I’ve always steered clear of parenting labels. I didn’t feel comfortable with the tribal element of picking a side and sticking with it, as if raising kids was like being a fan of a football club. In my experience, the mums I knew in real life didn’t ever describe themselves as one or the other (“attachment mum”, “tiger mum” etc), we were all just doing our best to raise our children in a way that suited our own families and babies. It was only when reading about parenting online that I came across the labels.
And then I had a second baby.
Recently it’s dawned on me that, on paper, I’m a classic “attachment parent”. I carry my baby in a sling (or “wear” her), I breastfeed on demand and we co-sleep. This realisation came as a surprise to me because, prior to baby number two, I always scoffed a bit at the idea of being an “attachment parent”. In my state of ignorance I assumed it meant you had to sellotape your baby to your face until they’re at least five years old.
I don’t know why I thought that really. I mean, it’s not like I followed a rigid Gina Ford type of approach with my first born. I breastfed her on demand too, we did Baby-led Weaning, she occasionally slept in our bed (still does) when she was struggling to settle or had a bad dream. But there, at the back of my head, was always this nagging worry of setting up “bad habits” and dealing with “consequences”.
For example, when she was the age that Baby Girl (still no blog name) is now, I spent a lot of time Googling How to get your baby into a sleep routine and When does a baby sleep through the night? My days were largely spent trying to get my reluctant baby to nap in her cot, as I tried to navigate those tricky first months of being a brand new mum. To be honest, I wasn’t aware there was even an alternative but to battle with my baby. I just assumed that, because the health visitor told me to, I needed to always put her down to sleep “awake but sleepy”. I thought that’s what everyone did, because it’s what all the websites and forums and health visitors advised. Anyone who did anything different was seen as “making a rod for their own back”. I didn’t want to be one of those mums carrying around a massive rod.
It was only later, as Frog got bigger and I felt more confident in my role as a mum, that I felt able to fully relax and be led by her. The line “It’s just a phase” became my mantra. The (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine still worried a lot about consequences and was all for taking a tougher approach, but I used to explain that I just couldn’t leave her to cry. I couldn’t do the sleep-training thing, for example, because it didn’t suit me or my personality. I needed to find my own way of getting through whatever baby challenge we were facing that week.
Now I have baby number two, I am flooded with memories of my days at this same point with Frog. I can remember trying to get her to nap in her cot, wondering if I should be implementing some kind of breastfeeding routine, and stressing about cuddling her to sleep. And I can see what wasted time that was. So this time around I’m choosing to just go with it. If that means letting the baby nap on me during the day, if she struggles to fall asleep in her cot, then so be it. If that means co-sleeping so we can all get some sleep at night, then so be it. If that means putting the baby in the sling and carrying her around at home while I’m making tea, then so be it.
So I guess that makes me an accidental attachment parent then. I mean, nothing I’m doing at the moment has been decided beforehand. It’s not like I decided “I will be an attachment parent” back when I was pregnant. I’ve just been a bit more relaxed this time around about the whole bad habits thing. I’ve realised there is another way of doing things, if the way I try first of all doesn’t work. I’ve realised bad habits are only bad habits if I’m not comfortable or happy with them. If I’m happy just going with it then they’re not bad habits, are they?
By the way, I read this brilliant post from Adele at Circus Queen recently and it really resonated with me. As Adele says, nothing lasts forever.