Mama, take off your training wheels

Today the mothering community was all in a tizzy after Time magazine’s latest issue came out entitled “Are You Mom Enough” featuring a mom nursing a toddler. The accompanying article is about attachment parenting and the self-appointed Godfather of the attachment parenting movement Dr. Sears.

Frankly as someone who for a while was an ardent believer in attachment parent, the cover and parts of the piece I could read for free were annoying as hell. Attachment parenting as currently practiced in many ways has strayed from its roots which are really about fostering attachment and connection with our children. Children that we are raising who will one day grow up to become adults. Instead today’s attachment parenting in many ways is a caricature of itself that plays on the insecurities we as women and mothers hold in a society that frankly does not value mothers or children. We pay lip service to the idea that we cherish moms and kids but if we did I assure you we would have things in the US like mandatory paid maternity leave. State budgets would not cut needed services for kids if we actually liked kids.

Mothering in this day and age is intense because it seems we are never allowed to find our place as mothers, to develop our own instincts that have kept the human race alive without benefit of any gurus or godfathers.  For most of us from the moment we discover we are expecting we immerse ourselves in learning as much about babies as possible, thanks to technology unlike when I gave birth for the first time in 1992 we can tap into online communities and find support which in many cases is needed and welcomed since many of us lack the neighborhood village that once existed or at least we that we think existed.

The problem is the in the months when we are gestating and in the early days after giving birth, we can also find ourselves less and less likely to develop our own instincts as mothers. Instead we parent with our training wheels on. Understandably when faced with a real live small human, so precious and gentle we need some help and the resources available now can assist us in the early days. The problem though is they also can trap us.

I speak from a place of having been there, I nearly wrecked my body co-sleeping for years, sure co-sleeping can be great but the truth is it doesn’t work for everyone. If only I had realized that years earlier, everyone in my family would have been whole lot happier.

I was attached to an ideal way of parenting and listening to a chorus that supported me when in fact I needed to trust my instincts that told me long in advance that I needed to change things up. In the end when I made changes and broke out of the mold, it made a difference, in many ways that was my first attempt at parenting my youngest without my training wheels. In the past 3 years more and more I have found my style as a parent that works best with my youngest.

Now that I am parenting without my training wheels, I find I am more confident in myself as a parent and less concerned with criticism because I stand in my truth as a parent. Yet for too many of us when we aren’t in that place of standing in our parenting truth it opens us to following the latest style or feeling that we must always explain or justify our parenting choices. It’s one of many reasons I feel the media continues to stir up the mommy storm, Time knew that putting that mom & child on the cover and titling it “Are You Mom Enough” would indeed get a reaction and sure I am writing about it, but frankly it’s less about the mom, the kid, Dr. Sears and attachment parenting as it is to say enough.

Fellow moms, we need to stand tall in quiet strength about the choices we make and not let the media pit us against one another. A friend recently told me about two associates who are now enemies…why? Apparently their parenting styles clashed; when I heard this I was temporarily dumbfounded. Frankly if you are my friend provided you are taking care of your kids, your parenting “style” is no concern of mine. Yet we live in a world where parenting styles end friendships, that’s ridiculous.

To Time Magazine, I say hell yeah I am mother enough because I trust my instincts and know my kids. You are too, so take off your training wheels and trust yourself and tell Dr. Sears to step off!

3 thoughts on “Mama, take off your training wheels”

  1. It is perplexing that people feel they need to judge the parenting style of others. Parenting is not a competition. If a child is happy, healthy and well adjusted, I say, “Good job, parents.” People, families and parent-child relationships are all so different. Telling others how to act comes from an assumption of understanding what someone else is going through; that is impossible. How can we know some else’s experience? I say read everything you can. If you get only one good idea from a book or another parent, great! Use it and discard what doesn’t work. It is the parent’s choice to decide what is right for their family (unless it’s abusive). That said, I’m not beyond commenting (privately or in general, not to the parent) on something I wouldn’t do, like allowing a four year old a pacifier in public.

    I have not read the Time article yet, but I found the cover salacious. Nursing is a time of closeness and bonding. The pose of the mother and child was unrealistic, and her clothing sexy. What a discordant message. Clearly they were not trying to appeal to mothers.

    Love your articles, btw!

  2. I don’t parent by the white societal standards. I do what feels right. The most I read about are the milestones they are supposed to be in. Not that it’s the same for every kid but it’s a good guideline. I can’t really say that I have a parenting style other than letting my kids experience life for themselves. I can a be a fierce momma when I need to be but ultimately I allow my kids to make their own decisions-most of the time. Parenting is not a hard job if you don’t make it that way. I believe if you fertilize their minds right in the being as they grow they’ll be just fine.

  3. There is a lack of wanting to think for yourself and to be active in your decision making, and I think that is some of the issue with AP folks at this point (well, some of them). They took what was a list of ideas and philosophies and turned it into something that needed to be followed in a dogmatic manner in order to “work”. I remember reading about AP for the first time before I had B, and the idea that if some aspect of it wasn’t working, then change it – the idea was to be attached and tuned in to your kid, not to follow a set of rules blindly. And when most of the folks I knew were scheduling feedings and sleep training, that was interesting and new, and hey, you mean I don’t have to follow the rules? That we can work it out? AP for me was a lot about instinct, less about the laundry list of things I “should” be doing. Somewhere along the line that changed, and it became – amongst certain circles – who could out-mommy who and who had the longest list of AP cred. And now it makes an easy target.

    I still consider myself AP, and probably always will, because of that first reading and that first understanding of what it was trying to say. And yeah, I believe it is best for my kid – or I wouldn’t do it that way, right? But I also don’t think it makes me a better mom, or a worse mom, or a crazier mom than anyone else out there.

    I read one parenting book. It gave me good ideas, and it helped me follow/trust my instincts when something felt off. And that’s what I needed to do. I can’t imagine trying to parent by checklist of what makes me a good mom.

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