Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Motherhood: In Advocacy of Mothering and Attachment Parenting

Hear that clankity, clank, clank, clank around your ankles, mama?

Those are the chains you're sporting from attachment parenting -- babywearing, breastfeeding and cosleeping, just to name a few.

Wear your baby?

Add a link.

Blend his veggies yourself?

Attach another.


Bring on at least a dozen more shackles.

Oh, you didn't feel them?

I didn't either.

In fact, I didn't even know I was being "victimized" and "imprisioned" until I read Erica Jong's Wall Street Journal article Mother Madness, in which Ms. Jong renders Attachment Parenting practices like babywearing and breastfeeding them imprisioning and likens them to modern-day tortures that actually bind women into parental slavery.

Respectfully, I must say, Ms. Jong, in regard to Attachment Parenting, you don't get it.

Jong states:

Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It's a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women's freedom as the right-to-life movement.

Jong rehashes her memories of being a single mother with a career in relation to a few AP practices. She says she liked breastfeeding, but her daughter hated it. And how on Earth was she to keep her child close by snuggling her daughter in a carrier while she was working when the workplace barely supports breastfeeding {a whole different issue!}?

Well, I wish someone would have shared with Jong quite a bit about Attachment Parenting and its "rules", as she calls them -- as likely she would have found AP practices to be freeing rather than binding and guilt inducing.

AP practices like sleep sharing, breastfeeding, babywearing and responding with empathy are tools we mothers {and dads} can use to help lesson the anxiety that comes with parenting a new life {or two or three or four} and help us mothers maintain a sense of ourselves while parenting.

By breastfeeding, we can go anywhere with baby and exert little planning. We don't have to fret over finding water or a place to mix formula or even remembering to bring the formula.

By babywearing, we have to free hands to go about our daily tasks while keeping baby close, easing mom's mind and the load on her arms.

By responding with empathy, we get to know our babies and understand what they need instead of becoming frustrated by their cries.

And the list of benefits extends beyond those few experiences that serve as examples of how mothers find freedom to maintain their normal activities while parenting.

Babywearing, for instance, doesn't have to be utilized by working parents solely as a way to take baby to the office; but rather it provides a means of being close when mom gets home, has to make dinner but also wants to snuggle her baby.

As Jong elaborates, her misguided perspective on AP becomes sadder and more absurd: she also blames AP for keeping parents from being active in governing decisions and positions:

Indeed, although attachment parenting comes with an exquisite progressive pedigree, it is a perfect tool for the political right. It certainly serves to keep mothers and fathers out of the political process. If you are busy raising children without societal help and trying to earn a living during a recession, you don't have much time to question and change the world that you and your children inhabit. What exhausted, overworked parent has time to protest under such conditions?

Attachment Parenting doesn't call for me to tackle parenting alone, without community {or family} support -- it encourages relationships between families and between our children and other trusted caregivers.

Our local Lake County AP group has been the opposite of isolating -- it's a community of overflowing support. I know if I need help, I can call anyone of my fellow AP moms, and they would extend care in a heartbeat -- I know this because I've been there, in a position of needing help.

When my dad died, some brought meals. When I needed a last-minute sitter so hubby and I could go to a group meeting, another AP mama was there. And so on.

As for AP practices making us parents too tired or worn out to engage in the political process? You'd find the opposite.

Many mothers in my local AP group are very involved in our goverment and political processes through voting, petitioning our congress people and even teaching classes -- and we pass these values onto our children as well.

This kind of involvement in the political processes obliterates Jong's theory of parenting being an avoidance strategy for us to escape bigger, global problems. She says,

It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child's home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.


As AP parents, we are simply trying to raise children who will be thoughtful, compassionate, contributing members of society.

And with AP, we do that by MODELING behavior.

We act out what we expect -- whether that means treating others the way they want to be treated, clearing the dishes from the table, casting our premeditated votes on election day, sharing our food with those in need or volunteering for causes in which we believe.

Mamas, don't let anyone tell you that your job as a mother isn't important or that being a mother is just a trendy, fashion statement.

Don't let confused women like Jong persaude you into thinking that responding to your child with love and grace and affection isn't one of the most empowering and important jobs we women have.

While I raise my coffee mug in a toast applauding that we shouldn't place shackles on each other by creating lists of "you musts" or hinge our entire our lives on being successful parents, we must not take lightly the job of raising our children to become THINKING, COMPASSIONATE, CONVICTED people.

AP gives us tangible ways with which we can respond with thought and love, which, model for children how they, too, can respond in thought and love in small situations as well as very grand ones.

