sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

May 14, 2012

Attachment Parenting Proponent Calls for a Halt in the Mommy Wars

Filed under: parenting — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 1:34 pm

This Mother’s Day, Time magazine published an unflattering cover story about attachment parenting.  The shock-rock cover certainly made a splash.

Are you mom enough?

So long as they are not insinuating that Ann Romney, whose essay was published in the same issue, is somehow a part of attachment parenting movement, I’m totally cool with the existence of the story.  Mrs. Romney could not have been an “attached” mother because the first edition of William Sears’s The Baby Book, the “bible” of the movement, was published in 1992, and Ann had her last child in 1981

Anyone not sufficiently disturbed by the Times cover is free to meet Veronica, SFW but probably NFTFON:

Turns out, the attachment types weren’t pleased with the story.  Katie Allison Ganju (via Instapundit) even called for a passive resistance “I Am Not Mom Enough” movement to end mommy wars unpleasant magazine covers once and for all.  Is it passive-aggressive of her?

From what I can tell (this non-attachment parent is in a time funk and didn’t read the feature) Time lashes out on the overindulged, overinvolved, overbearing approach to parenting so many moms embraced in the last 20 years.  Ganju has been a vocal proponent of it.  Here she is, for instance, singing praises to a hippie midwife.  She is a widely-published authority on breastfeeding who had recently admitted to being unable to breastfeed her last child.  Together with attachment guru Dr. Sears she wrote a book on  “instinctive” parenting.  But if her trademark style of parenting is, as she says, instinctive, why do we need a to buy a manual on it?

In The Baby Book Dr. Sears proposed a rigid set of guidelines that moms must follow.  The set of rules he outlined is very specific and highly demanding — extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing, sharing a bed with children and so on.  If any one of his commandments alone does not seem like a big deal, they do add up.  Mothers working outside of the home in particular might find the regime undoable.  More to the point, Sears’s directions are focused on minutia.  If putting a 10-pound baby in carrier and walking around in 90 degree heat all day long is a mother’s idea of fun or makes sense logistics-wise — then, by all means, go for it.  However, it’s not medically necessary, and it’s not required for what psychologists call attachment.  So putting the child down to give oneself a break won’t do any harm.

If I were to try to point out to an attached mother that, for instance, bonding immediately after birth, while certainly nice, has not been shown to have any long term consequences, they often get defensive.  In their eyes, stating that fact makes me judgmental; why don’t I leave them and their families alone.  Hard core lactivist types recommend shutting down everyone, including grandmothers, deemed insufficiently committed to breastfeeding.

I belong to the noted early childhood development specialist Tim Gunn’s school of parenting.  My motto is “Make it work!”  There are wrong approaches, to be sure, but there is more than a single correct way of raising kids.  All of them are different and each will defy the experts at least once.  Even then, economist Bryan Kaplan raised doubts about the extent to which parenting methods matter at all.  Separated at birth studies are pretty uncanny in proving that so much of how the children turn out depends on genes.

We women talk about our experiences and readily dispatch advice.  We are proud when our kids do well, and are let down by other mothers’ bragging.  There is nothing unusual or evil about it.  The foot soldiers of attachment get pretty evangelical about Sears.  They hang on to his every word to the point of utter silliness, like they would have you think that strollers are the Devil.  They make sure the rest of us are aware of their superior motherhood.  Which elevates their commitment to the status of mommy wars (to be sure, the whole concept is larger).  This is not media invention.  Mommy wars are real, and evangelical proponents of attachment are the aggressor.

Ganju is one of the generals of the movement.  If she has any problem with the substance of the feature or the cover of Time magazine, she didn’t go on record with it.  She did write a short note to the point that the “shameful” graphic does not reflect the reality of breastfeeding mothers.  True.  I breastfed my babies, but I don’t recognize my kind of parenting in this picture.  I don’t find the photo offensive or misleading, however, because it correctly reflects on the reality of attachment mothers.

When Ganju got her thoughts together, she said this:

With its much-discussed, inflammatory “Are You Mom Enough” cover this week, TIME became just the latest big media brand/publisher to laugh all the way to the bank as we moms dance and jab and argue endlessly on camera, just as they set us up to do. Only instead of this series being labeled “mommyfights,” we get a title for our own media-manipulated, ever-escalating grudge match that’s far grander and more violent sounding: we get “the mommywars.”


Let’s turn May 13, 2012 into the day when individually and collectively, we all say enough. The day when we end these godforsaken, destructive, exploitative and made-up “mommywars” once and for all by sitting down wherever we are and simply refusing to engage any further.

