Is “Lost” a Parenting Approach?

by renegademama


There are some seriously messed-up expectations in motherhood – you know, tummy time, extra-curricular activities, the Wiggles – but by far the most twisted, torturous and baffling (in my opinion) is the idea that I’m supposed to adopt some sort of “parenting philosophy,” — like there should be some voice inside my soul guiding my every move as a mother, allowing me to feel all confident and right in my decisions, so I can hop on parenting forums and websites to proudly announce (as we all bow our heads in reverence): My Approach.

“I practice attachment parenting!”

“I’m a cry-it-out supporter!”

“I exclusively breastfeed!”

“I think breastfeeding is the end of female independence!”

“I’m a VBAC, no Vax, CD, EBF, CS, SAHM mom!”

“I have 2 nannies and wear Chanel and see my kids on Fridays!”

(Ok I realize some of those are ridiculous, but have you read Twitter bios?)

And I’m supposed to stand behind this approach, totally and completely, because I believe in it and shit, and I get all smug when people don’t agree, and I hang out with “like-minded” mothers because they support me in my well-researched, educated, enlightened methodology.

Or not.

With my first two kids, I guess I practiced “attachment parenting.” They exclusively breastfed, on demand, co-slept from birth til 3 or 4 years old, and I picked them up whenever they cried, carrying them in slings and carriers and such.

However, I didn’t do it because I thought it was “the best way.”

I didn’t do it because Mothering magazine told me so, and I sure as hell didn’t do it because all my friends were doing it (um, I was 22 – all my friends were playing pool and drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon).

I didn’t do it because I was pressured by family members or the community (I had a Play Boy bunny diaper bag to piss off the yuppie moms in my SUPER YUPPIE town), and I didn’t do it because my husband told me I should (see above re: Pabst Blue Ribbon).

You know why I did it?

Because it felt right. It worked for me.

No, really. That’s it. That’s as deep as it goes.

I’m selfish. I’m not going to suffer through some mothering hell because the ubiquitous “they” tell me I’m supposed to. Ya feel me?

I breastfed because it seemed WAY EASIER than making bottles all the time, and I did it on demand because I couldn’t handle listening to a baby wail. Of course, it helped that my mom was a La Leche League educator who taught me Dr. Spock is an asshole. I co-slept because it was the only way I could get any sleep, and I liked having my babies near me, and felt more comfortable knowing they were right there. I wore them in slings because I found out right away that I could get way more done if I stuck them in there – they were happier for longer, my hands were free, and by breastfeeding and baby-wearing I could leave the house with very little gear, which was less to remember, and I liked that.

Why didn’t I wean my kids? Because I never wanted to. I wrote about that here.

You know why I used cloth diapers? Because I thought they were cute.

I warned you: not deep.

And so I’m going happily on my way, parenting the way I feel like it, when I come across Mothering magazine and I’m all “Wait a hot minute! There’s a name for this? ‘Attachment Parenting?’”

Golly gee I thought it was just called “parenting.”

And though I always felt a little attachment-parent-deficient because we couldn’t afford Waldorf schools or Amish toys, I’ll admit I got a little carried away, a little confident in my “approach.” I subscribed to the right blogs and magazines and read it religiously and felt a bit smug and true and right in my philosophy.

Ah, but then I had Georgia.

My third.

UH OH.

I should have known, given the nature of her birth, that she would always have her own plans, but alas, I’m a bit of a dumbass, and clearly (as evidenced by my 3 kids), I don’t learn very quickly.

Anyway, after using two cribs as stuffed-animal holders, we didn’t even buy a crib or co-sleeper or anything for the third. Obviously she would sleep with us. OBVIOUSLY.

Not gonna lie, I felt like some sort of attachment-parenting ninja having not even purchased a crib.

I should have known then I’d get my smug ass handed to me on a pretty little platter by a ten-pound bundle of crazy.

You see, this kid hardly slept at all next to me. She would like shift her body and twist and turn all night, as if she were irritated, bothered. She didn’t settle against my breast all happy; she nursed and flung herself away from me, as if to say “Thanks woman, now leave me the hell alone.” She woke up frequently and none of us got any sleep.

After about 3 months of this I finally admitted to myself and my husband: “Um, I don’t think she likes being touched while she sleeps.” We bought a $60 crib from Ikea, stuck it in our room and put her in it. She snuggled in and crashed, with a look on her face that said “Aw, FINALLY.”

And to this day, she sleeps in her crib, only coming into our bed occasionally when she’s sick or going through some phase.

As if that weren’t enough to shatter my delusions of grandeur, after about 3 months of pumping two or three times a day at work, to ensure my baby was exclusively breastfed, I found that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and, I guess because I’m selfish once again, I (you might want to shield your eyes) started giving my baby formula as well as breast milk.