And our tools -- babywearing, breastfeeding and responding -- are just that -- tools that help us respond well and teach well how to interact with people and situations.

Mamas, you are, indeed, raising small people to become bigger people who will take on the larger problems we face as a global community.

And you, AP parents, are teaching them how to do it through expending great thought and great love that your little ones will one day echo.

It's not AP practices that are imprisioning me, shackling my feet and attacking my spirit-- rather it's women like Jong who insist that mothering is not an honorable, necessary job.

I've taken to heart advice dispensed through my Vantage Point 3 Emerging Journey leadership class regarding jobs, vocation and calling:

"Go where your deep desire and the world's deep need intersect."

For me, in this season of my life, that place of deep desire merging with the world's deep need is here, at home, mothering my children.

And this place, Ms. Jong? It's not a prision; it's a beautiful labor of love rooted in the deep soil of a soul who was created to be, yes, a writer and a teacher and an activist, but also, {equally wonderful} a mother.


  1. SO eloquently written! You know I was equally taken aback and disappointed by Jong's attack.

  2. When did Ms. Jong write that, in the 50s? It sounds soo oldskool! Don't have time to stand up politically? Huh? I am shocked.

  3. This isn't the first nor the last offensive article I've read on motherhood - and I think it has a lot to do with driving readers to their articles. Bad publicity is still publicity right? I don't pay attention to naysayers any more than I do to those who tell me what I must and mustn't do with my child and my role as a parent.

    Everyone's different and I respect each individual person's choice but if they were attacking my beliefs directly, I just think about how much they're missing out by not being in my shoes. :)

    But well said all the same, and I admire your conviction. Keep on preaching mama! :)

  4. After I had my first, I remember a mom telling me she felt judged that she didn't breastfeed. From that point I made a conscious effort to not judge a mom that didn't share my same parenting priorities. And I'm sure some judgemental looks escaped but at least I made (and am making) an effort.

    I wish I could say the same for the way I had been treated though. I've actually been scoffed by friends for my choices, hearing the line, "it's great for you, I just couldn't do it." Which would have been find, even comforting, if it hadn't been for the condescending tone and looks.

    Articles like Jong's only add fuel to the fire of intolerance.

  5. Good think you got a hold of this before I did! LOVE your passionate response. Ditto, ditto, ditto.

  6. That was beautiful! Long before AP was fashionable, we called it 'parenting', it was what good parents did. We cared for our children, we responded to their needs to make them feel secure and loved. It's the reason we had children no? To care for them and mold them into productive humans. Breast feeding and baby wearing is not for everyone, but if it didn't workout for you Ms Jong, don't attack those who enjoy it just because maybe your nanny bottle fed you formula and let you CIO for hours.

  7. That was a great response! Thank you for putting into words what so many mamas feel about our journey/job/passion/calling of motherhood.

  8. Amen...
    You did a great job with your response to such a... dare I say... hurtful article.

  9. bah! i didn't read her article, but those kinds of mommy war tirades make me crazy. just because bfing wasn't her bag doesn't mean it is oppressive for all women. my goodness, why do women attack each other's choices like that?

    thoughtful response.

  10. Thank you for this. I don't consider myself an AP parent, but do embrace many of the ideas. After reading the Jong article, I went looking to twitter and blogs to see how people were responding and was surprised to see the positive responses. She wrote that we have "endured an orgy of motherphilia"? Is that supposed to be a feminist statement? Yuck. And in response to the idea that mothering in tune to our babies keeps up politically silent? A lot of the ways that I mother ARE political themselves.

  11. Without a doubt, I concur. This is from a mother with a "traditional" parenting style. We as citizens and neighbors should not condemn, but praise. Any parent that is thoughtfully raising their children in a manner that is positive to the child is providing future responsible adults. No one way of parenting is the right way. If we love, honor, and respect our children then we are doing our job. In my personal life, parenting comes first. Community responsibility comes second. And traditional parenting incorporates many AP skills.

    There shouldn't be any debates as to who is doing a better job or who is shackled to their children. Your post is a passionate plea for tolerance and intelligence. For ALL mothers are WORKING mothers.

    It is our job.

  12. Thank you, Hyacynth. I was just so peeved I couldn't disect what she was saying on an intellectual level. I was also a little stunned at the feminist backlash I percieved. I was under the impression that the feminist movement was all about allowing women to make choices. Unless those choices are to AP and stay home? Then it is not ok?
    Anyway, you've done a wonderful job of pointing out exactly why we are embracing many of the principles behind AP - and why I don't feel the slightest bit imprisoned by the whole experience.

