Parenting Styles and Friendships

Recently I clicked on a link to an article titled, Can moms with different parenting styles be friends. The article described some disastrous play date scenarios in which different parenting styles led to bristling moms on both sides. The article gave some sound advice, like when you see something you don’t agree with, don’t speak out right away and try to avoid unsolicited advice whenever possible. They also recommended that women think long and hard about the value of a friendship and whether or not it’s worth sabotaging one just because you don’t agree with something your friend does.

I have to admit, my first thought upon reading the article was, that has never happened to me! I can’t imagine getting so upset over something as silly as sharing cookies at a play date (the all-organic-no-processed-sugar mom was upset the other mom offered her kid cookies). Then I realized, as a woman with very few mom friends, I haven’t actually been on that many play dates, and even fewer at the actual houses of other moms. I also realized that with children under two, there was less chance of disputes because each mom pretty much deals with their own kid. So I guess these kinds of conflicts will be in my future, whether I like it or not.

As I thought about it more, I realized I did have some experience with moms who parent differently than I do, although the distance between us has prevented any actual disputes from taking place. You see, I “know” these moms through their blogs. As I’ve watched many of my blogger friends become more sure of themselves as mothers, I’ve noticed that many have very distinct ways of dealing with the issues we all face. I will admit, while most of the time I read about their divergent approaches with curiosity sometimes I do perceive condescension and elitism in their words.

The truth is, I don’t consider myself a follower of a particular parenting style, per se, but there is a way I like to do things. Maybe some day I will read a book that describes my parenting style to a T, but so far I haven’t. So I just pick and choose ideologies and approaches that seem to fit me and I create my own personal mothering style as I go along. I’m sure most moms feel that way–that no one style completely describes their approach to parenting–but I have noticed some do seem more attracted to a certain approach than I do.

While I’ve never identified completely with any one parenting style, there is a style that I know I do not identify with, and that is attachment parenting. It is not my intention to disrespect anyone by saying that; by recognizing that attachment parenting is not for me I am not criticizing it or anyone who identifies with it. I’m not trying to declare attachment parenting as good or bad, it’s just not the way I feel comfortable parenting.

A few bloggers that I read, and actually one mother that (sort of) know here in San Francisco, seem to identify with attachment parenting, some more enthusiastically than others. While not all of these mothers would necessarily call themselves attachment parenters, many have admitted to embracing some of the style’s approaches, like baby-wearing, co-sleeping and child-led feeding and weaning.

I didn’t know anything about attachment parenting before I had my daughter. I was first introduced to it, unwittingly, through Sears & Sears’ The Baby Book, which was recommended at Kaiser’s Lactation Center. For some reason, I assumed a book available at a hospital would be free of any specific parenting philosophy, if that is even possible, and I was really thrown by a lot of what I was reading in the book. I didn’t expect to be pushed to baby-wear whenever possible (basically all day), or to co-sleep (as someone who has almost broken her partner’s nose in her sleep, I never intended to bring my baby into my bed). I also felt the book was especially condescending toward working mothers, suggesting that if there were anything a mom could do to stay home with their child, they should absolutely attempt it, lest their child suffer the consequences.

Now most of the time, when I read about mothers embracing attachment parenting I don’t think much of it. Sometimes I find it interesting that others women are comfortable with approaches that don’t speak to me at all, sometimes I’m ambivalent about it. Other times I feel I have nothing to add to the conversation because of the approaches other moms choose; I’ve noticed that many women who co-sleep or feed-on-demand confront sleep issues for a considerable amount of time, sometimes past their baby’s first year. We slept trained Isa at four months and she has mostly slept 10-12 hours a night since then, so I don’t feel like I have much to contribute to a conversation about sleep issues, especially when I know they don’t want my advice, which I never give.

Most of the time I read the blogs of attachment parenters and don’t think much of it. They have their way and I have mine; the most common, and relatively benign, result being our experiences are less relatable and I feel I have less to contribute to the conversation. But sometimes I’ll read a post or a sentence and I’ll feel judgement cast on the way that I do things, even when I’m pretty sure that is not the author’s intention. It makes sense that I sometimes feel criticized; if one person is espousing the best way for her and her child, the child she would do anything for, it’s not difficult to assume that they view other parenting styles–mine included–as lacking, even if that may not be the case. As mothers we want what is best for our child, we want to know we’re doing it right, and if someone else is doing it another way, it’s hard not to wonder if one way is right and the other wrong, especially when some literature suggests just that.

