Attachment Parenting and Criticism

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?


6 thoughts on “Attachment Parenting and Criticism

  1. Haha, I sort of know what you mean. I guess people would call me a hard core attachment parent… but… I get angry, I yell sometimes. I let my kids cry (in my arms of course), I ignore my older daughter at the playground and I don’t entertain them with fake enthusiasm. It is true that AP parents can be pretty heavy on the criticism. Even though I co-sleep, baby wear, tandem breastfeed, do elimination communication, use cloth diapers, do baby led weaning, etc, etc. i also remind other AP moms that just because other parents aren’t AP, doesn’t mean that the kids don’t come from a loving family 🙂

    1. It’s more like they’re heavy in criticizing other’s parenting, but go out of their way to avoid thinking critically about their parenting (the parenting they should be most concerned with). I co-sleep (less now that my ‘baby’ is 20 months old), still nurse, EC, babywore, cloth diaper and so on, but I wouldn’t say I’m hard core AP. I used to be, before I had my second child. Now I’m just a parent and those are just some of the parenting choices I’ve made. I let my kids cry, in arms, out of arms, whatever. One of the things I found to be most freeing about not being AP is that if I have a kid throwing a fit, I can just walk away now. I get a lot less frustrated and angry. Whenever they’re calming down, I’ll help comfort them, but I can decided to walk away. With Alpha, I thought I had to sit there the whole time he threw a fit and it was so frustrating and angry. I’m glad I can walk away.

      1. I had never even heard the term ‘attachment parenting’ until my first daughter was almost a year old. Yes, I was naturally doing all the AP things, EC, baby wearing, etc. etc, but I had never heard of it. I do know what you mean about the heavy criticism. I only first met up with other AP/baby wearing group (a few months ago) after my second daughter was born. At first I thought they were being very judgmental and critical and so on. But, then, I got to know them better and realized that I was actually feeling some weird insecurity within myself. Like, oh, are they judging my baby carrier, and then I would justify and think, well, my baby carrier might not be as cool (I make most of them myself), but at least I do EC, and they don’t. Oh, it was hilarious. The mind is a funny thing! Then, I remembered a tiny bit of knowledge that people are so busy worrying about themselves that they don’t care what you do (I mean, within reason). Like, they’re all sleeping peacefully, and I’m worried about what they think about me. Do you know what I mean? But, anyway, it turns out the group is great. They are mother’s from all walks of mothering styles and they practice all or just a few of the AP principals and everyone is cool with it.

  2. I understand what you’re trying to say, but trust me: with the group of AP people I knew, this was not the case. One discussion online revolved around how one mom had been at a park and there were *gasp* parents there not playing with their kids and isn’t that sad? Those poor kids. And others chimed in to talk about how they always play with their kids at the park. Then there was just the talking-behind-people’s backs. So-and-so doesn’t do this, that and the other, so she’s obviously not AP and her son obviously has an attachment disorders (my group spent a lot of time worrying they had attachment disorders). Then there’s the simple fact that they spend a lot of time talking about how the AP methods are superior. Yes, that’s implicit judging right there because it basically states if you don’t raise your kids the AP way, you don’t want the best for your child.

    1. Wow! That’s full on! I think if that were the case with me, I would be feeling the same way! May I ask where that was? It sounds very California-ish to me 🙂 The thing that I love about our attachment parenting group is that it’s pretty laid back. Of course, everyone is into all the AP things, but if someone rocks up with a stroller or a bottle for their kid, or is yapping on the phone while the kids are playing at the playground (by themselves gasp), it’s sort of like, ‘yeah, who cares’. I think a lot of parents mis interpret the true meaning of AP. I don’t think it’s about doing everything for your kid. I think it’s about being responsive to their needs and SOMETIMES, maybe being responsive to their needs is to let them have that temper tantrum (wthout trying to stick the boob in their mouth), or to let them play at the playgound by themselves. My nearly 3 year old just learned how to swing by herself. All I do is give her a lift in, she clips herself in, I give her a big push and then I walk away and play with the baby on a bench! If she wants to get out, she has to let herself out and hop down. I think she likes the challenge 🙂 Haha, your AP group would have thought I was mean!

  3. I’m guessing the normal AP types in that group stopped posting when the psycho-types took over. I was tempted to post on there “anyone here not psycho and want to meet up?” but I ended up pretty much leaving the movement behind, so there goes that 😛 And were on the East Coast, another AP stronghold, but who knows, maybe some of the members are from California and they get it from that.

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