thing the AP community does. However, I always felt guilty when i put my now 10 month old in a stroller; like I was being judged or something cause I wasn’t wearing her.I realised I was putting that pressure on myself.I m ok that I dont baby wear her all the time; I have a bad back and wearing her doesn’t help! When it comes to cloth diapering though, I am cloth junkie. I love them and only use them; even when we travel! But that is just me. Someone that attempts to cloth diaper or do it PT, I say it is better than nothing and he environment thanks you for it! oh did I mention I am a crazy green, tree huggin’ hippy….but I shave and wear shoes! 🙂

  3. Hallelujah! I’ve had this feeling too…often. It’s hard because we are drawn to people we think are like us, but at the same point quickly find differences and wonder if we fit in. I’ve always felt uncomfortable in mom’s groups…and I found that was because I was the insecure in how I was parenting-trying to live up to the supposed standards of the group. Now I just say f-it, take it or leave it.

  4. Wow, I didnt know that there was something called an attachment parenting community. But then again I am a full time cloth diaper who uses disposable when traveling, or we forget to do laundry and run out. I full time breastfeed, but gave my daughter a bottle of pumped milk at 3 days old. I believe in a mom/baby led schedule and sometimes let my strong willed daughter cry it out because I KNOW she is tired. I guess if I had to pick a label for myself it would just be: Me. But then again, I wasnt aware there was a label. =P

  5. Amen. To this whole post.

    Before I had my daughter I will admit I was pretty presumptuous and even judgmental. But guess what…every parent needs to do what’s right for their family. Period. I will attribute a lot of my attitude change to the blogging community and mom-bloggers I now consider friends. We don’t all parent the same way, but I think it’s safe to say we all want the same thing…happy, healthy, well adjusted children.

  6. i think this is a great post… and i think that most parents probably [have to] feel this way at some point in their parenting. and i like the mantra of “what i do is enough.” it’ll be something to say to myself if i’m ever doubting something… thanks for sharing!

  7. yes, this, definitely this. I’m expecting my second, and it actually took reading that blog post about cloth diapering part-time for me to realize that was even an option. The whole thing seemed so all or nothing to me, which is absurd and completely my own doing, but that was what was holding me back. So now, we plan on part-time cloth diapering our second, and definitely practicing whatever feels right the second time around, especially now that we know the kid won’t be breakable and we’ll make mistakes, but lo and behold, the kiddo will survive!

  8. Great post, thanks! I do a lot of AP stuff but find some people go very overboard with just about anything. I have a lovely well-adjusted 5 year old raised on my patchwork parenting styles. A bit of this, a bit of that, a lot of doing what works best for him and us.

  9. Much love … and yeah, the CDing part time thing is going great!

    … this coming from a mom whose almost 6 month old LOVED him some pre-packaged Gerber bananas last night! 😉

  10. True story. We’re just….parents. I am such a crazy blend of mainstream and uber hippie that I used to worry myself! But now, I’m just me. And honestly, NONE of my friends raise their kids the same way I do. And I’m cool with that. 🙂

  11. Great post; I could have written this myself. I’ll admit I tend to box people in as well, I think Moms would feel a lot better about themselves and their parenting if we all try to do that much less.

  12. Yes, yes, yes! I love this post — it’s hard to not try and fit yourself and others into a box, and even to feel some anxiety when you’re not fitting into that mold. But really, what you’re doing is enough — just try to be the best parent that your child needs. Every kid is different and needs a different style. I’ve ended up being pretty AP in my style, just because it seemed right. It was the way I was raised, (co-sleeping, long term BFing, babywearing), long before that was stylish or even named. It’s just what my mom wanted to do.

  13. Thank you for a bit of Mother-Guilt relief today! I’m a worrier so I have a tough time shrugging off the parenting “shoulds.” Also my sister has a Masters in Child Development and is the Mother of two gifted children… Don’t think there isn’t pressure there!

  14. Awesome post, Jill! So so true. Sometimes I fall into the trap of feeling like I SHOULD be doing this or that because it goes with what “type” of parent I kind of am, but then I have to stop and realize that no – I don’t fit into a little parenting box.

  15. I was the same way in the beginning, specially when I finally started blogging a few months after my daughter was born. My “ideals” matched up pretty much perfectly with the AP community but I found it hard to keep up. Yes, we used cloth, and yes I breastfed….but I (like you) used disposables on outings, and my daughter has had formula pretty much daily from the beginning (preemie NICU baby, so all sorts of bf’ing issues to start).

