Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Attachment parenting: Empowering or imprisoning for women?

The latest celebrity to fan the flames of the Mommy Wars is famed feminist Erica Jong, who wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend saying that Attachment Parenting amounts to "a prison for mothers," representing "as much of a backlash against women's freedom as the right-to-life movement."

Katie Allison Granju, who blogs at MamaPundit and is the author of Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child, fired back in a guest post at The New York Times' Motherlode blog, suggesting that Jong "quit blaming mothers for the things the feminist movement has yet left undone."

And the rest of us, feminists or not, are caught in the crossfire -- again. Instead of simply agreeing that what works for one family might not work for another, we're back to slinging barbs about blame.

As in so many other aspects of the Mommy Wars stay-at-home vs. work-out-of-the-home, bottle vs. breast, single parent vs. married parent, one child vs. many, bio-mom vs. stepmom -- this "attachment parenting is evil" issue is as much about ego and insecurity as anything else. As women, we tend to tear one another down for not validating our own choices, making ourselves feel superior at someone else's expense. Sometimes, it's unconcious. Sometimes, it's right there in black and white.

"It seems we have devised a new torture for mothers -- a set of expectations that makes them feel inadequate no matter how passionately they attend to their children," Jong writes in her WSJ article before ironically going on to make readers feel inadequate for not doing what she does. "[Attachment Parenting] certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process," she writes. "If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit."

The main thing that Jong's essay seems to overlook is the fact that, if you're choosing Attachment Parenting because you feel it's what's best for you and your child, then it doesn't feel like prison -- it feels satisfying. The idea of it being restrictive and/or detrimental to a woman's well-being depends on whether the woman is practicing Attachment Parenting because she wants to, or because she thinks she should do it, or that she has to do it, and doesn't want to.

Comparing our parenting choices to those of celebrities (who, it's probably safe to say, have many more resources than we do) just feeds our insecurities -- and there lies madness.

Here's where I stand: I consider myself a feminist by default (that might be a generational thing; I certainly haven't faced anything like what Jong did when she was my age). I think there's a difference between helicopter parenting and attachment parenting. And I think that if co-sleeping and baby-wearing -- or cry-it-out sleep training and stroller-pushing -- work for you and your kid(s), you should go for it.

Did you read either Jong's or Granju's essays? What do you think? 


Monique said...

I think Jong's article is bold and opinionated, and while all of her statements aren't resonant for me, I don't think her stance is to bash attachment parenting as an idea but rather as and IDEAL. She makes some sound points and often brings up the epidemic of mother guilt from all angles - we have all experienced it. In the end she writes "We need to be released from guilt about our children, not further bound by it. We need someone to say: Do the best you can. There are no rules." It seems she isn't judging any one choice, she is judging the media/celebrity spin on myopic focus on kids. She is judging those who would judge mothers for their choices. I breast fed two kids (a total of 5 years), co-slept, and worked full time - it was right for me and hard all the same. Now...I am working hard on my profession while integrating with community, encouraging play and down time...AND I am taking care of me. In a way, I guess I do that for them too!

Jen said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Granju's essay. Jong sounds a bit off her rails in her essay. What is her point? It's been a long time since I've read a Dr. Sears book cover to cover but my takeaway on attachment parenting was NOT that we need to cocoon ourselves and our babies and shut out the outside world indefinitely and never partake in society again, as Jong seems to suggest. As a young, single mom I didn't go into parenting with a set agenda but I did know that I wanted to breastfeed and use cloth diapers, for the sake of my wallet more than anything else. Other than that, I tried a lot of different things and the one "style" that really resonated with me was attachment parenting. It validated that what I was feeling guilty about doing - wearing my baby in a sling, sleeping with him, nursing him at night, following his own natural schedule and feeding on demand instead of "training" him to a sleep/feed schedule - was not only OK but actually quite good. I have always worked full-time, putting my kids in a combo of daycare and grandma care, and attachment parenting has worked for us with all three of my children. And yes, perhaps I am guilty of "green" parenting as well, what with my homemade baby food and cloth diapers and natural cleaning products as well (which are all wallet-friendly). Like Granju, I am politically and socially active BECAUSE I'm a parent. Jong sounds really angry and out of touch in her article. There's nothing detrimental about attachment parenting - if it's a good fit for a family's style and situation, great. And if not, that's OK too.