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Attachment Parenting

is all about commitment. My children were the ones who taught me all about it and how critical it is to sustainable health, wellness, psychological fortitude and the establishment of one’s BACKBONE – that critical element in the development of self that gives us resilience, confidence, self respect and a core internal belief that we are connected through love. Our backbone determines everything about us: how we take on the world, our curiosity, ability to try new things without fear, not give up, give unconditionally, love without fear of failure, trust and bounce back after a fall.

I believe that every woman, upon giving birth, feels a powerful biological drive to nurture and protect her newborn. If left to her own devices she will be drawn into an immediate and deep connection with her child, afterall it’s a simple preservation of the species drive. What happens to most mamas however is a rapid disconnection with their infant.

To begin with, most pregnancies are managed by doctors and women are guided to believe they know less than the experts about their bodies, labor and delivery and infant care. This conditioning sets the stage for the massive failure of a mother’s natural ability to make a deep and lasting connection with her infant.

Hospital birthing, even when the birth is completely undrugged and natural and the mother has rooming in with her baby, will work to separate the mother from her child. Monitoring of the mother by professionals to “teach” her about how to hold her baby, how to nurse, how often to nurse, removing the baby from her arms when she is asleep, disrupting her flow, rest and thoughtful connection with her child all serve to disempower her natural, biological drive to nurture and protect her child.

In a typical situation, even while the mother is feeling and enjoying her bond with her newborn, she is bombarded with well meaning friends, experts and loved ones who convince her they know more than she does: advice on how not to “spoil” the baby by holding, feeding or carrying him, assurances that all babies go to daycare or have babysitters/nannies and they are fine, declarations of mama boredom which will ensue if mom doesn’t return to work, fear that lost income will be devastating to her family, etc. In most cases, there is so much pressure to conform to the fears and advice of others that babies are quickly put on the back burner of priorities and relegated to schedules, third party caretakers and managed to conform to what the norms are for their family or community, religion or culture.

It’s no wonder the vast majority of children, teens and adults in our world are in desperate states of dysfunction! Witness the rampant dissatisfaction among people of all ages: how often do meet anyone of any age who says they love their life? How often do you come to know someone who does not spend a good deal of their time complaining about the external variables that impinge on their prospects for happiness? This widespread discomfort and psychological malaise is directly related to one’s sense of self which has its formation in infancy and early childhood.

When left to her own devices, a mother knows how to achieve pregnancy. She is ready for motherhood when pregnancy occurs. She is capable of naturally birthing her child under the most challenging circumstances. She knows intuitively how to hold her child, offer her her breast for feeding and nurturing. She is immediately establishing a core resonance with her child that will grow moment-by-moment and nurture not only both of them but all of those around her through her example. She will learn through her motherly connection how to listen, communicate, respond and resource for child. As nature has designed it, she will learn what her child is here to teach her: human beings need commitment to thrive. It’s as simple and profound as that. There are no shortcuts. Mothering is not only the most important job on the planet but the most challenging, rewarding and life-altering. Why wouldn’t all mothers choose this?

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. gunta #

    My guess is that bringing up your children gently takes more of the mother than many have. I like what Robin Grille says, that we can be only as good parents as the support we are getting. Very many of us are not getting nearly as much support as needed. It’s exhausting to keep listening to yourself, trusting yourself after many years of being told to listen to others, to trust others. Besides, listening to one’s children if the mom was not listened to herself, makes mothering much harder, as you would have to reparent yourself, too. It’s like having twins, and one of them is extremely high needs ๐Ÿ™‚
    I believe that we are supposed to learn how to take care of children by how we are taken care of ourselves. If we need to simultaneously get rid of the old models, work through our own old stuff (kind of unavoidable if we are changing family patterns, imho) and figure out what to do instead, it’s more work than it’s sometimes possible to do. And it’s extremely important to do it anyways.

    May 16, 2012
  2. a few points: bringing up children gently may require more introspection, more challenge to the norm but from an energy-expenditure point of view, the alternative is so much more stressful and challenging because (I believe) it goes against the grain of what feels right and true and real. I realize it might just be me, but that’s my take.

    I also agree that support is a wonderful asset to have, but disagree that is the most important thing. To believe this is to give your power away to the external: I can’t feel love unless others love me kind of mentality. Bull. The reason we are here is to ask the questions, dig deeply, become uniquely thoughtful, arrive at an internal place of peace and strength. These things cannot be accomplished by looking to others for support. Assistance is nice but, given the fact that each person’s story and experience and hence, support, is different, the input will always just be noise – no different than reading books, watching movies, etc. Sure we like our social outlets and our like minded connections, but what is going on inside of each of us is … our own responsibility. To abdicate that responsibility and explain it away to what others can or should do for us will always leave us wanting… and critical… and helpless and dependent and unfulfilled.

