Labeling people is generally seen as a negative thing, and kids as well, since then there comes some ideal mold that you, or they, feel the need to fit into, or feel restricted by. When it comes to referring to yourself as an “Attachment Parent”, that can come with a lot of positive or negative connotations, depending on who you ask. It can also come with an entire set of rules that varies from person to person, and often someone declares, “I don’t know how you can call yourself AP if you do/don’t ____!”
You know, because obviously they must have the copyright on the phrase and have the member list in their hand. Call yourself MARKED OFF, stroller-user/formula-feeder/crib-sleeping woman, you! If we look at the real “list” for Attachment Parenting, Dr. Sears 8 Baby B’s, the only real guideline that EXISTS for Attachment Parents, it’s pretty open-ended, really. In fact, it’s not so much about specifics as respect for not only what’s best for your child, but what’s best for YOUR child, as an individual.
So when someone decides that YOU can’t be AP because of ____, they’re really just making crap up. Amy from Just West of Crunchy, and Gina from The Feminist Breeder and I have an ongoing joke that we’ve been “Booted From AP Club” or as Gina puts it, booted from a club she never claimed to join in the first place.
And that’s the thing about labels… they’re just like clubs. Trying to be a member is a bitch, because when someone decides they don’t like one thing you do, they try to boot you from the club… but when you’re looking for friends, being in that club can be helpful. So it’s a double-edged sword.
When I Don’t Call Myself AP:
I don’t follow all the rules that many women have set forth. In some circles, eating a HFCS-laden cookie or drinking a Vitamin Water disqualifies you from the AP Club. In other circles, using disposable diapers, circumcising, using a crib, using a stroller, vaccinating (full, or in some circles at all even if you delay/selectively do so), not homeschooling/unschooling, etc. bans you from the club. See what I mean? To every individual clique or group who does call themselves AP, they have their own ideas about what isn’t. So, to save myself time, I don’t really like myself an Attachment Parent because frankly, I don’t know what that particular person thinks AP is, so I don’t want them automatically assigning their own preconceived notions to me, or my parenting.
When I DO Call Myself AP:
I recently moved to a new area, and immediately looked up two things: the local La Leche League groups, and I did a Google search for any local Attachment Parenting groups. Why did I look for those things? Because just like anything else in life, I enjoy being around likeminded people. It’s not that I think certain types of moms are “bad moms” by any means, but just like I wouldn’t join a romance book club because I hate romance books, I don’t really enjoy being around moms who are shocked that I’m “still” nursing my two year old or that gasp when they find out she’s “still” rear-facing in the car. It’s just easier for me to find groups where I know we’re going to have more things in common than just having squirted out a wee beastie or two.
I really get the feeling this is why many moms use the label “Attachment Parent” for themselves — not because they try to fit themselves into a mold, and in fact according to any one person they might not “qualify” at all, but because they’re trying to find FRIENDS. They’re trying to find like-minded moms, to commiserate with. Yeah, it’s true most people who call themselves attachment parents often co-sleep/roomshare/bed share, often babywear sometimes or all the time, and more likely than not they breastfeed or tried, but that still leaves a lot of room for variation.
Now, there’s nothing WRONG with finding like-minded mom friends. Nothing at all. I’ve been accused many the time of having a superiority complex because I do prefer the company of more like-minded moms, but like I said, that’s because I get tired of defending myself. I don’t want to complain that my daughter woke up twice last night and hear, “So just let her cry-it-out,” because frankly, that kind of makes me feel sick to my stomach. I like my like-minded mom friends because I can ask advice, or my friends can, and know that the advice that will be given is more in line with my own ideals and goals to begin with, and it won’t just dissolve into a “CIO IS ABUSE/NO IT’S NOT” battle, but instead will be genuinely helpful, while still respecting my child’s autonomy, emotions, signals and needs… because THAT is actually what’s at the heart of Attachment Parenting philosophy — not circumcision, vaccinations, babywearing, strollers, ear piercing, car seats… but respect for your little human being AS a human being, full on with needs that must be met, emotions that are meaningful and important, and a responsibility that you must meet as a mother in ways that often require you make some self-sacrifice.
What would be really, really awesome if rather than treating “The AP Club” like some treehouse with a member list with such high turnover that people can be “in” and “out” and “back in” again in a second, according to the whim of whoever holds the roster, would instead be if we could all remember what the goal of Attachment Parenting is in the first place, so we don’t turn away people who eat HFCS or use strollers from the real, true message of Attachment Parenting… whether you call yourself an Attachment Parent or not.