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Providing Consistent and Loving Care

Those of you who have been around here awhile might remember that about a year ago, I started a series on Attachment Parenting, in which I examined each principle individually and considered how it plays out in our home. I also asked all of you to share with me how each principle fit (or didn’t fit) into your family’s life. I tend to have a short attention span for series and I ended up going over the first five principles and dropping the ball entirely. Recently, this has been on my mind again, and I thought it would be really interesting, at least for me, if I could finish these up before we add to our family. A year or more from now, when we’re settled into life with two children, I’d love to look at how things have, or haven’t changed. So today I’m picking up where I left off and taking a look at the sixth principle of attachment parenting, and how it plays out in our house. I’d love to hear what providing consistent and loving care looks like for you, too, so please feel free to link me to any posts you have written, or just share away in the comments.

Annabelle enjoys a day out with one of her favorite caregivers: her dad.

There are two things I have learned about Attachment Parenting since beginning my own journey as a mother. The first is that many of these principles are intuitive for parents. Their implementation is not limited to those who self-identify as “attached parents.” Most of us, in fact, if asked, would say that we strive to provide consistent and loving care. The second thing I have learned is that the implementation of these principles looks very different from household to household.

The principle of providing Consistent and Loving Care in particular can play out in so many different ways, and it brings up one of the most hotly debated and divisive parenting debates: who cares for our children.

An Attached Caregiver

For some, the best way to provide consistent, loving care is by ensuring that one parent can stay at home full time with their child or children. This makes it possible to nurture a secure attachment between parent and child, while being there to attend to all of the child’s needs. For others, it means arranging the work schedules of parents so that one or the other can always be available to provide care. Still others do their best to select a caregiver or caregivers who they trust will treat the child with love and respect. Not every parent has the option to stay home with their children, and not every parent is at their best when they’re in a stay-at-home role. This is okay. I firmly believe that it’s a positive thing when children can have multiple secure relationships, and there’s no inherent disadvantage to sharing care between parents and loving caregivers. In fact, in most cases it’s quite the opposite!

Beyond early childhood, the questions of whether and where to send children to school, how to handle boundaries with older children and teenagers, and how to nurture changing relationships with our children in general come up. These are issues I think about often, but they’re not on my radar at the moment and I don’t feel like I’m in a position to comment on them much, but just as with providing care in early childhood, what constitutes “consistent” and “loving” in one household may be completely different from what another consistent and loving family chooses. We all do what makes the most sense for us.

In Our House

Being silly with her best girl P, just after a shoulder ride courtesy of P's mama.

I stopped working in February to prepare for Annabelle’s birth in March of the same year, and I have had the opportunity to stay home full time with her ever since. I am her primary caregiver during the day, and her dad and I share the caregiver role pretty equally among us the rest of the time, or at least attempt to. I’m far from perfect, but I have tried to nurture our attachment by taking time out each day to really spend time together, whether snuggling, reading books, or playing a silly game. It’s easy to get caught up in the rest of the business of the house, and I’ll confess that I get lost in the to-do list far too often. Even so, I consider my primary job as a stay-at-home parent to be parenting. Some days, I manage to get a lot of housework done while I’m at it, but other days my focus needs to be more on Annabelle and I wrap the essential cleaning and organizing up together with the husband after A has gone to sleep for the night.

While I’m happy to stay home, and grateful that it’s a decision I can make fairly easily, I also believe that as women and as role models, we mothers owe it to our children and ourselves to nurture our own needs and follow our bliss as well. I am working to find a balance between caring for Annabelle, and incorporating things, like writing, that make me feel fulfilled as a person. As a wise friend said recently, “I have also been reminded that if I am giving more than what keeps me whole and balanced, then what I am really giving is nothing.” In my view, modeling self-love is an important part of offering loving care, and I’m slowly discovering ways to incorporate things into our days that fill me, while still honoring Annabelle’s needs. It’s a balancing act, to be sure, and I frequently fall over and need to pick myself up to start again.

One way that my husband nurtures his attachment with Annabelle while simultaneously helping me take the necessary time for self-care, is by taking her out on the weekends, or spending a Saturday or Sunday at home with Annabelle while I go off on my own or with a friend. Not only does this give me time for myself, but it gives the two of them quality time and allows Annabelle the opportunity to see that her dad is an equally capable and important caregiver, even if he isn’t home as much as I am.