    Anywho….it was making me feel like a horrible parent because I wasn’t “all in”. Then I realized that most of my super granola friends were only semi-crunchy. We did what we could, and stuck to the ideals that were of the greatest importance to us.

    This time around I’m going more with the flow. This baby will let me know what it needs. And really, my first one did too. I think a friend said it best with she called it “Intuitive Parenting” – do what your heart tells you is right 🙂

    • I think being in the blogosphere really magnifies these boxes of people and the expectations. Most of our mom friends who don’t spend as much time online probably have no idea they exist and are probably more intuitive parents, I would guess.

      • You’re probably right…when you do too much research on a topic it can suck you in. I’m happy I’ve learned what I have, but sometimes I think our parents had it easier when there weren’t 1000+ people out there telling you how to do it differently (only the ladies at church and the grocery store LOL).

  16. TheFeministBreeder on

    I’ve had people unfollow me on Twitter when they saw me mention that I eat meat. “What?!?! You eat meat?!? But you’re a feminist!! And a homebirther!!! What’s wrong with you?! That’s murder, you animal!”

    Yeah. Because I had a Homebirth, that means I have to be vegan. W.T.F.

    • TFB! Hope you’re having a great vacation-from-blogging! Miss your wit and wisdom, but glad you’re taking time for yourself. 🙂

      Jill, I agree with your sentiment whole-heartedly. After I had my son, I really struggled because I didn’t feel like I “fit in” with the APers completely – I loved babywearing, I co-slept, I breastfed, but I never even attempted to CD, and when the time came we – gasp – did CIO to sleep-train.

      Once I let go of the all-or-nothing idea, I was able to relax so much more and really accept that my choices were best for our family, and that’s all there was to it.

      Thank you for voicing this!

  17. This is how I felt about breastfeeding. Before my daughter, I thought you had to be “all in” or “all out”. I quickly learned that I was not cut out (physically and mentally) to exclusively breastfeed. BUT I could pump and give my baby some of the “better” stuff (I didn’t say “good” stuff because formula is good too!). I think some mothers see my prepare a bottle of formula and then they are surprised to hear I cloth diaper, babywear (sometimes) and make homemade baby food. I guess I’m full of surprises. 😉

  18. This rings so true to me. I’m very similar in a lot of ways. I cloth diaper, own about 5 baby carriers, made my own baby food and breastfed exclusively until 6 months. I also work outside the home, my son has slept in a crib in his own room since basically the beginning, and I also love my stroller. My son just started daycare and he wears disposables there, and I find myself using them some at home as well. And then feeling guilty about using the disposables. And then feeling dumb for feeling guilty. I also find myself apologizing for or over-explaining my parenting decisions to other mothers when they haven’t even judged and probably don’t even care. I don’t know why I am so insecure about these things, but I do know my mish-mash of parenting styles both works for us, and sometimes makes me feel like I don’t fit in with any other group of mothers. But honestly, I probably would fit in fine with all or almost all of them, it’s just my own issues getting in the way. Anyway, your post speaks to me.

  19. So glad you posted this, and I can definitely relate. I remember feeling horribly guilty when I stopped cloth diapering, but at the time and with my situation it just became too much. I felt like I failed miserably. Matt and I also agreed that James wouldn’t start pre-school until 3 and when Jack was born that changed. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed as I desperately searched for a toddler pre-school/Mom’s day out program because I was doing it more for me than I was him. I so was overwhelmed and really needed some help. There are many more things I did/changed through the past couple of years and looking back I don’t know why I felt so guilty about it. Maybe because it wasn’t in my “plan” of how I wanted to parent. Sometimes I also think as mothers we feel guilty if we do something to make things easier on ourselves and that’s just crazy ! Why shouldn’t we ?

  20. Brilliant, just brilliant.

    I think especially how you talked about how much of this is SELF imposed. We put these expectations on ourselves and we are not upset by what others think, but what WE think about ourselves.

    I know someone is thinking, “no, it really does hurt me when x says y” but others words only hurt if we believe them ourselves. Like if someone told me I wasn’t funny or my eyes weren’t pretty enough, I’d think, “huh? What are you talking about?” because I know I make people laugh all the time and I know my eyes are my best feature. Now, if someone told me I was too much work or had really let myself ago, I would dissolve into tears. What someone else thinks can only hurt if I believe it.

    Same with parenting.