    May 16, 2012
  3. Robyn #

    Hmmm… I need to admit I’m still stuck thinking that without support, it’s nearly impossible to parent. I don’t talk about “good advice support”, but actual support as in “helping out, doing things”. How could a single mother without the grandparents near her make a living and still be there for her children full-time? Don’t we either need someone to support us financially while we stay home with the children or someone looking after them (preferrably family members) while we earn a living?

    May 17, 2012
    • gunta #

      Exactly! Very interested in what Barb will say!

      May 17, 2012
    • stuck is a good way of describing what you feel and where you are. do you believe that you create your own reality? do you believe in personal responsibility? if so, you know then, at least on some level, that what you believe will be true for you. if you believe you cannot love yourself unless others love you, then that is the way it will be for you. if you believe you cannot survive without your husband’s income, then you won’t. if you believe you will get breast cancer because your mom and grandma and sisters all got it, then you probably will. (do you know about epigenetics? the science that proves that we are a product of what we believe, not genetics!)

      how could a single mother without any external or human financial support survive? the ways are endless and taking place all around you all the time. perhaps you can’t see them because you believe it is not possible. (it’s sort of like what happens when you get a new car – all of a sudden you are noticing all the people on the road who drive the same car as you. they were always there, you just never noticed them.) personally, I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way. it matters not what the obstacles are; I believe I can not only overcome them but learn and grow and become stronger and more confident because of them. it’s a very fun and often challenging life that keeps me thinking and rethinking all the time.

      does this help you at all?

      May 17, 2012
      • Robyn #

        Dear Barb,
        This does indeed help me a lot! As you say, if we believe that we’ll get the same illnesses as our family members, this will probably be the case. My mother and my grandmother both were single mothers and never cease to say how they wouldn’t have been able to pull it off if it hadn’t been for their mothers who helped them look after the children. So I absorbed this belief. But “where there is a will, there is a way” is my absolute favorite saying and I do believe it! Sometimes I just need you to push me a little to believe myself more ๐Ÿ™‚ So I didn’t ask you this question because I really do think it’s impossible to do without support, but rather because I was stubbornly believing and hoping that you’d tell me it IS possible because that’s what I want to believe.

        May 17, 2012
  4. Robyn: It is not only possible, in many cases it is desirable. At least it has been for me. Looking at the bright side of things (as I always do), when you have no support you are also left without the unsolicited advice, criticism and judgement that grandparents and other family members pour on you. I know I could not live with that on a daily basis.

    May 18, 2012
    • and I would say WRT to Carmen’s input that one of the best thing my husband and I ever did was move away from our parents whose input we did not want. The distance we created gave us the freedom to live life on our own terms, figuring it out one day at a time. I don’t think we could have done that if we’d been bombarded with our parents’ influence on a regular basis.

      May 18, 2012
    • gunta #

      Actually, you aren’t left without the unsolicited advice, criticism and judgement of your family even if they are far away, as you carry the memories, patterns, automatic reactions learnt from them. My family lives pretty far away from both extended families, and yet, there are so many things I get to work with daily. The tricky part for me is that most of it is unconscious and tends to come out in times of stress.

      Barb, it sounds that you were not doing it alone if your husband supported and helped ๐Ÿ˜‰ I understood that you are claiming that the mother is better off raising her children on her own, preferably without any input from others.

      I believe that it is better to forgo the wrong kind of support with strings of control/manipulation attached. I still maintain that it is better to have the right kind of support (every mom will figure out what kind that is) in order to be the best mom one can be. It certainly is possible to do most of the work alone (a movie Kukushka comes to mind, about a Saame lady living on her own far away from anyone, tending to her reindeer and ultimately raising her twin sons without any help of anybody), though at least for me I do much better, I am much happier if I get to have a reflexology session once a month, if I have a friend to talk to even on skype or phone at least a couple of times a month. Having a trusted person to call to when in need of a sounding board/been-there-done-that -stories feels good to me, also the possibility of discussions on internet forums.

      Thank you for this discussion, I’m getting a lot out of it.