In other words, she’s concerned that somebody might make a buck debating the phenomena.  As you might have guessed, I don’t have a problem with capitalism.  I do, however, have a bit of a problem with hypocrisy.  Ganju made a name for herself as proponent of sensationalist and out of medical mainstream parenting practices.  She made a buck on it, too.  And now that a prominent publication came up with a gross-out cover and pointed out the folly of her chosen parenting ideology, she’s digging up her inner pacifist.  This is pretty rich.

Katie Allison Ganju certainly has a way with words.  I don’t doubt that when it comes to issues that matter, she’s a great mom.  But the advice she dispatches is frequently wrong, her faithful are a self-righteous bunch, and me and people who think like me should by no means feel shy to point it out.



  1. Sing it! You don’t get to spend years firing a starter’s pistol or issuing orders like a drill sergeant and then play the victim of competitive attitudes.

    Comment by AHLondon (@AHLondon_Tex) — May 14, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

  2. A friend has 3 kids and his wife is training to be a midwife so I suppose they’re as “qualified” as anybody to have an opinion. They think it’s wrong. For me, I sum it up this way:

    If the kid is old enough to say “tit” then it’s time to quit.

    This weird subculture was exposed like when I turn over a rock now they just want the attention to go away.

    Comment by Harrison — May 15, 2012 @ 12:08 am

    • They actually teach their kids words for tit, like nummies or whatever. Pretty much everyone not involved in that particular subculture suspects that the mothers encourage their kids to breastfeed well into their childhood. There must be something wrong with Veronica because she draws her mother’s boobies. Maybe it’s what her mom is doing to her, maybe it’s the genes because there is probably something wrong with her mom (and dad) as well.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 15, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

      • The yoga mat/holistic foods set likes to think our culture is so “wrong” for how we raise our kids. They like to think that if they just do everything the opposite things will work out better than otherwise they are somehow corrupting their children.

        You can make your kids feel you love them without having them sucking on your knockers when they’re 8.

        That video was very disturbing. I wonder what the husbands of these women think?

        Comment by Harrison — May 15, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

        • I think there has to be something wrong with the husbands.

          Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 15, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

          • Seriously I’d love to know what the British woman’s husband thinks. I mean, he can’t be liking that. Maybe they don’t have husbands? Maybe they’re not having sex. There has to be something more behind this. I view it as a problem with the mothers.

            I read the Time Mag woman was breastfed until she was 6.

            Comment by Harrison — May 16, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

          • I’m pretty sure they are all married, and they have sex at least occasionally because I seriously doubt their babies were IVF. I can tell you, however, that some attachment parenting book (Sears, IIRC) talks about feeling “touched out” at the end of the day from “wearing” the baby, etc. When I was reading all that I thought it was crazy-talk. Sure we all feel tired, especially if the baby is not sleeping well, but “touched out”? Seriously? Parents’ love is the foundation of the family.
            I know some bloggers were accusing Time of Photoshopping the picture and saying that the woman is certainly a model. That sounded a bit naive, I think. Why bother concocting some sort of deception when these women are easy to find. Seriously, each one of them has a blog. Time published some of the other breastfeeding kids photo shoots they had, btw:

            Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 16, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  3. As a child psychologist and a mom, one of the things that is so misleading about attachment parenting is the name. It is only called attachment parenting because of the theory it was based upon. It is not called this because it is the only form of parenting which allows parents to develop a secure attachment relationship with their children. There are numerous ways to develop a secure attachment relationship with our kids. I explore more of this myth here for anyone who is interested:

    Comment by themommypsychologist — May 15, 2012 @ 9:36 am

  4. Great post. And I love an opportunity to quote my mom, who says with a chuckle: if your kid climbs in your lap and starts unbuttoning your blouse to help himself, he’s too old for the nursing.

    I can’t help but wonder if it’s detrimental for kids to have childhood memories of nursing. Will that be a fond or uncomfortable memory?

    I saw that Granju post and skimmed down to the comments; most folks were sharing a similar sentiment. I wonder why Granju decided that pic was the final straw. It not that shocking; it’s funny. And nope, I’m not mom enough LOL. I get pinched nerves and pulled muscles in my neck and shoulders, so wearing the baby was out of the question. It was stroller-city for my boys!


    Comment by nooneofanyimport — May 15, 2012 @ 2:35 pm

    • Yes, the picture is “ridiculous”, as in ridiculously funny, not because it’s out of line.
      I’m not a perfect mom either, but for some reason I don’t feel the need to wear a t-shirt that says “not mom enough”. That’s another kind of self-righteous exhibitionism.
      My daughter didn’t want to go into any sack. She was smashing her arms and legs and just didn’t like it. It didn’t help that I didn’t like it either. My son would probably go into a carrier, but by then I just wasn’t doing it. It probably made 0 difference.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — May 15, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

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