Oh, the guilt! The irreversible pain!

I’m joking. It was totally fine.

Pumping every 3 hours and dealing with milk transportation and refrigeration and ALL THE SUPPLIES every day with three kids and grad school and work and babysitters was ruining my life. The formula supplement thing worked way better. Done.

And I used one of those baby carrier stroller things (a mini-version, but still) in addition to slings, because it worked better in some situations with my older kids.

And I let her watch TV occasionally.

And she quit breastfeeding around two years old, but she still takes a bottle. HORRORS!

So I guess all this makes me, what, a practitioner of “detachment parenting?”

WHATEVER.

Check it out. I have an idea. I vote that we all stop analyzing our parenting decisions in terms of whether or not they adhere to some over-arching philosophy we’ve read or heard is The Best.

I vote that we stop comparing our approaches to some magazine or blog or whatever the fuck, and trust that we know how to parent the child that exited our own vaginas, and we are smart enough and strong enough and aware enough (Stuart Smalley, anyone?) to respond to the ever-changing realities of our lives in a way that will meet our own needs and the needs of our kids.

I know, radical shit up in here.

But I mean it. We can be doctors and lawyers and brilliant homemakers and farmers but somehow we need complete strangers to tell us how to raise the kids we know better than anybody else?

It’s crazy when you think about it, right?

So here’s what I think we should do. When we’re faced with some big ass parenting decision (or even the small ones, really) and hear those voices start chattering (“this is wrong, this is right, this violates ____ belief! They say this behavior causes this one horrible thing”)…we just ask ourselves:

IS THIS WORKING?

And if the answer is “no,” we change something – even if it means we practice some whacked-0ut version of “Detached Attachment Parenting.”

Or, as I like to call it, parenting.

 

I’ll come out when my mom adopts a parenting approach.

  • Jessica Formento

    I fucking love you. Seriously…I love you. This is awesome and what goes through my head all he time. YES Thank You and YES!

  • Nichole

    Yes! This. Exactly this.
    Love it, Janelle.

  • Kristin P

    Hear Hear! My hubby and I have had this exact same conversation many times recently. I am a total “Do what works for the parents and kids that keep us semi-sane.” Every parent and child is different and nothing will work for everybody. Adapting to your child is necessary and what a boring world it would be if everyone was the same!

  • Katie Vyktoriah

    Hallelujah and holy shit. I’m so glad you’ve written this as it saves me the trouble. Having my first kid in the UK, I never had to deal with any sort of mama drama, but I just popped out number 2 nine days ago an am already under fire by the mommy brigade. I got yelled at at Disney World because I was wearing a lovely Moby wrap, and the bitch ranted that it was far too hot for my son. A lady I barely know in my apartment complex got angry that I was using a baby blanket to cover my breast feeding rather than a dedicated breast feeding apron. And a woman in the ladies restroom accused me of child cruelty for using baby wipes rather than cotton balls on a newborn.

    I am not a chewy granola type but I am using breast milk to cure my kids eye infection. This is apparently offensive to some people. But it’s working so screw them.

    At the end I the day, I am the laziest and cheapest mom in the world, which is why I breast feed, co-sleep and baby wear. I have no credo, and I’m not passionate about it. I just do what is right for me.

  • Jessica

    Yes, I love this. I’m on board!

  • Mel

    Amen! The main thing I’d like to get rid of is mums (and I think women experience this more than men) feeling like they have to justify their decisions or ‘parenting practices’ (ugh!!). IF asked, women could say “yeah I used formula/breastfed til he was 4”; “only wooden toys in this house/all plastic, all the time over here”; “she sleeps with us/in a cot/wherever she damn pleases” and that would be the end of it. This doesn’t mean we can’t have opinions, but just that it’d be great if we didn’t use parenting decisions as yet another way in which to rank ourselves or feel like we don’t measure up. Motherhood as competitive sport shits me to tears.

  • Kelly

    So true.

    Not only is each kid different, but you parent each of them differently because you typically have learned from the previous kids. My six year old gets by with a lot of shit, partially because her 20 year old sister taught me not to sweat the small stuff. 🙂

  • Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense

    My sentiments exactly. I don’t know why this is not obvious to everybody.

  • Sarah Parisi

    ABSOLUTELY.

  • Bonnie

    I was one of those crazy mommas. The one that bought every book & actually even read them all, before my daughter was born. I was confused. I was scared out of my ever-loving mind. I had friends who seemed to have amazing kids of all different ages. I had friends who had sucky kids of all different ages. So I told a woman, (technically she’s my mentor I suppose) that I didn’t know what to do when my baby arrived. I didn’t know how to go about, well, anything. She told me that her mother gave her all kinds of “old school” advice. Cry it out, spankings, sit in a playpen, etc. And she hated every second of doing that to her first daughter. (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin) Then while she sat in the hallway outside of her daughter’s door, coming up on an hour of her daughter wailing during a “cry it out” night, she said she wasn’t going to do it anymore. She was going to do what she wanted. What her heart told her to do.