  21. And everyone here is welcome in the Good Enough Parenting community. Our standards for are pretty low, and when we can’t even meet those we have the Better Than Wolves Parenting community. 🙂

  22. I am the same way.
    Its funny, when i was talking to my midwife about my borth ‘plan’ i was all crunchy until i got to circumcision. She was surprised i wanted to do it. She said “are you sure… Its funny how u dont want any interventions but want that..”
    We are our own molds of parents… All unique and what suits our family best.

  23. I love this post. Because I can totally relate. Before I had my girl, I was adamant that we would cloth diaper and exclusively breastfeed. In reality, I found the cloth diapering system we chose to be overwhelming, and had so much trouble breastfeeding in the beginning that she actually had formula several times (the horror!). I felt so guilty at first, as if being a new mom isn’t hard enough. But over time, we found what works best for our family. At 14 months, we’re still breastfeeding twice a day, and using gDiapers cloth part time. We’re all happy with our choices.

    I still find it funny when other moms try to feel me out about our parenting style. I definitely get the “if you do x, then you should do y and z” thing, but we’re all over the map. I practiced prenatal yoga, but planned all along to have a medicated birth. My daughter wears an amber teething necklace, but we follow the CDC vaccination schedule. We never co-slept (she was in her own crib in her room from day one), but we loved babywearing. We just do what’s best for our family! And it’s working wonderfully.

  24. Brilliant post! Well put!! Was thinking the same thing. I know how you feel. And I have friends who criticize things I do. Or “simply” suggest I do this bla bla bla it’s annoying. Not everything works for every kid. We have to play around wot different thins to find what works eith our little ones. I’ve come to realization that I have a happy, rambunctious toddler! And guess what, I’m ok with that! Anyway, glad I read this! I now know I’m not the only one!

  25. I’m in the same boat. I had a home birth. We cloth diaper fulltime. I made all Isaac’s baby food unless we were traveling and didn’t have access to a fridge. I babywear. I’m still breastfeeding at 13 months.

    But my biggest issue with most AP moms is that I work full time. I am now the ONLY working mom in my babywearing circle of friends. It makes it hard when it seems like everyone you identify with has a glaring discrepancy with a major part of your life. But I’m providing for my family. Staying home full-time isn’t and probably will never be an option for me. But my son is happy, thriving, and loves to see me when I get home from work. It’s taken a year (and a reduction in my work hours) for me to become comfortable with this but that’s my life. None of my friends were judging me for it. It was all self-imposed judgement. And I had to realize that I may not be able to have homemade organic cupcakes and hand stitched stick horse favors to hand out at my son’s birthday party but screw it. It was still a fun party once I got over it.

    (We also had him circumcised and vaccinate on schedule.)

  26. I have to admit I’m a reformed (well maybe semi-reformed) judger (if that’s a word). The whole time I was pregnant I thought “co-sleeping is crazy; you’re going to smother the baby, blah, blah, blah” like the inexperienced non-parent that I was. (I’m sure I had a bazillion other judgments spilling out of my mouth but this is the first that comes to mind.) You know what I found to be the best way to get the baby to nap? Laying in bed with me. You know what I do on bad days when she won’t nap? Lay down in bed with her.

    I think the light bulb finally clicked for me when I was in the hospital after delivering and the lactation consultants being condescending b*tches because I didn’t know the proper positioning for breastfeeding and because I requested a nipple shield (like that’s somehow cheating). The whole experience made me question whether I was really fit to be a parent, if I could feed my daughter and I was going to be a complete failure in the breastfeeding department. I never want to feel that way again and though I may not agree with someone’s parenting choice I will never again make my opinion known and make someone else feel like a complete and utter failure as a parent.

    • Aw 🙁 I’m sorry you had such a shitty hospital experience with the LCs. That sucks. You’re awesome and don’t deserve to be treated that way.

  27. I ADORE this post! I cloth diaper…AND use sposies on the road. I feed my baby homemade purees…AND jarred foods. I fought with breastfeeding and finally decided it just plain wasn’t for me or my family (and felt totally guilty at first…there go those high expectations!) We co-slept with the King of Colic (my 3.5 year old) and with this baby we couldn’t if we tried..he LOVES to be put down to sleep and left alone! Both of our kids are very close in age (3.5 years and 8 months) and I have really loved your blog for that reason…we’re kind of going through the same things at the same times. It’s interesting to see all of the critics when really, people should understand that parents do (or SHOULD) do what WORKS. FOR. THEM. Thanks for saying what we can’t always put into words! 🙂

  28. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    I am a homebirther which means that I’ve found myself around a lot of moms who all cloth diaper, and I’ll be the only one pulling out my disposable. Or the funniest one for me is how I’m the only mom who pulls out her breastfeeding cover while the other moms just lift their shirts.