Implications can be dangerous things. If someone serves their child only homemade organic food, are they implying a mother who serves goldfish cares less about their child’s nutrition? If someone uses cloth diapers, are they insinuating that those who don’t are wasteful? If someone stays at home with their child, are they suggesting that the mother who works outside the home is less devoted? Probably not, but when we have guilt or regret or concern about our own parenting decisions we make those implications ourselves, even when they weren’t intended.

I believe that moms with different parenting style can be friends, but it might take some work. It’s definitely easiest to make connections with people who have similar ideologies, but two moms with distinct parenting styles can absolutely navigate a caring and mutually beneficial friendship if they are willing to approach each other with open minds and hearts, while leaving their own baggage at the door. If one mom is not confident in her own parenting style she will be more susceptible to unhappiness in a friendship with a mom who does things differently. If both feel in their hearts they are doing what is best for themselves and their children, they can probably remain friends, if they really want to.

Every mother has to make countless decisions for their child, and for every decision there are myraid possible choices, at least that is how it feels in this country. Have you ever wondered if that is the case every where in the world? Do parents in every country agonize over the hows and whys of feeding, diapering, sleeping and even the way their kid is transported around the neighborhood? I hadn’t thought much about it until I started reading Bringing Up Bebé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting. I’m only on chapter three but already it has me asking all sorts of questions about the professional parenting culture in the United States.

If you’re interested in exploring these topics more, I invite you to PAIL’s first book club – which of course is open to anyone who wants to participate. We’ll be reading and discussing Pamela Druckerman’s book, Bringing Up Bebé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, and using it as jumping off point to explore all kinds of fascinating aspects of parenting in the United States. I will have more information on how to participate in tomorrow’s post. I hope you all will join us!

Do you identify with a specific parenting style? Do you have friends who parent differently than you do? Has the difference affected your relationship? Does your own uncertainty about what is best ever manifest as other moms implying that they are doing it better?

27 responses

  1. Oh my – this post describes the differences between my SIL and me to a T. When I was pregnant, she gave me books for Christmas, birthdays, etc. The first one was the “Baby Book,” and I was pleased – it looked like a textbook on babies. Perfect! Then I opened it to read about sleep. Ummm… yeah. You can imagine what the other books were. I didn’t think our different approaches to parenting would be an issue but it seems to be. She is very passive-aggressive and won’t come out and say, “you’re wrong,” but she will post articles to my FB wall that counter my approach to parenting. My SIL is a die-hard attachment parenter and will tell me about her awful friends who don’t parent how she does. My MIL is the same way but states her issues with our style and definitely wants us to use attachment parenting. I, like you, don’t really know what style I am – but I know I’m not at all interested in attachment parenting and it’s the furthest from how I see myself parenting.

    Our differences in parenting have most definitely affected our relationship. It’s sad, because I don’t see myself judging her at all – if she wants to wear her kid, sleep with her, etc. – I could care less. But she has major issues with me NOT wearing my kid, NOT sleeping with him, etc. and makes it known by complaining about her friends who are like me, or by posting her issues to my FB wall. You can imagine the uproar when I posted to FB that we were going to Ferberize M (which did not work – he still wakes once a night at almost 9 months old but I think it’s because I am not ready to give up that time yet – I’m a softie).

    The mothers I do know outside of family parent like me. We’re the black sheep in my husband’s family – and I’m more than OK with that. Our kid is the one who goes to anyone, interacts with and engages strangers, and lights up every room he enters. He is the happiest and most confident baby my husband’s family has ever known – and they do tell us that. The other kids in the family – not so happy and not at all friendly. Maybe it has little to do with parenting style, but I think it has to have something to do with how they’re being raised.

    • That situation with your SIL must be very hard. I am lucky that I have not been in a situation like that, where another mother, especially one close to me, tries to force her parenting philosophies on me. My ILs definitely think I’m too “strict” and attribute my desire to enforce consequences now, when my daughter is “only” 21 months, to the teacher in me. But I feel very secure in the way I deal with my daughter. I know she is able to comprehend the consequences I give her and I hope they will help her to make better, safer, choices in the future. I hope things with your SIL improve.