Another wonderful help in this area has been having families in our lives who share our parenting values. Unfortunately, our two best friend families left the island ahead of us, so we have been missing them for some time now, but balance was much easier when they were still around. Annabelle’s first best friends both happen to have parents who are special friends of ours as well, and who share similar priorities when it comes to parenting. Their parents were trusted caregivers when we all lived nearby, and they had very special bonds with Annabelle. It meant so much to see her interact joyfully with them, and to be able to leave her in their care for a day to myself or a date night, knowing that she was receiving loving care and enjoying herself at the same time. I loved being able to provide the same in return, and hope we’ll find some more wonderful friends in our new home. It takes so much pressure off of me, and always feels great to be able to provide the same in return.

Looking Ahead

As time goes on, Annabelle grows to need my focused attention less and less. Soon, she won’t need my “care” so much as my support, and occasional gentle guidance. Beyond these early childhood years, there are so many variables to consider, and what consistent and loving care looks like in our home will depend so much on how our lives evolve.

I’m open to the idea of homeschooling Annabelle and her sibling, and continuing to provide what care is needed here at home. As I explained in The Schooling Dilemma, I feel that most schools fail to provide an environment that truly, lovingly nurtures the child’s spirit. At the same time, I’d like to remain open to the idea that I might personally be more fulfilled later on if I can return to work outside the home, or that one or both children might have needs that are best met elsewhere. If this is the case, I’ll do my best to find a nurturing school environment.

It’s also possible that my husband will decide to go to grad school in a few years, or will take some time out of the work force to develop a project of his own. In either case, it may be preferable for me to be the primary wage earner for a time, handing over the role of daytime caregiver to him. As a family of four, we’ll have the needs and priorities of four individuals to consider as we work out how best to organize our lives in the years to come. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways to provide loving care to our children, so I have no doubt we’ll find a solution that works for us.

What does “consistent and loving care” mean to you, and how does it look in your home?

___

Some wonderful posts on the topic, for starters. Please share your own if you have written on the topic, or feel inspired to do so in the future.

From Hobo Mama – Parenting Alone: We Need More Allomothers

In fighting so hard for attachment parenting — carry your baby, breastfeed day and night — I feel like sometimes I miss the point that traditional mothers would do this with help. We weren’t meant to parent alone, and our babies weren’t meant to be so isolated and attached to only one caregiver.

From Rachael at The Variegated Life – Do You Have This?

I wanted my baby to know that he belongs in this human family; that we would hold him in his tears, anger, and sorrow; that it’s OK to have needs and desires of his own; and that if we laugh at his nonsense, we laugh only out of delight. I wanted him to know that one can love and love and love and care for another freely. And that intimacy is possible.

From Grow with Graces – Attachment Parenting … And Nanny Makes 3? discusses the value of choosing an alternate caregiver who shares your parenting philosophy.

From the Natural Parents Network Resource Pages: Provide Consistent and Loving Care. This list provides a wide variety of resources on the topic, from choosing alternate caregivers to staying connected through divorce or reconnecting after a long absence.

 

 

12 Responses to Providing Consistent and Loving Care

  • Melissa Vose says:

    YES! I’m so glad you wrote on this topic~ I like your perspective and your openness, and how you can address it peacefully without stirring up conflict like my post on this topic did =)
    I also appreciate how you specifically point out the equal value of all four members of your family and that balancing everyone’s needs is pretty important. We don’t cease to have needs, dreams, or lives when we have children! Being open to different family life arrangements is a great way to support the entire family.

    And I agree wholeheartedly that a larger circle of positive, affirming relationships is very healthy for children. We don’t want to leave our kids with whoever, whenever, but if we are selective and build relationships with other caregivers, the benefits to our children are immeasurable. Great post.

    • melissa says:

      Thank you, Melissa! I don’t think your way of addressing the home vs. work issue stirred up conflict so much as the topic itself and the strong emotions people have around it. I really love your take, actually.

      Also, “We don’t cease to have needs, dreams, or lives when we have children!” <–YES YES YES!

      • Melissa Vose says:

        I guess it wasn’t conflict so much as discussion; lots of ppl had lots to say!! Also I was speaking to a broader social acceptance and movement towards supporting women and families rather than any one specific situation, even my own. Also it is nice to be able to advocate for the ‘other side’ so to speak; as a SAHM (or I guess a WAHM, but aren’t we all?) advocating for more economic involvement of women in all societies, I critique myself and examine it from an inside perspective. I still managed to offend BOTH sides, but. I wasn’t trying to at all. =)

        • melissa says:

          Even if there were some ruffled feathers, I think you sparked a great discussion, and I do think it’s fantastic to advocate for both “sides.” Silly that there should be sides!

