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.
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
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.
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.