  13. I have a hard time believing that anyone would write something with so little research as Ms. Jong apparently did. I am all for personal choice. If she does not want to treat her children that way, well, I would never force her too. As for me, every moment that I have spent with them is a joy. Even the bad times bring back memories of learning and growing. My oldest is not 33 and my youngest is 9. I nursed them all and we wore snugglies back then to carry them around. I made my own because I couldn't afford the expensive ones. We also used a back pack when they got older and they loved to see while I cooked. All my older children used cloth diapers and they don't seem any the worse for wear. The sad part for me is thinking of how much women are missing out on when they listen to the garbage that comes out of the mouths of people who just don't know. Well said! You just keep being an advocate and some people will listen and try it and like it.

  14. I'm a new follower and found you through Corinne. What a post! I love it! I've recently decided to home school since my little guy is getting a lousy education in the public school. I wonder what Ms. Wrong, I mean Jong, would have to say about that.

  15. Ummm, I think that she is actually jealous of mothers that can do these things!!! Why else would she be attacking things as natural as breastfeeding and saying that its like adding shackles?? Whatever, babywearing and breastfeeding, cosleeping these are all good stepping stones for children to be secure with themselves and also a piece of mind for parents.

  16. I think sometimes we have to remember that when others lash out to an areas they are obviously ignorant on, it is a matter of inner struggles they themselves are facing. This is a great article and I plan on sharing it with many that I know and I pray that Jong's comments did not hinder other moms from taking the AP road or cause them to feel less than they are. I have become more of an AP parent with each child...and I notice with each child I am more laid back, happier, calmer and confident. I don't think that comes from the mere fact that I am an "experienced" mom since each child is so drastically different...I think it comes from the fact that I have finally found what works for me and it's not what mainstream society says. For me....THAT is what freed me from shackles I was once bound with. I have broken free of living up to others expectations and doing what the media and society says I should do. Instead I have learned to follow my heart and I am proud to consider myself an AP. <3

    - val.uria@gmail.com

  17. This bought tears to my eyes! Thank you for a reminder that I;m doig it right! Nursing baby as I type! ; )

  18. She's an effin nut job! First off, she's all over the place, cloth diapers don't have anything to do with AP. And right wing political crap, seriously? Wow, try stirring up a lot of anger and emotions that have nothing to do with AP. And you can be AP and work and leave your kids. BW and BFing are ways to reconnect after a long day away at work. Its sooooooo not as B&W as she makes it out to be. And as far as chain, its far from that. Knowing I can accomplish both house work and bonding with my child by wearing him IS LIBERATING AND STRESS RELIEVING. Sleeping MORE because I nurse him throughout the night in our bed and I don't have to get up, REFRESHING. She is seriously off her rocker

  19. Erica Jong is almost seventy years old. Most likely, she is looking back on her life and some of her decisions and defending them to herself in this article. I think that AP parents are confident and secure enough about their choices to feel a little sorry for Jong.

  20. This was so wonderful.

    My youngest is 9 months old, and I still won't go on a girls night out yet. Why? Because I've chosen to be near my baby to help him get the sleep that he needs.

    They are young for such a short time. I'm glad I have co-sleeping in my toolkit to help me be a gentle, responsive parent.

    There will be plenty of time for going out later.

    Thank you for writing this!

  21. Bah! What a crock that article is!

    I almost feel bad for this lady. Because she might as well be saying that HAVING CHILDREN is a way to escort yourself into a self-inflicted slavery. I don't care if you're AP or otherwise -- having kids does require you to put your own needs second, but...how else should it be? Should we teach our kids to only look out for number one, and if they don't WANT to do what's best for someone else (even if that 'best' thing is a personal, thoughful decision on parenting styles...), they don't have to because HEY! I'm not your slave!

    This lady sounds terribly selfish to me, but I hope she's just misguided...

    I think I'm getting off topic. But this rebuttal was wonderful, Hy. Thoughtful and intelligent and precise. Loved it.

  22. Ummm. wow. Prison? Really.

    Huh. I actually *liked* cosleeping. And breastfeeding. I don't get the need to politicize and victimize everything about ... being a person. *sigh*

    Here's hoping she convinces no one. And that you DO.

  23. I have long thought that since everyone has diffences in opinions, theres really no point in stating it unless asked personally. Which Jong, and yourself were not. Neither have I been asked for it, so at the risk of being called a hypocrite I say this. If you have an opinion and feel the need to state it/write an article on it, it means you feel you have something to defend or prove, more times than not its to yourself. No parent has to defend/prove their ways, no matter what they are. Im not a naysayer as I consider myself an AP parent. Do I do evreything another AP parent might, no. Infact I really disliked co-sleeping. It just didnt work for us. All that being said. Everyone, leave everyone alone.