  2. Ha. Wow. Yeah. This is one of the issues preventing me from getting to know some of the moms in my neighborhood. I’m fearful that they will be into more….um….intense parenting styles than I am. I also worry that they wouldn’t be comfortable with me doing something like saying “that’s enough” when their kid is out of control, which is what happened last night. The kid settled a little, but he looked shocked that I told him to do it and all I could think was “doesn’t your mother EVER tell you no?” Of course, there’s the other side of it too. I commented here the other day that I smacked my kid’s hand for a couple days to make him stop turning on the gas burners on the stove. I am positive some of your readers were outraged. Maybe even you were. And I get it; that is not an approach for everyone. But for us, well it was more important to us that no one die of carbon monoxide poisoning and that he learn this particular boundary FAST. But just the divide in opinions with different approaches, ranging from eye rolling to jaw dropping disagreement, seems insurmountable at times.

    • I also worry about having play dates and being the mother who more strongly and consistently enforces consequences for her child. It will be hard for me to watch another child doing things that my daughter wouldn’t be allowed to do without a consequence, especially in my own home. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to deal with that.

      I totally respect the firm boundaries you set around safety issues. I also speak very sternly and will grab my daughters hand sharply, if she is doing/about to do something very unsafe. I too believe she has to know immediately that certain things are never okay, under any circumstances. I’m sure others wouldn’t agree with that but it’s what I believe.

    • I think we’d be good mom friends 😉 I am strict and firm with my son, especially with safety things. He’s only 8.5 months old. My IL’s can’t believe I have rules and boundaries already – but why not? Am I supposed to let him pull and chew on chords? He understands, “no!” and he is learning that “careful” means to crawl away from whatever it was he was doing. I can’t imagine someone would have an issue with what you did to teach your son not to turn on the burners. But like Esperanza, I don’t hang out with a bunch of different moms so I wouldn’t know. The one mom friend I hang out with is firm like me (she is actually very, very strict). Our kids will probably grow up complaining about their mean moms to one another 😉

  3. I have lots of mom friends with kids under 2. I couldn’t care less about parenting styles when it comes to babies. I have a friend who co-sleeps, baby-wears, breastfeeds her toddler on demand, none of which I do, and yet we are super close. Of course I have opinions, like you, of such things as parents who don’t do any sleep training and then complain that their kid doesn’t sleep. But whatever, it’s their life. I guess I am really lucky that none of my friends are so fanatical about their baby-raising choices that they push their beliefs on me or others.

    But, I think having mom friends when we have school age children is going to be a whole different ballgame. Then issues arrive of acceptable behavior and what morals and ethics the kids are being raised with. For example, I have friends who cuss in front of their kids (not at them, just in front of them). I don’t think any less of my friends (they’re amazing moms), but that is not somehting I want my kids exposed to. So that may become an issue I have to address in a few years.

    Bottom line is we are never going to have friends that are exactly like us in all our parenting choices. I guess we have to discern what’s most important to us in a friendship- that we are like-minded or that we can support each other and enjoy each other’s company despite our differences.

    • I think you’re right, as kids get older and they are exposed to different morals and codes of ethics at other people’s houses it will be more difficult. So far the biggest issues I’ve had is with the television. When my daughter was 11 months old we stayed at my cousin’s house for a week. We had been very careful not to let our daughter watch TV before then but my cousin had the TV on ALL THE TIME. It wasn’t kids’ shows or anything, it was just the Today Show or whatever else was on. (She said she got anxious without background noise.) It was hard for me to have my daughter three feet from a giant blaring flat screen for a week but luckily she mostly ignored it. The reality is when you are at other people houses you have to work around what they do, or at least that is what I believe. I would have to consider the TV thing the next time I plan to stay with my cousin.

  4. Having lived in a few countries for extended periods of time, I’d say these difference exist everywhere. What differs is how invasive and obnoxious moms are about their parenting ways. I NEVER go to Russian-language parenting communities because I feel bullied there. It’s “either our way or the highway” ideology there.

    One of my pregnant friends mentioned that she joined an online community where the word “stroller” can get you banned from the community. That’s right. It’s either sling – or get out of our community.

    I was called cruel when I complained that I cannot find cute curtains for the nursery. Why? Because babies – and children – “should be where they belong – in their parents’ room, in their parents’ bed – until they are five years old. A separate nursery = with cute curtains – is just cruel.