    Then she told me that I was a smart and loving person. What? I guess that’s kinda true! And then she said that my husband was going to be an amazing father and I would be an amazing mother! Really? Surely you jest? Ok, possibly. She could be right. And then she told me to throw away the books and “just mother from your heart”. For real? That’s the freaking key to this whole thing? The missing puzzle piece?

    There isn’t a doctor on this planet that knows my child better than me. There certainly isn’t an author with zero children and a fancy degree framed on his/her wall that has met my child and could tell me what works for me and my blessed little girl. I’m pretty certain that I suck at what I’m doing most of the time. I’m sure that I don’t play with her enough or teach her enough. But my kid is super happy. She’s a compassionate little person who has a giving heart, a beautiful smile and prefers to be naked…always. She loves to snuggle and she loves to read. She thinks my husband is the best dancer ever (she really, really must love him).

    I suppose we are doing just fine so far. I have plenty of time to REALLY mess things up!

  • Tracy r

    Currently hiding out in my bedroom escaping the chaos that is 2 kids under 5…low and behold this gem is waiting for me. The clarity of these words just helped me make a decision thats been needling at me for days. THANK YOU..

  • Tracey aka KidLit!

    I am totally committed to the Lazy Parenting Approach (LPA baby!) I would describe it, but would be too much work. Besides, I am still tired from the nap my toddler put down for. ; 0) And no, I am sooooo not being sarcastic. Awesome post yet again, chick. You rock!

  • s roach

    Ah its just nice to hear someone say it. I basically practice what is ‘attachment parenting’. When I got a nice bouncy chair for my son to sit in and relax, I got a bit of flack from a friend who adamantly practices attachment parenting to the Nth degree. At first I thought, ah man, I’m destroying my child and he’ll never love me and trust me and bond to me. Then I thought, hey, he enjoys this thing and it makes him happy and gives me a break, so who gives a damn! Nice to hear someone just be blunt about being yourself, even if it means being ‘selfish’.

    • Melissa

      I don’t think making parenting decisions that make your life better makes you selfish, I think it makes you a good parent! One of the best things you can give your child is your own happiness!
      I did not let our first born sleep in our bed from day one because I didn’t want him to, and guess what? Since our second was born, guess who’s been in our bed every night? Just goes to show… You never know which way your life and your kids will take you! You adapt and so do they. All they need is to feel loved.
      Thank you, renegade mama, for sharing your thoughts! I sometimes feel like you are right inside my head! Love it!

  • Tina

    Gosh, the caption under that photo just made me giggle. And i am pretty sure i told you before that I love you. Your are so right, with everything you said. As always. With my first I sort of fell into this attachment parenting trap, I even joined a parenting forum online. I`m still all for breast-feeding, carrying and all that lark, because it works for me, but I have become way less judgmental about other parents since i had my second child. So yeah, as you said, do what works for you.
    And the parenting forum? I really don’t need to know when your child got tooth number seven or slept through the night for the first time, or what colour, smell and consistency his last shit was. Really.

  • Jo Eberhardt

    I’m pretty sure all those mothers who scream about how there’s only ONE right way and only ONE best way only have ONE child.

    (Or, in your case, two children with similar temperaments.)

    I’m not a co-sleeping Mum, not because of any philosophical belief but because I don’t like being touched when I’m asleep. With my first child, it worked great. I felt like a ninja when I had him sleeping through the night in his own cot at 7 weeks. So when my second son came along, I figured I had it covered. I had a SYSTEM you know.

    Cue two weeks later when I realised the only way this bawling infant would close his eyes for even one freaking second was if he was pressed as close against my body as possibly. And that’s when I learned how to co-sleep.

    If there’s one thing I learned from my second son it’s that there IS only one way — it’s just a different one way for each and every child.

  • Al

    Dude, my eldest is turning 18 and my baby 13 and you’ve nailed my parenting. I asked my eldest if he saw me more parent or peer, he said peer and i shat myself cos I’d just read an article about parenting ‘properly’. But you know what? He’s me, but with people who give a shit, he’s ok and that’s so much more than I can ask for. It’s just love in whatever way we can show it.

  • C Smith

    I really think that most good parents are the ones who are the parent that their kid needs them to be. One of my daughters only slept if she was practically attached to my side so she slept in my bed until she was 6, one daughter hates to be touched while sleeping, she loved her crib so much that she ASKED to go to bed. I’ve had a kid that breastfed until 3, and one that took a bottle at 6 months, because nursing was apparently cramping his ability to eat on the go. I’ve had a kid who carried her pacis around in her jeans pocket and one who refused to put anything plastic in her mouth. I’ve had a kid who potty-trained herself at 2 and a kid who I thought would wear pull-ups to middle school. I have a lot of kids and I’ve found that it’s easiest and most effective to follow their lead on most of the parenting “issues”. I recently found that there’s a name for my parenting style: “child-led parenting”. Twenty-two years of being a mom and I never knew I was on the cutting edgee of child development!

