Thursday, October 8, 2009

It Ain't Always Easy, but It's Always Worth It

I got some flak for my blog post on API Speaks yesterday. One of the commenters was taken aback by some of my statements. So I reread my post, and I can certainly see why she might have taken some offense to my opinions.

To someone who had mellow kids, or maybe one child, or perhaps a ton of outside support, or even a group of like-minded moms to vent to, I can see how my words would rankle. She said of my post, "Perhaps it was intended to connect with an audience who finds attachment parenting to be difficult, even painful- but it also encourages the belief that it is normal, and okay, for it to be that way, rather than to find ways that are not painful or uncomfortable."

Well, the truth is, it is normal for it to be that way - at least for some of us, at least sometimes. Some of us have extraordinarily high-needs children who completely tap their reserves, day in and day out. Some of us have several closely spaced children or twins or triplets - and by the end of the day, we're completely "touched out" but still need to be accessible and welcoming to our children. Some of us have ill children, and we have to give and give and give. Some of us work and come home exhausted and still have to provide nurturing touch, when what we want is to have someone touch us in a nurturing way. Some of us are single and have no relief from being "on" all day - and night - long.

And yes, sometimes we pretend - to be patient, because the alternative is to be impatient; to be sensitive, because what we really want is to be left alone at that moment; and to be to be something we're not, especially if what we're feeling is not particularly "attached" at that second. Do we do this all the time? Most of the time? Much of the time? Obviously not, or we couldn't begin to call ourselves attachment parents, and we wouldn't be committed to this type of parenting.

For some of us, being attached is hard at times. Certainly not all the time, and probably not even most of the time.

But here's the deal. I've talked to countless parents who are following AP principles, and doing so with commitment and passion. Virtually every one of those parents finds it difficult at times. And many, many of those think they're the only one.

I can't tell you how many moms have thanked me profusely for letting it all hang out and admitting that I've struggled. They tell me that it actually makes staying committed to their beliefs easier, because they realize that they're not the oddball that they thought they were, that they're not doing it "wrong."

Almost everything we read about attachment parenting is about the positive aspects, the rewards, and the health benefits. And all those things are true. But it can be disheartening - at times - to those of us who are committed to this path but find it to be bumpier than the books let on, especially when we think that we're the only one struggling.

Of course, being attached to your kids is worth it, in so many ways that I can't even begin to express. More and more studies are backing up what AP parents have felt in their hearts all along - that our children are healthier, stronger, happier, and more confident over the long haul. Whether the path is sometimes difficult, sometimes rocky, sometimes steep ... it's the path with the most dazzling view, with the most brilliant sky, with the sweetest fresh air, and with the biggest rewards at the end, and strewn liberally all along the way as well.

So I am thrilled that there are parents out there for whom being an AP parent is easy. I'm elated that, for some, the few difficulties they encounter are easily remedied. For those who struggle occasionally (or even frequently) I just want to be that voice that says, "It's okay. You're human. We all struggle, and we all survive. And it's all worth it."

I must admit that I'm not a touchy-feely writer. In fact, when I first posted to API Speaks I wrote to the volunteer who handles the blog, and I asked her if my style was appropriate. I'm not apologizing; that's just me.

And just for the record, even though the early years were peppered with difficult times (and sometimes the pepper was a bit heavy), I never once was resentful. Never.
If you liked this post, you might enjoy The 8 Principles with Older Kids ... Still Valid?


  1. One of the biggest lessons in life is to reserve judgment. Our parenting experience is one of MANY and you don't know what it is like in every family. I would say until about 4 or 5 months ago, AP-parenting life was pretty great. I felt very successful as a parent savoring being at home with my then 4.5 year-old and almost 3 year-old.

    But life was creeping in - Getting into year two DH's depression/anxiety was taking its toll and a lot of my attention. Life was getting very busy and we were getting very task-focused and little did we realize how our little family was drifting apart. I have been so tired thanks to kids waking up, DS whose nervous system is such that he wets his bed a lot, or just bad nights of sleep. And the kids were driving us crazy, probably wanting attention, but we were to tired and wrapped up in surviving life to see that.

    And then in the past two weeks I have had thoughts like "I loathe my kids". Yeah, I thought that and much worse. I yelled at my kids all the time. I didn't want to be at home anymore. It was becoming clear to me that we needed help because this isn't the parent I wanted to be.

    Last night DH and I saw a therapist I used to see who specializes in child development and is an AP advocate - she was able to look at our life and the kid behaviors and helped us see what the kids behaviors were telling us. She helped with some tactical things with my son - learning how his nervous system plays into his actions for instance. It was so worth it and I feel so much love (and some sadness) for my children now that I have more clarity about what is going on.

