Have you heard of permanent parenting?
It’s more commonly known as attachment parenting but whatever you call it, that label isn’t applicable to me or my parenting.
My son Toby is now five and I remember those full-on days of early parenting with a slight shudder. Initially I was so relieved when I discovered the baby sling would stop Toby crying and I got to have both arms free and constant snuggles that I used it almost constantly.
But unlike Mum-of-one Felicity Neal, who I saw on The Project last week, I didn’t last long. Felicity has not let six-month-old baby Charlotte out of her sight since she was born, and she even returned to work as a part time graphic designer wearing Charlotte in a sling.
Watch the video here:
A few months into baby-toting, Toby and I were both over it. It was a hot Aussie summer and that sweaty closeness was no longer cuddly. It was sticky, wriggly, heavy and I wanted my personal space back.
I knew from that point on that attachment parenting wasn’t really for me. My husband and I couldn’t tolerate Toby sleeping in our room, let alone our bed with all the snoring, snuffling and grunting.
Aside from the noise factor, the thought of putting our non-existent sex life any further on the skids by co-sleeping was not something we wanted. He cried a lot in those early weeks and months but we comforted him as best we could in his own room and he always settled eventually.
When the sexy times came back, we could make the most of our adult-only environ and not have to worry about keeping quiet, or having a squirmy infant booting us in the kidneys when we finally got some prized shut-eye.
Attachment parenting as coined by Dr William Sears in the 1970s is all about minimising separation as much as possible in baby’s first few years and responding to baby’s demands for food and sleep with sensitivity and intuition as opposed to establishing a routine.
The Australian Attachment Parenting Association (APA) website has much to say about the benefits of being so physically close to one’s baby and the strong bond it can create between parent and child, specifically the mother.
Where that is very clearly the case for Felicity and baby Charlotte and a number of my friends, for others like myself who did not fully embrace attachment parenting, I do believe the bond between a parent and child can still be just as strong.
These days Toby might be more interested in performing deranged wiggly bottom dances with his preschool friends that incorporate a lot of farting noises than giving me cuddles, but our relationship is as strong and loving as any other mother and son I know.
When I look back to the baby era, I see that I was a touch harsh on myself and baby Toby as I was hell bent on establishing a routine and slightly wary of the hippy connotations of the ‘attachment parenting’ label.
I often let my son cry it out and sucked up the looks of disapproval instead of just giving in and cuddling him like I inevitably ended up doing after a noisy 10 minutes of feeling like a heartless wench.
If we ever end up with a second child, I like to think I would try to incorporate a more sensitive and relaxed approach, as per some of the attachment parenting methods.
However, the idea that you have to permanently tote your baby around or co-sleep with them to create a strong bond, underestimates the importance of simply loving, feeding and nurturing your little one in the way that feels right for you.
Yes I probably read too much Gina Ford (contented baby my arse) when I should have just relaxed into the cuddles a bit more. But these are the lessons we learn as we go and I am just pleased to have survived mentally and physically in tact with a fun loving little person I can hopefully watch grow into a fun loving adult.
I may not have worn Toby in a sling for long or co-slept with him much at all, but I will remained ‘attached’ to the little bum wiggling maniac as his loving mummy until the day I die, and that is what I consider to be permanent parenting.
Have you ever tried attachment parenting?