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.



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

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • 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>