When I was an attachment parenting (using the label and everything), I felt like other, non-attachment parents were constantly criticizing me. They just didn’t accept my style of parenting or realize that all I wanted was what was best for my child. Upon observing my hour-long ritual to get my 23-month old to sleep, my German host sister told me how her friend put their son to sleep: they laid him down in his crib with some toys and then let him play there until he fell asleep. I felt bad for their little boy, being left there all by himself. They also criticized me for still nursing my son since he was almost 2, but I was going to nurse him until he was done. I loved babywearing and felt bad for using a stroller. They couldn’t believe I didn’t even own a stroller. I felt bad for all the babies I saw riding around in strollers. They would rather be worn, I felt certain. Being around people who didn’t parent the way I did and made different choices for their kids made me feel attacked. It made me want to make sure to hang out only with other moms who raised their kids the same way as I did to ensure I would get understanding instead of criticism. I wanted to feel accepted, not attacked.
Looking back now, I realize that they weren’t attacking me. Their comments weren’t about criticizing my parenting style so much as they were about not understanding why I was placing such significance on little things that don’t matter in the long-run. Take laying with my toddler until he falls asleep. What was the benefit of that? It made putting him to bed an ordeal. I would get so frustrated that it took so long, but would try my best not to show it because I was supposed to be an attachmement parent, dammit. So I would nurse him to sleep and lay there until he was asleep enough for me to get up, but sometimes he would still wake up when I moved so would have to put him back to sleep because if I just left he would cry and according to attachment parenting, crying damages the brain. (don’t worry, it doesn’t actually)
The judgmentalism street clearly runs both ways and most parents feel like their parenting methods are criticized at one point or another, but only attachment parents have webpages dedicated to handling criticism of their parenting methods. The advice is oddly secretive. First, you shouldn’t complain to anyone who isn’t an attachment parent–“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered….seek the listening ear of like-minded friends who share your parenting philosophy.” Secondly, you should protect yourself and assure anyone who thinks you might need a break from your baby that you love being with them all the time. As all mothers everywhere will assure you, peeing with your baby on your lap is a blast. Thirdly, you should protect your child so that they don’t think they’re a horrible person–don’t let them hear the criticism. Next, you should be positive. Only talk about your parenting and child in positive terms, presumably so they have less reason to criticize you. Lastly, you should consider where they got their parenting advice (because it’s p and surround yourself with “encouragers” who will reinforce your believes.
Compared with actual advice on handling criticism, the AP advice seems narrow minded. There’s no need to think criticism might be justified when you’re practicing the One True Way to Parent. There’s no need to learn from criticism when you’re already right–it’s just too bad they haven’t done the same research as you, otherwise they obviously would have reached the same conclusion about parenting, right? People who criticize you just don’t realize that you’re just trying to do what’s best for your kids and your family. How could they possibly criticize you for doing what’s right?
However, in order to handle criticism well you have to be open-minded enough to realize they might be right. You have to entertain the possibility that you mist be wrong. I might be wrong about raising my kids multilingual. It’s entirely possible, but unlikely. But I don’t consider only hanging out with other people who are raising their kids multilingual in order to avoid criticism. That would be strange.
Ironically, these same attachment parents who are so sensitive to criticism themselves spend a lot of time criticizing others, including other attachment parents. The API group I used to be a part of dedicated an entire discussion to criticizing parents who don’t play with their kids at the park, because they always do. Other attachment parents would tell me how another attachment parent wasn’t really an attachment parent because she (it was always she) didn’t breastfeed past 8 months, babywear, stay-at-home or whatever. No matter how attachment parenting advocates will tell you AP parenting isn’t a list of requirements you have to fulfill, the reality on the ground is different. (Side note on this article: notice how sensitive Bialik is to even perceived criticism of AP)
Attachment Parenting does not take criticism well. It does not take critics well. Unlike any other parenting philosophy, it circles the wagons and reacts defensively instead of considering if the criticism might be based in truth. Those who say that AP is balanced and allows flexibility forget that they themselves use attachment parenting inflexibly. They might talk about how it’s a joyous and wonderful way to raise their kids and their family is so happy, but in the next breath repeat some of their favorite quotes:
“What’s best for the child isn’t always what’s best for the mom,” implying that moms have to sacrifice their own interests in order to do what is best for their children. Another was “The days are long, but the years are short,” which is another way of saying ‘my life sucks, but hopefully I’ll look back on this fondly when they’re grown up. Why hide these feelings in cutesy quotes instead of dealing with these feelings openly and honestly?