  • Amy says:

    You’ve done such a wonderful job writing here that I can’t think of much to add! I also choose to stay home with Q-ball. Going into motherhood, I wasn’t sure that I would want to stay home. My mother stayed with us for a short time then went back to work and has always been very devoted to her job (she would even spend the night at a hotel near her work because it was cheaper than traveling home!), but was still an amazing mother. My husband’s mother, on the other hand, is still a SAHM. So, I knew that both methods were totally acceptable. But, now I can not imagine going back to work and still providing the same care I do now! Like you, I can easily get caught up in the daily grind and forget to spend moments reading, laughing, or playing. I’ve now made it a goal to make sure that I find these special moments each day. They are especially important to me on days that I’m overwhelmed or on the really looooog repetitive (I don’t want to use the word boring because that makes it sound like SAHM just sit around…). I believe that finding fun and joy in every day is the best way that I can provide consistent love and care.

    • melissa says:

      It’s funny, I thought for sure I would always be a stay at home mom, at least for the early years, and now that I’m in it, I’m finding that part of me really misses my working self. It seems like the issue is much more complex than many of us realize pre-kids. At this point, I think I’ll continue to stay home for awhile, but I’m not nearly so sure as I once was that it would be just right for me.

      And yes to finding fun and joy in every day – or at least most of them!

  • Rach says:

    Thanks for a great post and for the links.
    For me the ideal in the first 3 years are parental care, if you are lucky enough to be able to provide it. If you can’t or don’t want to, then someone who genuinely loves the child, and who cares for them in a home environment is the next best I think. After 3, I just don’t know, besides knowing that I would want B to socialise with a consistent community of kids on a regular basis. This wouldn’t have to be school or nursery though.
    I’ve been lucky enough to stay home for over 2 years, and now I have returned to paid work for 3 days a week, my husband can look after B.
    Where we are not so lucky is that we don’t have family nearby, and while we do have friends with children the same age, we don’t have any strong/quasi-family relationships where we can share care. I wish we did but have been unsuccessful in any attempts to make it happen.
    Agree parents should model self-care and living the life they want for themselves. Doing the best you can for your child is part of this positive modelling.

    • melissa says:

      “Doing the best you can for your child is part of this positive modelling.” Excellent point! It’s wonderful that you and your husband can share B’s care, but I’m sure it would take a lot of pressure off of both of you if you had a “tribe” of some sort, whether family or friends who mimic the same. You’re definitely doing a lovely job with the support you have!

  • Rachael says:

    Thank you for the link!

    As you may know, my older son attends a Montessori school three days per week. In general, I’m very happy with it as well as with the community around the school (parents, etc.), but there are some things I’m less happy about — let’s just say that they could use some advice from Alfie Kohn. I’d love to hear your thoughts — especially as a Montessori educator yourself — on parents giving feedback? Though I think that there may be a year or two of homeschooling for us at some point, I know myself well enough to know that homeschooling my children for their entire education would be disastrous for our relationships. So I really, really do have to learn how to share my thoughts on education and discipline with teachers in a respectful, productive manner.

    • melissa says:

      Of course!

      On your question about giving feedback to the Critter’s school, I expect that you would have success if you addressed them as you would any other person. Just expect that they have the children’s best interests in mind and are reasonable people willing to have a discussion, and take it from there.

      The only thing to remember with Montessori teachers in particular is that most make their decisions and policies based on their interpretation of Montessori philosophy. The philosophy is often misunderstood, and challenged from that place of misunderstanding. Some teachers may take feedback to heart less than they should, if they’re operating from the assumption that parents just don’t understand the philosophy. A great way to start a discussion, then, can be to come in open and simply ask about the practice/policy/whatever it may be that’s bothering you: “I have noticed x, and I’m wondering if you can explain the philosophy behind that practice?” It may help you to see where they’re coming from, and once they know you understand that, they may be open to truly hearing your feedback. I’m sorry if that’s hopelessly vague. Hopefully it helps at least somewhat!

      • Rachael says:

        Yes, your feedback is very helpful! And the main takeaway, which I’ll take into *all* conversations with teachers in the future (not just the Critter’s current Montessori teachers), is to begin with questions. What a great way to place myself in a position of openness and curiosity! Thank you!

  • teresa says:

    You really summed up a lot here. I agree so much with your philosophy.
    I like that how you put it that some parents are not at their best as stay at home parents. That’s something I didn’t really consider. I always thought of it as either having the choice or not, but you’re totally right.
    And for myself as one who does happily stay home… the part about keeping my-self as a priority also is really important. I do want my daughter to see that I am a whole person as well as her mom. I want to model that for her.
    I really appreciate this thoughtful post.

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