    But that’s just not me or how I feel like doing things. We all have our own ways. We all have personal, unique relationships with each of our children. I already intuitively know that if I have a second child, there will be things that I’ll do differently according to what works for that child.

    Awesome post, I’ll be sharing it with others!

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  30. Thank you for writing this, Jill! I was just telling a friend of mine today that a book needs to be written – and I’m happy to put in my two cents. I just kind of think…

    Babies are resilient.
    None of us really know what we’re doing.
    So stop the eff pretending like you do.
    What works for your baby probably won’t work for mine.
    I know your baby is perfect, so really, don’t waste your breath telling me again.

    Love yoU!

  31. A beautiful friend of mine once said this to me about herself and her son’s relationship and knowing what works best: “We are learning together.”

    It’s so right on. As we learn together, we know what works best for each of our sweet offspring. We have 5 and not a one of them are alike! And it’s absolutely wonderful!

  32. I totally get what you are saying. You don’t want to be labelled or boxed into a certain parenting method. However, I wrote on a similar topic today about belonging. I looked at in more of a positive light. I love the fact that there are others out there with the same parenthing beliefs or methods, I love the sense of belonging to a community. You can be an attachment parent and not baby wear everyday. You can be a natural parent and not use cloth diapers. You can be crunchy and still shave your legs. These labels need not to be viewed as so strict. I am proud to be part of many different tribes and I don’t feel boxed in. You’re right it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you, yourself, need to come to terms with that first.

    • And I have, and I still don’t want to be labelled. But, I have no problem with others labeling themselves if that suits them. Just don’t label me.

  33. Love it! In many ways I fit the AP decription, and I don’t mind that. But there are things I don’t do, and sometimes feel like I’m being judged for it. On the other hand, my more mainstream friends think I’m crazy, and my daughter is “spoiled” because I babywear, don’t do CIO, and cosleep.
    I’ve decided that you can win them all. In the end I just have to do what’s right for my daughter and my family at this time.
    Nobody else lives your life so it’s none of their business.

  34. Great post, Jill! My first kid is nearly 4 months and I can attest to how easy it is to slip into a label and feel like your own worst critic when you can’t fulfill 110% of it.

  35. This is great. I struggled at first when I would read that APs don’t send their kids to daycare. Like I wouldn’t be able to “do” attachment parenting” if I let someone else watch my baby so I could go back to work. Then I found something that basically said what you have, it isn’t all or nothing. And that is honestly probably the BEST way to parent. One fundamental of AP is just listening to your baby and letting them lead- so I feel if I’m doing that, then I’m doing what is best for him. He likes sleeping in his crib, so he does, why should I try to force him to stay in bed with me just so I can check off that box?
    One of the things I was scared most about with going to LLL was that the women would be militant, but I’ve found it is a lot of women just like me who are taking pieces of what speaks to them and implementing them in how they raise their babies, it is so refreshing and so nice to see that we can all support each other no matter the choices we make that are different.

  36. Lovely post! I fell into the same trap in the beginning and have since tried to remember that we just need to do what works for us. Every family is different.

  37. I (half) jokingly call my parenting style cheap n easy as most of my endeavors fall in one of those categories. Breastfeeding? Cheap and easy for me. Cloth diapers? Cheap and pretty easy. baby wearing? Much easier than a cranky baby!

    In the beginning I tried to align myself with the AP group too, but found I didn’t quite fit. I never co-slept, I definitely used time out and I didn’t do much child led anything and potty trained my kids way too early!

    I’m natural in some things (making yogurt and bread, recycling & cloth diapers) yet I wear makeup, color my hair and love a pedicure & pretty polish. Does it make me an oxymoron? Nope, it makes me me. My parenting style is Jenica’s and after three kids, I’m learning what works for me and my family!

  38. Great post! This is also something I’m just now figuring out for myself, and my son is almost the same age as Kendall, so I guess it takes 3 years to settle into motherhood LOL. I live in San Francisco, and sometimes it’s really hard to feel like you fit in if you’re not doing the hippie earth mother thing full force. I would never say out loud in mixed company that our son watches TV, that sometimes we spank him and that sometimes we (GASP) let him eat fast food. But, that’s such a shame. A shame that as long as we are doing things in moderation, and our son is happy and healthy, we can’t feel free to just “let it all hang out” as parents. Instead we put all kinds of undue pressure on ourselves to fit a certain mold, when in reality NO parents actually do fit inside that mold.

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