As a young, new mom, I was very overwhelmed at how to parent in the beginning. Thanks to social media, it didn’t stay that way for long.
When my son was an infant, I stumbled across Attachment Parenting – a parenting style that focuses on bonding between the mother and child and intuitively responding to the child’s needs on the spot. After hours and hours of research into AP, I became convinced that being an “attached mom” was not only the best way to mother, but the only right way to parent.
AP has a lot of wonderful concepts. In many ways it is a more balanced parenting response than that of two or three generations ago, in which children should be seen and not heard. Attachment parenting gives the infant or child a voice, and one of the quotes that most perfectly describes the attachment parenting movement is this one from Dr. Seuss which says,
“A person’s a person…no matter how small.”
It’s beautiful, right? It really tugs at your heartstrings as you realize that this child has just as much right to get his needs met as you do.
As my infant son grew I was checking all of the boxes of the recommended guidelines of attachment parenting practices (and many of the other parenting practices encouraged by AP advocates like “crunchy” or “natural” parenting). But I was exhausted, depressed, overwhelmed, and nothing seemed to be working out as beautifully as AP advocates made it out to be. I was really starting to resent this tiny human. As my son neared toddlerhood, I slowly began to move away from AP practices in hopes of finding better strategies that would help my baby learn to eat better, sleep more, and nurse less – in hopes of regaining some sanity and rest for myself.
Through this process, the Dr. Suess quote still touches my heart, and I believe there is still so much to be gained from it.
1) A person’s a person. Tiny human or adult human. Each person is an individual with a completely unique set of needs, personality, family dynamic, and extenuating circumstances. My son is not some random baby on some checklist on some website or blog – he is a person. So, when things don’t work like they say it should…well, that’s what happens when you birth a person.
One of the reasons AP really “failed” for me was that I lacked logistical support. My husband was deployed, I had no family nearby, and all of my friends were military wives in the exact same circumstances. This was my personal situation, because, you see, I’m a person. Had I been a person with a different life situation, things might have turned out very differently.
My son is now almost four years old and sometimes I still struggle to remember this concept. Just yesterday I became nearly irate as I tried some parenting trick off of some blog that the author guaranteed would work. But it didn’t work. I got mad at the blogger because she shouldn’t lie and say that something is going to work when she has no guarantee that it will work for me or my child. Now that I’ve cooled down, I just remember…Ezra is a person – just like her kids. But he’s not them. He’s his own person.
This is why it’s very important to look at ANY parenting style, method, or tip as simply a suggestion – something to try. Because your child is an individual person and chances are you are going to have to adapt it to his personality, physical needs, and family dynamic.
2) If a person’s a person, no matter how small, then it follows that a person is also a person, no matter how big. Which means…I’m a person too. I have needs. I have extenuating circumstances (such as a husband with an anxiety disorder and a chronic illness myself). Therefore, I may not be able to respond as intuitively or fully to meet my child’s needs because I am already extended in other areas.
I saw a meme on Facebook earlier this week that said this:
“Children shouldn’t have to sacrifice so that you can have the life you want. You make sacrifices so your children can have the life that they deserve.”
It sounds good on a meme, and there’s definitely validity to it. But I’m not convinced that it’s completely accurate.
A mother should sacrifice her needs to meet her child’s needs, of course. That’s just what mothers do. But when the mother spends so much time meeting her child’s needs at the expense of meeting her own needs, eventually she will lose so much of herself, or become so exhausted, that she no longer is the kind of mother her child needs and deserves.
There must be a balance between the needs of the child and the needs of the mother. I’m not saying that it has to be 50-50 because that’s just an unreasonable expectation. But mothers are people too. They aren’t just givers or need-meeting machines. They have needs that have to be met. Sometimes, meeting those needs on any given day means that the child goes without what they want, or even what is “best.”
I’m not advocating for selfish mothering. I’m not advocating for neglect or ignoring your children. What I’m advocating for is putting your oxygen mask on first so that you can stay alive to put the mask on those you are responsible for…self care, rest, and frequent kid-free breaks.
Have you ever found yourself frustrated by a parenting style that didn’t work for you or your family? How do you balance meeting your needs and meeting your child’s needs?
Aprille is a twenty-something mom of one very active little boy and the wife of a combat veteran. She blogs at Beautiful In His Time, her personal chronicle about finding God’s beauty in her often messy life – her marriage, her mothering, and her personal relationship with God. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter here!