    And there are so many that try to persuade me that I should bf until my kid is, say 2.5 years old. Or that it’s absolutely necessary to stay at home with them until they are at least three. I want to have three kids – what, now I have to stay at home for nine years???

    Organic food, sterilizing bottles, yada-yada-yada… I actually prefer to stay away from moms whose parenting style/views differ from my – AND who are very vocal about their ways. I don’t wanna fight over it, so I just dodge the issue – namely, the parents – altogether.

    • Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiences with parenting styles in other cultures. Maybe in some cultures there is a more accepted “right” way to do things, which might make is simpler if you’re not sure and not interested in figuring it out for yourself but would make it much harder if your way was different and you were told “the accepted way or the highway” was your only option.

  5. First of all, count be in for the book discussion! No one else I know has read it, so I’m eager to discuss it!

    I agree that I find it probably most difficult to identify with attachment parenting although my son ended up co-sleeping with us when he was about a year old when he went through a spell of waking up in the middle of the night. We LOVED it. I never thought we would do that, but it was great and now that he is such a great sleeper in his room, we miss him in bed 😦

    Honestly, I haven’t observed enough of my friends’ parenting styles to figure out what they are. I worry, though, that if we go on play dates, I’m afraid that I’ll be judged with the wild child who wants to run around and have it assumed I’m a lax mother. My MIL has insinuated that she thinks we are “soft” on our son, which is ridiculous.

    • I’m excited you’ll participate in the book club discussion. I’ll be putting more info out about it tomorrow and you can sign up!

      Isn’t it amazing how everyone has an opinion on how we parent? Having said that, I sometimes have an opinion on how other people parent too, though I always keep it to myself. But there have been times at the playground, when a child does something aggressive toward my child and I don’t feel the parents adequately step in (or step in at all) when I say something negative in my head about how that person is parenting. I try to be aware of it and stop it or at least think about it more but it’s hard.

  6. I think every family has to do what’s right for them. there is no ONE right way to parent. there are opinions on all sides about what’s best. but ultimately as you said, each caretaker picks and chooses what feels right and works for each kid. I imagine we’ve probably all felt judged at some point by someone.

    I actually do a number of things commonly associated with “attachment” parenting. but I don’t subscribe to any philosophy per se, or any prescription except what works for my family. and I’ve been on all sides of this: I’ve admittedly judged a relative for breastfeeding and babywearing well into toddlerhood, yet I am a baby-wearing breastfeeding mama to my own baby. I’ve also been judged harshly for bottlefeeding our first (didn’t matter that she was adopted). I’ve shunned sleep-training for my own kids but I would never begrudge a parent who chooses that route for her/his babies, if it works for them.

    I don’t think it’s impossible to maintain friendships with other parents who do it differently, unless there is too much judgment on one side or the other. the important thing to remember is that what works for one family — or kid — won’t necessarily work for another. (using your example, just because sleep training worked for Isa doesn’t mean it will or does for every kid; mine would work herself into a frenzy in which she would choke on her own spit and tears, for ex.)

    • I think you’re right, that what works for one kid doesn’t necessarily work for another. Like Isa didn’t even really like being worn, she LOATHED the sling and would tolerate the moby wrap but only in certain positions for certain amounts of time. She would sleep on me for maybe twenty minutes at a time when she was a new born but would conk out in this rocking chair sleeper for five hours at a stretch. And, like you also said, I knew that Isa would be a good candidate for sleep training, I just knew it would work well for her. She cried for a total of 30 minutes, over three nights and then slept great after that. To this day she doesn’t like being picked up sometimes when she is really upset, she just wants her space. I know that about her because she’s my kid, but another mom watching me not pick her up might think I’m being cruel.

  7. one more thought I forgot to add:
    I think whether you can remain friends with others becomes more significant later, as mentioned above, when discipline and related issues arise with bigger kids. but the reality is you can only choose your kids friends for so long…

  8. Ooh, I’m excited about a PAIL book club! I don’t have much to add to the parenting styles conversation. I have no idea what my philosophies are yet, though I do wonder where the line is between “she’s still getting used to us” and “I should be insisting on x,y,z” occurs. I was a little taken aback when the dr suggested not feeding baby at night and sleep training. Right now, I just want her to know we’re here to take care of her!

