Attachment parenting in a disconnected world

Posts tagged ‘parenting’

Contented Little Whatnot…

I think I should probably open this week’s post with a disclaimer.  I have not read Gina Ford’s new book, nor do I intend to do so.  As a brand-new first-time mother, I did read the first couple of chapters of the other book, and very quickly realised it was not for me.  Alt.Father was lent a copy by a workmate on his return from paternity leave.  He gave it back, nodding and smiling as he did so.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Despite the bizarre love affair that the Daily Mail seems to have with Gina Ford, it does not seem to have escaped the notice of the general public that “Britain’s No 1 Parenting Author” is not a parent.  Now she is also apparently a relationship guru despite also being divorced.  I have learned that reading the Daily Fail, I mean, Daily Mail does nothing but make me angry and ranty.  It certainly does not make me contented!

Also, let me be perfectly honest, I may have harboured one or two judgmental thoughts about those who adhere to Ms Ford’s advice.  It’s none of my business how they choose to raise their babies, I only need to worry about my own babies.  For that, I am sorry.

I am not sorry though, that Alt.Father and I chose pretty much the polar opposite of the regimented routine based parenting style advocated in those books.  Somehow, both of our daughters seem to be perfectly contented little people.  And there in a nutshell is my point.  Babies are people, not pets.  Instead of training them, we need to train ourselves as parents, to respond to their needs.  That is the way we can truly be content.

When I hear my child crying, I am far from content. I am edgy, nervous, unsettled, until I know that she is unharmed and soothed.  If I want to teach her that there is no need to cry, I will do so by teaching her that I will respond to her needs.  “Use words” I find myself saying to Alt.D1 when she is frustrated.  She takes a deep breath and usually manages to express what’s wrong in coherent language.  At 3, she can do so.  At 6 months, Alt.D2 is less able to communicate.  Or is she?  I often hear that babies cry “because it is the only way they know how to communicate”.

Actually, I would disagree.  Alt.D2 astonished me in the first few weeks with the way she hardly ever cried to be fed.   As she is my second baby, she has very much had to go with the flow in the house, being dragged along here and there with her sister.  Yet somehow from even the earliest days, she and I had a communication going which let me know when she was hungry.  Then I would feed her.  I certainly didn’t add to my own agitation as well as hers by making her wait until a pre-determined time slot for her feed!  This has since developed and I know her cues for tiredness, boredom, comfort, and countless others.  We just co-exist, we just are.

Relying on your instincts could be considered a brave choice, whether for better or for worse.  It’s certainly something advocated by the author Jean Liedloff in her book The Continuum Concept.   This kind of instinctive parenting has been lost to most of the Western world as we’ve become increasingly keen to fit our babies and children into our busy, structured lives, somehow forgetting that perhaps nature intended us to listen to what our babies are trying to tell us.  “Happy Baby, Happy Mummy” is all well and good, but if that “happiness” is achieved by conforming to a recipe, how much guilt and discontent must be underlying? 

So Gina Ford now seeks to remind us that our relationship with our partner is going to change when we have children.  She encourages us to start leaving the baby with others soon after birth, to take time together as a couple, before resentment starts to set in… well thanks, Ms Ford, for the vote of confidence!  For the suggestion I might have forgotten about the person I have chosen to build my life with, to have children with, and to grow old with.  Contentment in this relationship might have less to do with being able to leave the children with a babysitter, [not conducive to breastfeeding, anyway!] and more to do with the fact that caring about and caring for each other when you have young children is enough.  It’s just enough to think to say “I love you” and “thank you” every day to your partner, and to know that he will be there and she will be there when these babies have grown and flown the nest.

If I am going to be content (and I am, thanks!), I really don’t think that heaping on the guilt is the way to go about achieving that goal.

Rant over, Alt.Mother resolving not to follow links to the Daily Mail website this week, in order to return to positive stories of alternative parenting next Friday!  


One size fits all?

Families, as we all know, come in different shapes and sizes, so there can never be such a thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to parenting.  Yet the general assumption is that we will conform to the perceived norm.  

Alt.Father and I never set out to be deliberately different.  We are not revolutionaries, far from it, we both come from “ordinary” homes and live in an “ordinary” small town in the South West of the UK.  But then, one day, we met an extraordinary person – our first child.  Before pregnancy, the only experience we had of children was that of other people’s.  Which meant that our only experiences of parenting were what we had seen other people doing.  They all seemed to be doing the same things – it couldn’t be that hard to find your way, right?


From the moment we discovered a baby was on its way, we were bombarded with information.  As prospective parents, you are a marketing company’s ideal… you haven’t got a clue what you need, but you think you might need all of it! 

So the first thing we did was buy a book.  It was actually pretty good, albeit quite textbook-like in style:

So now we knew what was physically going on inside, how about emotionally?

This isn’t a post to share all my experiences in intimate detail, so I’ll spare you the specifics for now, but let’s just say I’m not a fan of pregnancy.  More to the point, I’m not particularly a fan of my first pregnancy and the morning/afternoon/middle of the night sickness, high blood pressure and chronic backache.  Needless to say, it was a tricky time for both me and Alt.Father, and a time at which we were grateful for support and advice when it came.

Everyone seems to have advice for new parents.  My advice now would be “smile and nod”.  That is to say, take on board the things that others say, and then make your own decisions about how to process the advice.

Take for example the hundreds of different morsels of advice we were given on sleep.  They varied from the extreme – “put the baby at the bottom of the garden” to the misinformed “give the baby water to drink at night, that’ll teach her” (at two weeks old!), but the fact remained that our baby, my baby, hadn’t read any of the books, or listened to any of the advice from well meaning friends and family.  She was just being herself, and as her parents, we needed to figure out how best to take care of her, as an individual, and find solutions to our problems that best met the needs of our family.

And so, we discovered (eventually) the revelation that was co-sleeping!  My own father had said to me while I was pregnant, “don’t be afraid to take the baby into bed with you”.  It’s how I was cared for as a tiny infant, and it seems that my first daughter and I had more than a few things in common!

So there we were, bed sharing with our baby.  Not a piece of information I shared with others to begin with.  It was working for us, but I thought we were the only ones, and it wasn’t something to broadcast.

As the months passed by, we made other parenting decisions that seemed to go against the grain, such as using washable nappies, full-term breastfeeding, baby-led-weaning, keeping our daughter barefoot, baby-wearing, rear facing car seats…

By the time my daughter was a few months old, I was pleased to have found other families who were making some of the same decisions as we were.  Maybe the alternative was not quite so alternative after all?  Probably there are more parents raising their children in a style that goes against the perceived norm than we first thought?

I hope that for my daughters, the legacy of the parenting decisions we make for them will be that they continue to question the norm throughout life, and if the alternative looks like it might just be the right path for them, that they have the confidence to try it.

Parenting in the Alternative

Since becoming a mother, and my elder girl is now 3 years, my younger just 5 months, I’ve found that sometimes things I would consider instinctive are in fact considered by most around me to be the alternative.  

When the PC  crashes (and yes, I am a die hard PC user, no idea how to find my way round a Mac!) you can hit Ctrl, Alt, Delete, and start again, right?  How about in real life?  When it all seems to go a bit squiffy and not quite as planned, there is no reset button, and no Ctrl, Alt Delete.  We get one hit at it, and that’s all.  Time, I think, to take control, seek out the alternative, and trust the instincts of parenting.  Ctrl, Alt, Parent.

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