Attachment parenting dropout

I was eager to be a crunchy mom who swaddled her baby and breastfed. But even I couldn't take this much sanctimony

Topics: New Mom Confessions, Motherhood, Parenting, Real Families,

I’m a crunchy person up to a point. I trek to the farmers market every weekend to fill up my recycled-plastic shopping bags with kale and purple cauliflower, but I’ve never made my own reusable fabric toilet paper squares. I’ve sworn off disposable plastic water bottles, but I periodically take my compact fuel-efficient car through the McDonald’s drive-thru for a Snickers McFlurry.

When my daughter was born, I decided I’d be the kind of mother who emphasized bonding and nurturing touch over schedules and order. I pored over attachment parenting manuals and message boards. Versed in the lingo of my new way of parenting, I set out to find like-minded mom friends, the kind of ladies who knew the virtues of calendula.

I sprung for a six-week session of holistic infant care classes. The instructor, a soft-spoken doula, ranked among the hippiest hippies I knew, and that’s saying something, since I spent two years living in a Berkeley cooperative. In her ankle-length broomstick skirt, the doula purred out instructions on infant massage and optimal co-sleeping arrangements to a small klatch of mothers and their newborns. It was a relief to find women with whom I could trade tips on swaddling and adjusting our ring slings. The mothers and I got along so well that a few of us continued to gather in a park every week after the class ended. Throughout the spring, we’d take over a sun dappled lawn and let our exclusively breastfed babies dine al fresco.

Within that pacific collective of mothers, I met a woman I’ll call Milo Flynne’s Mom, a woman who seemed to have lost her name the day she hypnobirthed her son. Her outgoing voice-mail message chirped, “You’ve reached Milo Flynne’s Mom and I’m busy attachment parenting, baby-wearing and breastfeeding right now!” Milo Flynne’s Mom always smiled, even when covered in spit up, even when she hadn’t slept in a week, even when new motherhood was turning her insides to mulch. She’d just cock her chin up and recite her mantra: “I’m honored to be married to the most amazing husband in the world, and practicing attachment parenting with our adventurous freedom fighter of a son, Milo Flynne.” I cherished my freedom fighter, too, but I wanted her to admit she was also having bad days. I certainly was having them.

You Might Also Like

By the time Milo Flynne’s Mom became convinced her craniosacral therapist could cure colic by adjusting the tides of Milo Flynne’s cerebrospinal fluid, I was cluing in to the fact that I might be even less crunchy than I thought. It’s not that I didn’t value the burgeoning bond between my daughter and me, but I couldn’t quite get behind the implied virtue and superiority in attachment parenting circles. None of the other moms were as devoutly natural as Milo Flynne’s Mom, but I was on the far right of this spectrum. If Milo Flynne’s Mom was cultivating a community herb garden in Vermont, then I was a Texan with a concealed weapon permit.

Milo Flynne’s Mom and I did a good job of muffling our mutual disdain, but as our children grew, so did our differences. I tried to cloth diaper my daughter, but found that all that sorting, soaking, hosing and fluffing was getting in the way of my Words With Friends habit, one of the few vestiges of my nonmaternal life that I’d been able to maintain. Milo Flynne’s Mom ostensibly forgave me my disposable diapers, but when changing her son near me, she’d coo to Milo Flynne, “Cloth diapers are sooooo much easier than people realize, you lucky fluffy-bottomed boy!”

When the time came to introduce my daughter to solid foods, I did some research and decided on a moderately priced brand of jarred organic baby food that I could order in bulk online, and I planned to mash up soft fruits and veggies for her when they were available. In contrast, Milo Flynne’s Mom founded a homemade, organic, non-GMO, gourmet-baby-food-making school out of her apartment. While I admired her opportunism in charging clueless new parents $60 to learn how to push the “puree” button on their blenders, I hated that she couched it in judgment of “lazy” parents who would just pop the lid of a “junk food” jar, “lazy” parents like me.

During our group’s summer meeting, I whipped out a canister of store-brand cheesy poofs for babies, perhaps the most delicious snack food on the planet for parent and child alike. While offering my cheese-powdered fingers to my daughter to gum, I noticed Milo Flynne’s Mom staring at us and pooping an organic brick. She fished a reusable snack bag from her Fair Trade hand-woven satchel. “Baked kale?” she offered. But what I heard was, “Have you read the ingredients in those things?” All I knew was that they contained cheese and awesomeness, and are the most exquisite “sometimes food” created since Cookie Monster started eating veggies. But as was my way, I said nothing.

At the end of summer, I went back to my teaching job and made the difficult transition to being a working mother. My daughter was only in day care part time, though I worked full time. I wanted to minimize our hours apart, but I usually ended up having to work all weekend to make up for my days home with her. I longed to be able to afford not working like Milo Flynne’s Mom. I started to seriously consider putting on my own baby food seminars just to clear a little cash.

I continued to meet the crunchy moms on the lawn most weeks, sometimes rushing to the park straight from picking my daughter up from day care. One crispy fall afternoon, I dashed up with my baby tucked under my arm like a football and unfurled my blanket just a few minutes before the end of the gathering. I hugged my baby in close, trying to ignore that she smelled of the treacly perfume of her day care teacher, and listened to the mothers chat about working. One said, “I miss my job, but I don’t know what I’d do for childcare.” Milo Flynne’s Mom chimed in, “I like working too, but I won’t leave my baby with strangers,” then shot me an accusing glare.

In hindsight, maybe it was a coincidence that she looked my way, but I didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt. I was as defensive as Milo Flynne’s Mom was devout. Maybe I shouldn’t blame her. After a woman has a baby, she is broken down, hazed and then rebuilt in the form of a mother. We were all thin-skinned, sometimes sanctimonious, desperately insecure and prone to flattering ourselves with comparisons to our peers. Then again, she was especially annoying.

I left the lawn, mostly unnoticed. As I buckled my confused baby in her seat, I whispered to her, “Sugar, don’t worry about it. That lawn is covered in pesticides. Let’s go eat some cheesy poofs and watch ‘Yo Gabba Gabba.’”

JJ Keith's essays have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, TheRumpus.net, The Hairpin, Babble, The Nervous Breakdown, Alternet and other publications. She holds a Master of Professional Writing degree from USC and teaches writing workshops at Unincorporated Education in Los Angeles. She's working on a book called "Stop Reading Baby Books."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>