  9. I will admit, I do have trouble being friends with someone whose parenting style differs from mine. There are a few reasons for this. 1) parenting style gets at a lot of our philosophies on life, relationships, and everything, so if we disagree on parenting, it’s likely we don’t agree on other stuff either. 2) when I’m with other parents, we usually spend a lot of time talking about our kids, of course, so if we disagree on everything, it’s going to be hard to talk. 3) when J is playing with other kids, it’s helpful to know that they’re going to be doing things I approve of. Like you mentioned with the TV, or Elizabeth mentioned about cursing in front of kids – it’s not just THEIR philosophy, it affects MY kid too. So I wouldn’t really say it’s about judging as much as it is about compatibility in general.
    That said, I wonder what it is about attachment parenting that gets people so up in arms. Even the people who practice it are often quick to say that they’re not *really* attachment parents. Why does it get such a bad rap? I have read many blog posts, magazine articles, and online articles about people feeling judged by peers for not cosleeping, not extended-breastfeeding, not staying home (i.e. they are being judged by the attachment parents). I very rarely read of people who *do* practice attachment parenting feeling judged by those who don’t, unless it’s about not vaccinating or BFing past, say, age 3.
    Most of what I do falls under attachment parenting, but everyone is different and different things work for different people. I’ll admit that I think sleep training is cruel (I usually keep quiet about this view). But if a parent is so miserable with the night wakings that she can’t work, or is taking out her resentment on her child during the day, for example, sleep training is the better option. So I’m not going to judge others except in rare cases, like if they’re being really clearly neglectful.

    • I think you’re right, that parenting styles do reflect who parents are as people and that I assume I’m not going to like people who parent very differently than me because of that. Just like most of my friends share my political and ideological views, I’m assuming most parent-friends will parent in a way that is similar to me. I guess we’ll see.

      I just want to say, as someone who used sleep training and has worried that people would see me as cruel for doing so, I truly believe it was the best thing I ever did as a parent. My daughter was less happy all day long before we slept trained. The thirty minutes (total) crying she did over three days when we sleep trained her saved that amount of tears a hundred fold (she was really an unhappy baby when she was waking up three or four times a night). There has been a lot of research showing how beneficial and important prolonged sleep is for the developing brains of baby’s and toddlers and I wish people would take that into consideration when they are judging people who sleep train their kids as being cruel.

  10. Welp. I think you probably anticipated that I would comment on this, as I am one of your fellow bloggers who openly describes herself as an attachment parenter. 🙂

    In the beginning, I knew I wanted to breastfeed and babywear and bedshare. I didn’t know that these things fell under the AP umbrella until I stumbled onto Dr. Sears’ AP book, and when I read it I felt like it was speaking directly to my preferences and values. I suppose I embraced the AP philosophy before I even knew it was called AP. As a social worker, attachment is something that is significant for me, and that is what drove me in the direction of those practices. (I will strongly concur that there is notable bias towards stay-home parenting in AP, though I know that Dr. Sears and others have also encouraged parents to consider BFing and bedsharing as opportunities to deepen bonding/attachment for working parents who do not get to spend as much time with their children as they’d like.)

    I find it interesting that folks routinely seem to equate AP with children being withdrawn or dependent or less socially apt. My experience has been the exact opposite. Arlo is hugely social and rarely displays any hesitance to explore a new situation. I think, for us, having a secure attachment has emboldened him to be MORE independent in social situations, not the opposite.

    You have commented before on my blog that you’ve felt…hmmmm….challenged? by my personal assertions about AP, and I know I’ve said before, and I will say again, I have zero issue with people who aren’t into AP. I hope the tenor of my posts have never implied that I think my parenting style is superior to anyone else’s. I do not push AP on anyone else, not in the blog world nor IRL. I kind of feel about parenting style the way I feel about religion–I only openly talk about my experiences with people I feel safe with, and I never ever assume my view is the “right” view. If my tone has ever come across as if I were an “authority” (or some shit like that), perhaps it is because I do feel like I am an authority–on my own child and my own preferences/values.

    I have struggled with the moms in this new moms group in my new hometown, because they ARE so different from me. Meaning, they have no issue on the playground with hastily snatching their toddler by the arm and loudly yelling at him. This is not how I parent, and it’s not really the kind of behavior I want to expose Arlo to. (My problems with them have less to do with my own AP leanings and more to do with their apprent lack of understanding of child development and standard-issue toddler behavior.) I am particularly sensitive to aggressive discipline approaches, and that is due to my professional history as a child protective services worker.