  • Nicola Cousins

    All I can say is “thank god I live in the UK” where apart from the initial irritating visits by health visitors they pretty much leave you alone to get on with it, and other mums are generally too polite to say anything out loud to you about what you’re doing (I much prefer it that way).

    I totally agree – do what feels right for you and works for your kids!

  • Helena Villarta

    Amen! So tempted to send a link to this blog to my mother in law… he he he

  • Jennifer Sassaman

    very much enjoyed this!
    I have found reading books to be very helpful in the same way reading books HELPED me to define my style as a director and a teacher: things that resonate w/ me I use, things that sound bad I discard (though occasionally try them when I get desperate and then revisit whether they belong in the discard pile). I will say this about Dr. Sears: he says all over his books “what works for you is what you should do. this is what worked for us, this is some of the stuff we’ve seen work for others, but you do what works for you b/c you know your kid and yourself better than anyone else”
    and that is part of why I trust him, he gives me room to make my own decisions. I do get bent out of shape when people (like that freaking time magazine article last year) try to paint him or attachment parenting in general as some cult-like, rigid structure.
    I also am glad that there are options that are presented to us in addition to all the crap that is MARKETED to us as the only option a caring parent would do.
    Thanks for your writings and congrats on trusting yourself well enough to just do what works.

  • Cath

    Yes I am a reformed ‘attachment parent’. I tried to follow totally and tried to be all steiner and wooden toyish, but turns out when the shit hits the fan I yell, when I’m tired I turn the tv on to have a break (sometimes an extended break….) etc etc.

    Parenthood became so much easier when I decided to be myself and stopped feeling guilty about it. When I let go of some of the guilt, I yelled less and was less tired. Funny that.

  • Tokarz

    well, I just have to say that i love this blog. It makes me laugh and feel good. A breath of fresh air.

  • Sara

    HA. love this. love this blog. glad to have found you. totally a homebirthing cosleeping homeschooly waldorfyish mama here who is SICK of the judging and the camps and the pointing fingers. this is HARD SHIT. we all are just trying to make it work people. SO give each other a pat on the back for the effort every now and then! we mamas ALL need some love.

  • Kat

    My kiddo has mental health issues going on. We parent in whatever way gets us through the day, and when we all go to bed at night in once piece and no one’s in the hospital, I’m grateful. I feel so blessed if we make it through a day without either me or her bursting into tears.

    We do what we have to do. I breast fed because I was 20 when I had her and it was easier than a bottle. I coslept with her because then I could just pop a boob in her mouth and go back to sleep. I didn’t cloth diaper because it seemed like a huge PITA.

    My friends call our collective parenting style “benign neglect” aka “whatever gets you through the day.” Sometimes I have awesome days with my kid, where we go to coffee shops and talk a lot, do pinteresty crafts together, marvel at nature, etc. and some days she spends 3 hours straight playing video games.

  • Nicole

    What a great post! I have so often felt that because I have not subscribed to a particular parenting philosophy, I am made to feel less of a parent. I’ve always been an advocate of every mother doing whatever makes her life easier and to hell with everyone else’s opinions. It’s not always that simple though. Thanks again for putting things in perspective.

  • Rebekah C

    I. love. this. post. Seriously, thank you SO MUCH for saying what is in my head! (again?)

    See, our parenting paths are so similar…down to the not weaning until 3-4 years old JUST because I didn’t want to. Then there was #3. Everything changed. and you know what? IT IS OK.

  • Catina

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I will keep this post to read whenever the Mama Mafia attack me again. I thought living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands would give me some protection from all the fanatical mommy advice, lit, ect. But it reveals its ugly head in every culture I am learning! Thanks for the post!!

  • Soulsputnik

    I breastfed ( and currently breastfeed) all my babies mainly because I couldn’t be arsed with all that sterilising bottles shyt. Aint nobody got time for that!

  • Katie

    Great post. I also fail to understand the need to label one’s parenting ‘style’. I know mine can change every day, or even every hour!
    I breastfeed my baby until he was 18 months old. Some say that makes me a hippy. No, breast milk is ready mixed, always at the right temperature and always available (for me). Yah. I also babywear my baby (he’s now 21 months). Another reason to call me a hippy. OR it just makes sense because now I have two free hands, a happy baby who can see everything I do AND a killer weight training regime. Winning!
    @TraceyAKAKidlet I love the LPA…. Lazy Parenting Approach. Gold.