  24. I like what my mom has always said. A person can read and read and read about parenting until they're blue in the face but they will keep reading until they find something they like/agree with. Most people are going to do what they want/feels natural anyway. Which means some parents are not going to be AP. What I disagree with is the connotation that "some" AP parents have made: that if you do not practice AP with your children, they will not be well rounded/adjusted, happy, independent toddlers, older children, and eventually adults. Yes, I have heard this. I know plenty of people who did not have AP parents that are very well adjusted in society.
    There's some things I do and dont do but Im still an AP parent, and my DD and I have a wonderful relationship. However, there have been many times I have felt frustrated to the point that there was no where to turn and I only have one child so far.

  25. Hmm... never considered myself a conservative right winger. Funny. My voting record would suggest that I am more liberal than anything and if that doesn't do it, perhaps my birkenstocks will.

  26. I like to think of myself as an eco-friendly Mom...I really don't think that makes me a victim.

    Sad that articles like Jong's end up in mainstream media for too many people to read.

  27. I absolutely HATE the finger pointing,criticism and judgment. Why do people have such a "my way is the only right way" attitude? I see far too much of it going on these days. Every woman has the right to make her own decisions regarding motherhood. The ones that are best for her and her family. Period. Live and let live people!

  28. Funny, I don't feel encumbered by my daughter at all. In fact, I have plenty of time to pursue my intellectual interests because my toddler sleeps so well during naps and at night, which I attribute to raising her with empathy and understanding using tools such as co-sleeping. I didn't have any trouble fulfilling my civic responsibilities either. My daughter was happy to go with me to vote in this last election. Motherhood is what you make of it. For me, it is a joy and a blessing. If Jong made it into a prison, it was of her own free will.

  29. You said it, mama! Love your response.

  30. Awesome response. I hope you'll write to the WSJ, too.

    I saw her article as reflecting the worst of 70's me-generation mentality, where having to give up Anything Ever for your kids is like, some kind of slavery instead of just what good parents all over the world do.

    I think the attraction among the 30 and 40-somethings to AP right now reflects not a backlash against feminism, but a response to a big part of our parents' generation who never grew up, who acted like adolescents instead of parenting and prioritizing family.

  31. Good grief Erica! I think it takes being truly comfortable in one's own skin- the choices we make, the philosophies we espouse, etc...- to be able to accept with grace, and even support- those who make choices different from our own. Sadly it seems women continue to be raised to be catty and damaging to one another. The parenting style issue is simply another example of an area where we can be terrible to and for one another. Personally I am all for each family doing what works best for them at any given point on this wonderful, humbling, gratifying, and trying journey of parenthood. Thank you Hyacynth for a genuine retort- Ms. Jong has clearly lost her way!

  32. Just wanted to thank everyone for the really thoughtful comments.

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond with support {for the most part ;) }.

    This was a really hard issue to write about because I actually really respect Erica Jong as a trailblaiser and writer. Seems like we don't line up on the motherhood issue, though, um, at all.

    But, anyway, thank you for your support.

  33. Bravo for speaking your mind and standing up for AP! I'm over here clapping my hands and high fiving my computer screen.

  34. I'm surprised you (and others who have written about this) were able to do it so eloquently...considering Jong's article was all over the place, lacked a thesis, was completely contradictory and attacked everyone. Way to make some sense of the madness. Thank you.

  35. I think its you that is misunderstood!
    Jong is not saying that attachment parenting is wrong just not practical in western society.
    I think she is right. Women are made to feel guilty if they do not breastfeed, make fresh organic food etc.
    I think she goes to far with the political side. I do not believe that AP and similar are pushed to prevent people from taking note of what is going on in society.
    From a personal experience, i do feel that AP followers are far to judgemental. It seems to be your way or no way!
    I think you do need to be a little more open minded though. Whilst how you choose to raise your child is your choice, remember Jong and others are allowed to raise their child how they feel is best.

  36. Amen, Hyacynth! Thank you for this! That article is outrageous! AP encourages family togetherness, strengthens family bonds, helps us to be more tender, caring, and responsive individuals...if that doesn't make the world a better place then I'm not sure what would!

  37. It is definitely not a prison in any way!! Ms. Jong is way out of line making those kind of correlations when mothering and attachment parenting is all about love, nurturing, connection, and gentleness. I don't appreciate anyone who tries to dictate as to the best way to parent. Hopefully, most parents are trying their best to raise their children in a loving way.


There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.