    I do believe that people with different parenting approaches CAN be friends and even good friends if their friendship is built on respect for individual differences. I have a good friend who totally parents differently, but we were friends before we had kids, so maybe we just have a stronger foundation? I don’t know.

    I am interested in reading this book–I heard a ton about it on NPR when it dropped. I found myself wondering, “Do ALL French parents really parent this way?” (Because I’d expect their parenting styles to be as diverse as ours, you know???) If our library has it available I’d love to join in the discussion. We’ll see!

    P.S. I am an attachment parenter and I have THREE STROLLERS. Gasp!

    • I hope I made it clear in my post that if I ever feel reproach or judgement from a mom who parents differently than I do, be that in an AP style or not, I assume it’s coming from me and not from the other mom. I think it is very natural for a mother (or anyone for that matter) to take someone else’s words and hold them up to their own experience or decisions and determine what the differences signify. There have been times when I’m reading a post of yours and you talk about how hard you worked for Arlo and how much you love him and how of course you need to have him in bed with you, to be with him during all those precious moments and reading that does make me wonder, does it mean I love my daughter any less that I put her to bed alone, in her room and listen to her doing her “butt dance” and chattering away to herself, as happy as can be, for thirty minutes before she falls asleep and then maybe not even seeing her again before I leave for work? (Which I hate, not seeing her before I leave, and sometimes I do peek my head in just to watch her sleep). It’s hard not to hold my own experience up against yours and wonder what those differences mean. Do I love my daughter any less? I doubt it, but if I don’t need to be with her during her sleeping hours, maybe it means I do. Now I can think that and say that all the while KNOWING that you didn’t intend, or even imply that when you wrote it. It’s MY issue, not yours. And I recognize that and I hope I made that clear in my post. There are some aspects of my parenting that I am very comfortable with, like consequences. As a teacher who sees countless children who have rarely experienced a consequence for anything in their lives and really truly struggle because of it, I want very much for my daughter to have structure and understand expectations. I believe at 21 months old she absolutely knows why I don’t give her back her water cup if she throws it, deliberately, on the floor. I believe she knows why I put her in her crib for a minute when she deliberately hits me across the face. I know she hits out of frustration but I also know that already, at this young age, she knows it’s not okay to do so and when she does, I see her waiting for me to respond, to tell her whether or not it’s okay with my actions (or lack there of). That is where I feel very confident in my parents and I wouldn’t feel threatened if someone explained why they don’t provide consequences for their child yet. But with other things I am less sure, like the working outside the home stuff and the not feeling compelled to be with Isa every waking moment that we’re together. I like to give her time (and take time) and she enjoys being alone. I think that seems like a good set up we have but I can easily start to doubt myself when I hear of other mothers who spent literally every waking moment with their child and still can’t seem to get enough. But I do recognize that is my own insecurities and not the implications of the other mother. I just hope I made that clear in my post.

      • For the record, there are plenty of times when I get “enough” of Arlo, hahahaha. Let’s take this morning at 2am. And 3am. and 4am.

        I sometimes wonder if AP can set you up for the opposite–it is an intense way to parent, and perhaps it sets some parents up for burnout. I do find myself guiltily pushing away those feelings of “enough!” and I wonder if that has more to do with infertility than AP.

        Thanks for your reply. 😉

    • Sadly they are not. Bad WordPress! I wonder why it’s doing that? If you want to email me something I’ll put it up under your name.

  11. popping back in here… it sounds like you’re suggesting that “attachment parenting” equates with spending every waking moment with your kid, but I disagree. and it certainly doesn’t mean you love them any more or less.

    I believe the point is to enable strong bonding and attachment to help build confidence and independence, NOT to be glued to your child every waking minute. (as babies grow, there are fewer opportunities to do those things associated with AP — ie, when they are no longer small enough to nurse, wear, co-sleep, etc. I don’t know how anyone could do that until age 5.)

    when we adopted, I wanted every chance to bond with our baby, I wanted her to know her parents, to feel secure and not alone. now that she’s bigger and quite confident and independent (as you witnessed firsthand), it’s about teaching her responsibility and providing boundaries, and ensuring she understands her role in our family and the world. part of that means sometimes entertaining herself when mama is busy (which reminds me of the french parenting article/book) and giving her chores. all of it falls under developing confident healthy children, but it is really a mix of approaches.

    when our younger daughter came home from the NICU, she craved physical contact and I did not want to put her down. now that she’s bigger, she’s more comfortable lying on her own. but at 6mo, she still wakes multiple times per night and I nurse on demand since she is still catching up for her age/size. I don’t yet know how the transition will go with her, when the time comes, but I’m certainly not going to let any book or doctor tell me when or how to do it. we’ll do what feels right for her.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that people who use AP methods don’t exclusively avoid other philosophies, that different things work at different ages and for different kids. most importantly, none of it equates with how much you love your kid.