      May 19, 2012
      • I and my kids also live far away from both sides of the family. My husband has never been around much, although he is getting closer to the kids (two boys) now that they’re not toddlers anymore. He always left the whole responsibility of raising the kids to me, which is what his father did to his mother. He claims not to remember much of his childhood (he blocked it out). I remember everything and that’s why I could make the conscious effort to break the cycle. I still love my parents and in-laws, but have made it very clear to all of them that I don’t want their input. I’ve been told I’m too nice to the children, I should look out for myself more, have a break, not tolerate their crying, get a babysitter, etc. by well meaning friends too. As soon as my mother-in-law starts telling me about how well her other grandchildren are doing in school and how much they love it, I make an excuse and leave the room, because I know what she’s doing. As soon as my father nods his head and says, ‘I have to tell you this because you’re my daughter and I fear for the future of my grandchildren: you’re making a mistake’ I stop him and say: ‘You made lots of mistakes with me. It is my turn now to make my own, so stay out of it.’ But it is true that we can find support elsewhere and there is a lot. I find it in friends that are willing to listen to a different way of doing things even if they don’t agree with it, and on the internet. Recently I started blogging, in Spanish (my native language) and in English, and I’ve noticed that helps me a lot. Last but not least, I find the greatest support in my own children. They are only 4 and 5, but when sometimes I get desperate and feel like I’m going to run out of patience, I ask them what I should do, and they do help me!

        May 19, 2012
        • wow Carmen, you seem like a strong woman indeed! I don’t know if I would have your courage in the face of direct and ongoing objections from my family. I think I would react with anger and then lose a bunch of sleep over it. We all need to do what feels right to us, there is no recipe or right way for all of us. We are all faced with our own internal machinations, challenges of understanding others, learning how to nurture and love our children in fresh new ways that feel connected and powerful to us and them. I love that you ask your 4 and 5 year olds for advice – I did that all the time and was continually amazed with their ideas and solutions to problems. Yay!

          May 19, 2012
          • Thanks, Barb. Actually, that’s how I reacted in the past: with anger and loss of sleep, even if I let them know what I thought and asked them to mind their own business. I think I’m now better at rolling my eyes and let it slide.

            May 19, 2012
        • gunta #

          “I and my kids also live far away from both sides of the family. My husband has never been around much, although he is getting closer to the kids (two boys) now that theyโ€™re not toddlers anymore. He always left the whole responsibility of raising the kids to me, which is what his father did to his mother. He claims not to remember much of his childhood (he blocked it out).”

          I could’ve written this myself, Carmen! We have 2 girls, and I have blocked out most of my childhood, too. I do remember some of my feelings though, and that is what keeps me on this path. I just know how easy it is to slip into those ready-to-use, unconscious patterns and how hard is to figure them out, change them, find new ways. My 6yo is pretty good at reminding me to breath and that I love her (in my darkest moments, I can feel no love in the whole universe), and my preverbal 2yo just insists on hugging.

          Barb, you wrote about mother’s needing to be left to her own devices and later about single moms doing it on their own – I read that it that you suggest that it is better than having support. I suppose you meant unwanted support? But then it is not really support? Oh, and a question: why do you seem to liken support to love?

          May 20, 2012
      • Ahhh yes gunta, what to do with all those memories of advice, judgment and criticism. That’s called psychological baggage and we all have it. Coming to terms with it, eliminating it, replacing it with our own self-designed ways of thinking and being is our work.

        As for going it alone in this life without support… I am not sure where you got this idea but I wouldn’t recommend it! I believe as social beings we all need support, but as you said, we want to be strong and confident enough to choose the support that feels useful and like true support!

        May 19, 2012
  5. Claire #

    Hi ladies, thanks for the interesting discussion. I totally understand the need for space and protecting oneself from negative comments and unbalanced criticism about your parenting choices from others esp family and close friends. However I still believe that it takes a community to fully raise a child. No man is in island and no parent is either. Extended family is important for children, even annoying ones who don’t do things the way we want. Ultimately we as parents are the greatest influence in our children, but my raising them sensitively with unending commitment we are raising balanced confident children full of live, compassion and self belief. Some of this journey for them involves interacting with others who are different and trusting what you are sowing will enable your child to take the good and leave the bad firm others. But I think we are doing our kids a disservice if we isolate from those who are difficult or not the same as us in our lives. Much love to all you committed mums x

    June 9, 2012
    • Thanks Claire for your thoughtful comments. I think diversity is important, but I think it’s critical that children (and each of us) always feel free enough to choose those we want to share company with, learn from, etc. If my child is uncomfortable with a family member or other relative, it is not my job to make them endure but to facilitate their choice… and conversation and reflection and expression of their feelings, etc. in the process.

      June 9, 2012

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