    I have walked a tough road lately with a dad who is in a late stage dementia, and with hubby just about all of the responsibilities of life sit of my shoulders so he can work through this head and do his job where he works a ton. We have one late night a week where he works until midnight. And I have a part-time job as well.

    Life is hard and we all do the best we can. I think that the truth in AP parenting lies in being able to set our compass and realizing when the ship has veered off course. I could feel this ickiness in the relationship with my kids, our ship had run aground and wasn't going anywhere. To me it is the awareness that we needed help that is so key.

    Life's richest lessons lie in the toughest challenges. You learn who you are, how to take care of yourself, find your ability to be resilient through all life tosses at you and grow in amazing ways.

    AP parenting can be difficult especially when you have kids that have a wealth of challenges to offer. It can also be difficult when life throws curveball after curveball and somehow you have to find strength for all of it.

    I close with a new mantra of mine, "Compassion: because you don't know the whole story and you should always assume the best of others."

  2. I read the post and the comment.

    I see her point, because I do try to understand where everybody is coming from.

    On your blog post yesterday, I said that Gavin was quite "easy", and AP worked out really well.

    But I must say that I am NOT a patient person by nature. I get frustrated and when I do, my son knows it.

    Honestly, sometimes I DID have to pretend to be patient! Just like you! I still do have to pretend at times... And sometimes I have to say, "Um, I can't deal with this at the moment" and retreat to my bedroom.

    Any parent who is patient 100% of the time, without sighing with frustration at least once in a while, should be nominated for sainthood.

  3. It is hard for us who know you and think the world of you to read your posts with a brand new eye as the readers in API-land do. We know so much more about you and your previous years as a mom to 3 young children than they do, and so we read your writing differently, almost reverently (at least I do).

    When we meet other AP moms they always seem so cool, so laid back, so With the Program. They speak softly, patiently, use the right words. We don't know if they are like that all the time, but we assume so, and then we go home

    a) feeling like a 2nd rate AP mom since we know we are not like that all the time and

    b) we vow to try harder, and strive for that perfect AP ideal.

    In my life I have met only 2 women who are patient 100% of the time, and they are really saints. They are wired differently, I simply bow to them!

    In this culture where convenience is paramount, it is important for new moms to know they are not alone if things get exhausting and impossible. So many moms may venture into AP-land and want to try it out but it is so HARD, it is often easier to go with the mainstream flow.

    As for this business of "pretending" -- to me I see it as the difference between an AP mom who is trying so hard, vs a mom who is not. All the books I have read and experiences I learn from have helped so much. I am as impatient as the next person, with a short-fuse to match, but rather than react with my instinct, I check myself and try very hard to use the right words, act the right way, even if I do not feel it immediately.

    I am praying that with time and practice it will become second nature to me and I won't have to 'pretend' anymore.

    Being an AP parent requires more than the regular amount of patience, time and dedication. No doubt about it.

  4. You know, I think that in parenting we often have to 'fake it 'til we make it', regardless of our parenting style. I bet you that sometimes every mom wants to run away and never come back, or at least not for a good solid 45 minutes. This job is really hard sometimes, it just is.

    I'm glad that there are people out there who feel that parenting, and specifically attachment parenting, is easy. I'm happy for them. But I don't think it's wrong to not feel that way myself, or that it signifies that I'm in any way out of balance.

  5. Thanks for all the support.

    You know, before I ever posted to API, I emailed the volunteer who handles the blog, expressly because I was concerned that my writing style was too "in your face" for their blog. I had read a bunch of their posts, and almost all of them were warm and fuzzy. I kinda figured that my style wouldn't sit well with every reader, but I was willing to give it a try, mostly because I thought it would give a different perspective. Guess I was right. Now one commenter thinks I'm self righteous.

    Oh well. Maybe I'm "that" blogger who gets everyone stirred up. I just can't be another sticky-sweet APer. That's not me, and that hasn't been my experience. I'll just continue to write about what I feel and what I've learned. Maybe it'll sit well with some mamas.

  6. Well, I love the style and the frankness. And, personally? I call total BS on anyone who says the AP route is all peaches and cream with fluffy ducky and bunny feelings. My generous butt it is. That kind of mindset/attitude/projection is what's turned me *off* places like MDC and almost off our local list, because of people who *don't* let it all hang out and admit their struggles and difficulties, but have no problem telling someone else where they've faltered.

    Making the choice - and yes, it is a choice, natural or not - to follow the AP path requires a bit of self-sacrifice and no shortage of moments where I've wondered if I'm cut out for it. I appreciate, immensely, knowing that there are people who work at it just as hard as I do.