  12. I think Luna put it really well. I am very attachment-oriented when it comes to sleep, BFing, carrying babies, but on the discipline end I am probably more like you. I am terrible about nutrition and pretty lenient about TV. And of course, I’ve always worked. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. And also, kids are so different from each other! What you say about Isa liking to sleep alone or be alone is totally foreign to me. As an infant, J never wanted to be put down. Ever. Not asleep, not awake. It drove me nuts, and the sling was a lifesaver. I did use a stroller when we were out, mainly because of the storage space it provided, but too often it just wasn’t worth the hassle of getting it down our front steps and in & out of the car. Carrying him just seemed easier.
    It also sounds like Isa was naturally inclined to want to sleep alone. Other parents I know who’ve had success with sleep training say the same thing – that their child calmed down after 10-15 minutes from the start. I did try sleep training once or twice, and when J was still crying after an hour with no signs on stopping, I gave up. It would absolutely have been cruel to him. But if you have a child who settles that easily, by all means, it could be the right decision for you.
    And absolutely, it is not about how much you love your child. I would never think that and I hope others don’t either.

  13. This raises so many issues for me – I feel like I never had a clearly developed parenting philosophy before I had kids, and now that I have them I often feel a bit lost as to how to handle specific situations. My sister is an AP devotee – it is quite literally her religion, and Mothering Magazine is her Bible. When my daughter was born, our doula guided us into a co-sleeping arrangement and gently and indirectly nudged us in the AP direction. Also, a friend of mine gave us the Sears book when I was expecting. As naive and somewhat anxious new parents, we just went with it. There have been times since then when I have wished silently to myself that I had never heard of attachment parenting. Sleep for us has been absolute hell. My daughter didn’t start sleeping through the night until she was almost 2. I have not had a good night’s sleep in almost 4 years. We did CIO at last, but I think our inability to fully commit to it lessened its effectiveness. Or maybe my kids are just predisposed to being poor sleepers. I tried to do things a bit differently with our son, but we’ve ended up with much the same scenario anyway. The other parts I feel less strongly about – I’ve used a stroller and I’ve used a sling; I breastfed my daughter until she was 17 months and quit on her own and I’m still BFing my son who is 20 months. But I have no judgement on moms who use formula.

    On the other hand, I do think that people who commit to a particular parenting philosophy must at some level really believe in it, otherwise why would they do it? And if they believe in it, how could they not judge someone who does something a different way?

    Here in Albania, there is pretty much ONE shared approach to parenting, and people feel very free to correct you if they see you doing things “wrong.” Some aspects of it I appreciate very much – like teaching young children to be gentle and loving towards babies smaller than themselves – encouraging small children to start walking as soon as they are reasonably able to, instead of depending always on the stroller, for example. Socializing small children to play together in groups. What I always get yelled at for is not bundling my children up sufficiently against the cold – anything short of a down jacket, scarf, and mittens is not enough – or for not feeding my baby cow’s milk at 2 months, or meat at 4 months.

    Anyway, I always feel like I have a lot to learn, especially about discipline. Given my life philosophies I’m troubled by the use of coercive power to discipline children but I’m not sure how else to approach it. Or when the use of coercive power is actually appropriate.

  14. OMFG. I just wrote a long, earnest comment and WordPress ate it.

    Maybe it’s for the best.

    AP just wasn’t going to work for me with my tiny preemie twins, a husband working crazy hours AND getting his MBA at night and on the weekend. (Oh, yes. It used to be much worse.) I was basically a single mother. I got the Sears book, read the meager chapter on “multiples” and threw it across the room in anger.

    That said, I deeply admire those who try.

    I think in the end I think what’s most important is to show and tell our kids that we love them. I can pretty much guarantee that EVERYONE here is doing an absolutely amazing job parenting. We take nothing for granted, we are thoughtful and incredibly grateful. And our kids see that every day, and it makes them sparkle.

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