There will be another day and another chance to get it right.
When I was a little girl I hated my father as much as I could. He was the most unloving, torturing, awful person in the whole wide world, so was my self-talk 30 years ago. At the same time I adored my mother. She was the center of my universe. She was warm, caring, loving but strict; a strong woman who profoundly influenced my idea of a perfect woman I wanted to be.
As time passed and my rebellious teen years came down on us my relationship with both parents changed dramatically. Now, in my very late thirties, I have to admit that my father became my good friend while my relationship to my mum turned somewhat sauer.
Attachment is not something that happens to newborns and toddlers – attachment is something that we all take care of throughout our lives. We are attached to our children; our children are attached to each other and to their mother, father, grandparents and nannies, preschool teachers and best friends. If one of these many relationships stops working there will be a multitude of others to pick up and heal the broken pieces. Long after we are gone our children will have a sibling or two to have around. In his book “Sibling Relationships Across the Life Span” Victor Cicirelly says that siblings maintain their emotional bond throughout their lifetime and sometimes these bonds hold even after the death of one sibling.
Mother’s sensitivity to newborn needs is pivotal to the quality of mother-baby attachment in the first year.
But as one study found, when time passes and “children reach toddlerhood, fathers’ play sensitivity (i.e. being supportive and gently challenging) has a longitudinal effect on the children’s attachment”.
A few years ago I’ve asked my dad how being a parent felt for him when I was very young. He confessed that he felt lost; he didn’t know what to do with a young child. Between the lines I could hear that he was bored and frustrated. There was nothing of interest to him that he could have shared with “baby-me”.
My mum, on the other hand, enjoyed her role as a perfect mother. She willingly subscribed to every motherhood ideal popular in the 70’s. I was her world and she was mine.
As children grow, their needs of emotional and physical intensity of their relationship to parents develop. None of my parents have changed their parenting style or attitude over the time. But I as a child have evolved. My needs are now met by my somewhat distant and overly-intellectual father much better than by my overbearing mother.
There are two lessons for me to learn from my life history. The sad one is: it doesn’t matter how great you start in your relationship with your child, there is always a chance to screw it up later. On a positive note: even if you didn’t start on the right foot you still will get a chance to get it right and to enjoy a deep, loving relationship with your children.
And so, every time I plague myself with my next “guilty mama” thought I remind myself that there will be another day and another chance to get it right.
1. Grossmann, K., Grossmann, K. E., Fremmer-Bombik, E., Kindler, H. , Scheuerer-Englisch, H. , & Zimmermann, P. (2002). The uniqueness of the child-father attachment relationship: Father’s sensitive and challenging play as a pivotal variable in a 16-year longitudinal study. Social Development, 11(3), 307-331.
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photo pin cc
Such is the female nature that in the battle of the sexes, even if women were winning, they would feel bad about it. — Scottish news, the Daily Record
Women are outstanding in their ability to evaluate themselves as not outstanding. — Professor Claire Rabin
Feeling guilty is like being a bit overweight—it isn’t comfortable but then again, what can you do? That is the way things are.
Guilt is a form of social control. It is the way that people are kept in line and the way that society makes sure that people will fulfill their social obligations.
Guilt doesn’t lead to a feeling of satisfaction or to feelings of joy. The best you get is the absence of guilt.
The solution is not that simple since guilt is a built-in part of what it means to be a woman. One way to fight guilt is to pay attention to how it dominates your decisions. A good way for women to fight the damaging effects of guilt is to talk with other women. However, it is important to choose the person with some thought and not to get advice from those women who themselves are overwhelmed with guilt, but from those who seem to have managed to get free.
We learn that these seemingly carefree souls are just as tormented as we are, but they have strategies for tricking guilt or for getting guilt to keep quiet. — Claire Rabin is the director of the Claire Rabin Institute for Couples Therapy
Stay-at-Home Moms Report More Depression, Sadness, Anger -
The degree of difficulty of being a stay-at-home parent is evident in a new Gallup analysis of more than 60,000 U.S. women interviewed in 2012
Why Are Stay-at-Home Mothers More Depressed? -
If you get something for free, then you aren’t the customer. You are the product. — I didn’t make this up. I wish I did. Think about it. We aren’t Google’s customer, or Facebook’s customer. We are the products they are selling to advertisers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being considered an “eyeballs.”
