What It's Really Like To Be An Attachment Parent

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I Didn’t Eat Dinner Last Night, And This Is The Rant Of An Attachment Parent

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We’ve been here before. Many times, actually. I sit down for dinner and, just like that, you start crying. And not just a whine, either. No. This was full blown tears-rolling-off-the-cheeks crying.

I picked you up as Daddy apologized for not being able to settle you. But we both know what you wanted in that moment was Mama.

The truth was, I probably pushed you past your bedtime.

I took you to the bedroom and I rocked you. And rocked. And rocked.

Yes, we’ve been here before. Every day since you’ve been born. When it’s naptime or bedtime, I respond to your every need. Even if I don’t eat dinner.

But tonight, it irked me. Maybe it was because I’d grown tired of the day-in-day-out of rocking and shushing and singing and nursing, just so you will sleep. Tonight, I got angry.

Angry at Daddy for getting the whole evening to himself, relaxing as I continue to work.

Angry at myself for lashing out.

Angry at the world for telling me, “This wouldn’t happen if you just taught him to put himself to sleep.”

And yes, sweet child, angry at you for taking away my evening as you had done many times before. The little bit of free time that I selfishly longed for after caring for you all day.

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Why did I choose the attachment parenting style?

Why not something a bit easier? In that moment, I thought about all the moms whose babies sleep through the night, who fall asleep on their own.

Why couldn’t that be my baby?

Instead, we spend every nap and every night nursing to sleep. And when that doesn’t work, we walk. And sing. And shush. And I pray that he stops fighting sleep so that I can finally get some alone time, as selfish as that may sound.

The well-known truth is that we make sacrifices as parents. Many, many sacrifices. And that doesn’t change by becoming an attachment parent.

Some days, we are so proud of the way we have chosen to parent our children. And some days…well, some days it takes all we can muster to convince ourselves to keep going down this path.

Those days when you can’t stay out past 8 p.m. because your child needs you to fall asleep.

Those days when you’re up 5 times a night nursing your toddler.

Those days when you carry that child all day long, because all they want is you.

Those days when they make you so angry and, without thinking you snap at them, immediately wishing you’d responded in a gentle way.

And I know it’s going to get harder from here, when infants become toddlers and have minds of their own. When I must be conscious of every little response to his tantrums and explosive emotions. When I must learn to be gentle and loving, even when he is not. Because, let’s face it, there will come a time when he is not.

And on those really tough days, it helps to know others just like you. To reach out and find support from those who also parent this way.

Those who have mega-beds made of two queen mattresses and a twin pushed together on the floor.*

Those who bedshare and babywear and breastfeed for years.*

Those who have perfected the “time-in” and can offer helpful advice when your child has a problem.

Those who have full bladders and are #naptrapped under the weight of a sleeping child, not daring to move for fear of waking him up.

Yes, reach out and find support from those of us who are learning along the way.

My dear boy…

As I pace the bedroom floor, my arms begin to ache from the carrying, my legs have grown tired from the back-and-forth, and I don’t think I can sing another lullaby.

But sweet child, my heart would break if I didn’t tend to your every need. Your need to be close to mama, your need to be heard and consoled.

I rock you and rock you and rock you. Forty-five long minutes (and one nursing session) later, your overtired body goes limp. Your tears have dried and my anger has melted. As I cuddle next to you in bed (because God forbid you wake up if I leave), I sweep your hair to the side and you sigh.

And just like that, I’m filled with regret.

I regret my selfish attitude. I promise to be better next time, my darling.

I regret my anger at you. You are a sweet child who only wants his mama’s warm body close to him as he falls asleep.

I regret that I felt guilty for the way I have chosen to parent you. For this natural, beautiful, exhausting style of parenting.

My sweet boy, I didn’t eat dinner last night. But no amount of hunger can beat the satisfaction I have found in caring for you, even on the difficult days.

Attachment parents, I see you. 

I know your struggles and sacrifice. I know you prepare your responses before going to a family gathering where you know everyone will ask, “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” I know people roll their eyes when you tell them you don’t spank your children — like, “Okay, let’s see how that works for ya down the road.” And I know sometimes you may question the choice you made to parent this way — because sometimes I do, too.

Don’t let the weight of parenting get you down. When people look at you like your choices are radical and over-the-top, know that you are doing the most natural, wonderful thing for your sweet child.

Rock on, my nap-trapped brothers and sisters.

*Not all attachment parents babywear, breastfeed, or bedshare. Many, many do, but others who don’t are still amazing attachment parents who use a gentle approach, especially when it comes to sleep and discipline.