How I Failed at Feminism and Attachment Parenting
Do the French Really Have it Better?
I’ve been a parent for over 13 years and a user of the internet for the same length of time. I think the World Wide Web has been good for mothers, because before the internet, how could thousands of women effectively judge one another? Previously we were limited to judging those in our immediate neighbourhood and extended family circles. Aren’t women are so lucky now?
Having children had always been part of my plans and I was going to apply the same principles to raising children as I had in other areas of my life. I refer to this as the “least work required” principle. For me, this meant breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and baby wearing. I was also fairly certain that I’d stop working and stay at home because it would mean less ironing and pantyhose.
Once my daughter was born and my plan was implemented you can imagine how pleased I was that the Internet told me that I was doing it the “right” way. Apparently, the methods I had enacted were going to lead to a happy, well-rounded, secure child who would excel at everything she attempted due to my input. Plus, she would never need braces or a tutor. Indeed, she did start walking early, slept for hours on end, used a fork and knife very young, and gave me parallel parking tips at age two.
Attachment parenting was working! So when my son was born five years later, I employed the same routine. But this time, it wasn’t so easy.
This baby never slept. When we brought him into our bed he kicked us in our faces and slammed his tiny hammer fists into all of our soft spots. In the sling he would scream at volumes previously unrecorded on earth, and despite producing more milk than a steroid laden Jersey cow, I could never get him to be full. At two, the only “tips” he offered involved earplugs and effective soundproofing materials.
At the same time, we were undergoing a major renovation of our upstairs level, and the family was confined to living in our tiny, dark basement. I was living like a mole, but with less counter space. Plus, I had a baby who apparently hated living outside of a uterus. In a word, it was horrible, and I had to get out of here. I got a part-time job at a cafe, and left my son is the care of others. He still screamed and refused to sleep. (Although he did walk at eight months, but I think that was because he wanted to come looking for me.)
At first I was worried about leaving him, because “leaving” him and getting out of the house went directly against the idea of attachment parenting and the version of feminism I defined for myself. How could I be attached to him if I was, well, unattached from him?
I’ve been interested in the discussion lately about the “French” method of mothering versus attachment parenting. French children supposedly sleep in their own beds, daily quiet time is expected, and mothers seek life outside the bubble of domesticity. This apparently culminates in happier mothers and by extension, better behaved children. This may very well be true. (However, I bet if I had Merlot and brie at lunch, I’d consider my children the best behaved as well.) But I think this study was good news for feminists and mothers. What the study revealed should be read as permission to take time for your own happiness. Your baby won’t shrivel and waste away if you take a break for an hour, or a day; whatever you need. You need to take care of yourself to properly take care of your children. Six months away from a newborn at a tantric sex/yoga retreat is probably too much, but 6 hours at workshop would work.
I identify as a “feminist.” This means I strive for women to be empowered to make choices without having to bow to societal pressures and patriarchal influence. For my first baby, I wanted to stay home. Feminism in part means having personal autonomy and agency without restrictions based solely on sex. Some people (many NOT feminist) believe that feminism is synonymous with working outside the home, career building and fiscal contribution. I chose to stay home with my children. For me, it was the best place. I don’t believe children cannot be raised to be loving, self-actualized contributing members of society unless they have a stay at home mother. My kids are all of these things, and I was (and am) a “stray-at-home” mother.
I look at motherhood like I look at a buffet: wear comfortable, stretchy clothing that will hide stains, carry a big waterproof purse, and take heaping helpings of what appeals to you.
Jeni Marinucci is a mom of two, writer and the author of the blog highly irritable.