This article looks into attachment theory research as well as current trend to politicize something that wasn’t intended to be political at all.
Attachment theory and research
Over 50 years ago John Bowlby, a British psychologist and physiotherapist, suggested that based on his research, there is a critical period for developing attachment (about 0 -5 years). If an attachment has not developed during this period then the child will suffer from irreversible developmental consequences, such as reduced intelligence and increased aggression.
More current research suggests that the critical period lasts for only two to three years.
Rudolph Schaffer and Peggy Emerson (1964) continued Bowlby’s work and studied 60 babies at monthly intervals for the first 18 months of their life. The results of the study indicated that attachments were most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby’s signals, not the person they spent most time with.
It was the quality of care and not the quantity that helped to form healthy attachment in children.
Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness. Many of the babies had several attachments by 10 months, including attachments to mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and neighbors. 39% of the infants had a primary attachment with someone other than the person who usually fed, bathed and changed them.
This research also has shown that children were developing multiple attachments simultaneously and not, how Bowlby initially suggested, only to one person.
Recognizing the need for attachment is not new. Skinner, Adler, Locke, Watson and other behaviorists recognized its importance. But in their advice on how to raise children they suggest to withhold the attachment until the child behaves appropriately.
Attachment parenting is based on the idea that babies learn to trust and thrive when their needs are consistently (not constantly!) met by a caregiver (who ever that might be) early in life.
The most famous and influential Attachment parenting ambassador is Dr. Sears. He describes attachment as a feeling that
“is so strong that, at least in the early months, the attached mother feels complete when she is with her baby and incomplete if they are apart.<…> Attachment means that a mother and baby are in harmony with each other”
Using attachment parenting advise to promote a particular agenda
Google attachment parenting and your first couple of entries are all well respected and research sources.
But then there is a plethora of “me-too” parenting sites who interpret attachment parenting the way it suites their ideology. This is where you can read things like
“…This results in your baby forming a healthy bond to you that will make her feel happy and protected. With this as the motivation, more and more mammas decide to be a stay home mom . <…> Dr. Sears is a big advocate of co-sleeping, baby wearing, homeschooling and the breastfeeding toddler scenario.”
I tried to find a trace of “strong advocacy” of toddler breastfeeding at Dr. Sears’s or at the AP International sites – I failed. I tried to find an outspoken advice to stay home with your child instead of returning to work – I couldn’t find anything like that weather in the API’s nor Dr. Sear’s principles… And how homeschooling got wrapped up into attachment parenting – I will never know.
At times it feels like the advise on the fine-tuning and bonding period of the first 8-12 weeks got “copy-pasted” across all years of childhood.
There are a lot of people who are obsessed with the mother being central to child’s happiness and attachment. This trend has a name: Momism.
This is what Susan Douglas and Meredith Michels describe as
“the insistence that no woman is truly complete or fulfilled unless she has kids, that women remain the best primary caretakers of children, and that to be a remotely decent mother, a woman has to devote her entire physical, psychological, emotional and intellectual being, 24/7, to her children”.
That I call “prison”, and not the attachment parenting approach.
Such narrow approach would exclude step-parents, adopted children and baby in intensive care from being able to develop healthy attachment. And yet, Dr. Sears acknowledges that the now-or-never idea of attachment is not correct.
While Dr. Sears and API support co-sleeping they also recognise the need for parents to be well rested. Sears’ and API’s principles include strong advice to parents to balance parenting, marriage, and their own health and emotional needs.
From where I am looking at it – attachment parenting is a set of guidelines and it’s up to you what you make out of it.
The Breastfeeding Myth: Believe it or not, formula isn't poison. -
If I bottle-feed, will I fail to bond with my child? Will my child end up in a biker gang?