Why I refuse to call myself an attachment parent

If you consider the typical actions and philosophies of an attachment parent, the label definitely applies to my parental approach. I respond to my baby’s cues, have made the decision to wear him and hold him as much as possible, and plan to practice positive discipline. We even co-slept for a while with Baby E, though that wasn’t our initial plan. Despite these many overlaps between my parenting style and the tenets of attachment parenting advocates, I do not and will not call myself an attachment parent.

My main reason for bucking this label is my dismay that so much of modern parenting seems to involve an adherence to binary and divisive parental decisions. Do/did you:

  • Breast or formula feed your child?
  • Co-sleep or have a separate room/space for your little one?
  • Stay at home or work outside of the home?
  • Decide to circumcise your child or choose to leave his genitals intact?
  • Vaccinate your child, either on schedule or a delayed approach, or choose not to?
  • Use cloth or disposable diapers?
  • Have a natural birth process or utilize medical interventions?

The list could be endless. Each of the above decisions, and so many more, have proponents and opponents, with research to support either claim. At the risk of sounding like a sanctimonious mommy (or sancti-mommy), I will openly admit: if you are a parent, I have, at one point, judged your choices. It’s not fair and I’m working hard to challenge myself around this practice because I know how it feels when it’s directed my way. Hell, a parent on an online forum recently insinuated that a mom who smokes and breastfeeds her child is the lesser of two evils than one, like me, who feeds her baby formula. Nice.

Parents – moms especially – have enough challenges and lack of support. We don’t need to do this to each other because systems have already set up barriers to our success. This world would be so much easier for us all to traverse if we accepted the notion that we’re doing the best that we can, making decisions that feel right to us in the moments we make the decisions.

I’ve decided not to label my collection of parenting choices because I have found, sadly, that when many of us do so, others with similar or overlapping labels take exception to ways that we seem to deviate from some staunchly held set of beliefs. Let’s be honest, how many of us truly adhere 100% to a set of experiences or beliefs of any particular identity group?

I suppose my identity as a parent will be a lot like that of my sexual orientation: too queer to neatly fit within another’s construct or standards.

10 thoughts on “Why I refuse to call myself an attachment parent

  1. I feel much the same way, however it took me a year or two to get there. At first I was all about following the things on the attachment parenting list. I wanted to call myself an attachment parent and thought that meant I had to follow everything. I not so soon learned that there were ideals from a wide array of parenting that I agreed with, and suddenly didn’t understand why I was trying to fit into a box when I had been trying my whole life to not be confined to a label.

    Good for you for realizing this so soon. It truly is a mark of your wonderful parenting, and your love for your child.

    • That’s so sweet of you to say!

      I think when I was younger, I looked at most things (other than my sexual orientation) as black/white. I’ve since learned to celebrate many hues!

  2. I really feel you on this one. I try hard to not judge others in their parenting and do a pretty good job (I think) as long as no real harm is being done to the child. Sometimes I fail, but I think that the effort is worth something. I also am uncomfortable with the “AP” label and even the “crunchy” label. Yes, we fit more of the aspects of each than we do not, but I don’t appreciate the pressure to conform.

  3. Yes! In reality most of us just parent without a label and we are all complex. Parenting is really just too hard and too individual to both parent and child to be reduced to a list of do’s and don’ts. I even found that things I thought I really had figured out about parenting actually were only the things that worked for my first child, not things that flat out worked. Oh, and I’m with you on the judgement. Pretty much everything I’ve ever judged a parent on has come back to bite me on the butt, so I find it not too hard to swear off of judgement these days just out of self-protection.

  4. love this. I would say more if there were not a baby gnawing on my boob right now.. havinga child makes you reexamine all your expectations.. of yourself and your child. I remember a psychologist who talked about how raising a well adjusted person did not require the perfect mom.. just the good enough mom. so my goal is to be good enough.

  5. Perfect! I do not consider myself AP. I just am Wallace’s Momma and I do the best I can to wade through the decisions and make the right ones for his unique person.

    I haven’t figured out how to word this analogy right, so bear with me. With Christianty, there is a set of guidelines, commandments, things you “shall not” do for fear of judgement and ramifications. With Buddhism, they are called precepts and they are to be worked toward in a way that accommodates our imperfections. We forgive ourselves and try again each new day. We figure out how each precept fits into our lives and don’t judge others for how it might fit differently for them or where they are at on the journey compared to us. That issue that erupted in the AP group, and how it seems a lot of staunchly AP people are, was like the unbending, unforgiving, damning Christian commandments. I think parenting should be more like the Buddhist precepts, the “I vow” to do my bests but I’ll forgive myself and keep working towards a better me.

    It’s almos 1am, so I really hope that makes sense!

  6. THIS is wonderful and SO well written! My husband and I (who also have a tendency towards AP in some choices and desire intuitive parenting) decided, after our son’s first year of life and learning al that is involved in the parenting world – that we refuse labels… havnig a checklist just yields the potential for guilt, judgement, self-righteousness… when we parents/families need one another – to live and journey in community as we love and guide the precious children in our lives. Thank you for your thoughts!

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