Lauca being cute and thoughtful and not having much at all to do with the theme of this post.
This post with its link to a British documentary on ‘extraordinary’ extended breast feeding (eg. breast feeding a 7 year old child) reminds me that though I’ve passed Basic Attachment Parenting, and probably even have enough credit points to pass Intermediate Attachment Parenting (ie. non-intervention birth, breast-feeding until almost 2 years, co-sleeping, baby-slings, no crying it out, no smacking etc).. I will never graduate from Advanced Attachment Parenting.
Because the shameful truth is, I stifle a snigger when I watch this video. Yep, it probably shows that deep down I have some hang-ups about breast-feeding. I was raised in a society that sexualises the breast so much that it is freaked-out about the breast’s role as a baby feeder and I guess I’ve absorbed some of this. (In my defence, the video does have a Little Britain sketch feel to it at times). Although I definitely identify strongly with the attachment parenting end of the spectrum of parenting styles, this video also brings home to me a deeper reticence, my own lurking reservation with this approach. What becomes of a woman’s sense of self with attachment parenting?
Who is she, besides the provider of all this nurturing? The woman in the video doesn’t even feel she ‘owns’ the breasts on her body, even her husband jokes about wanting his bit. Its a worthy cause to educate on the needs of infants and children (god knows this world could do with more education) but what value are a woman’s boundaries in a movement very much pre-occupied with a child’s needs? What role do a woman’s needs play in attachment parenting? How does she sustain her identity beyond motherhood during attachment parenting? Why do attachment parents frequently tend to sound like they’re participating in a test of their endurance (myself included)? Shouldn’t good parenting decisions be about more than what you can endure giving of yourself? Though there have been efforts in the movement, I think attachment parenting has yet to adequately tackle these questions.
Over time lots of mothers have expressed to me a heart-felt desire to have been an attachment parent together with a distinct defensiveness around their own perceived inability to fulfill the demands of attachment parenting. Why do mothers feel like this? Why all the guilt? I’m cautious about any movement that makes women feel like they’re failing in some kind of test of their womanhood. I think we attachment parents need to be careful, we might not be directly de-valuing women’s worth but we’re standing on a slippery slope. We live in a world where women’s domestic labour is completely exploited and mothers have been idealised into very silent givers.
Having said all that, I think the mother in the video comes across pretty well. If there is one thing I understand as a parent its that I live in a glass house and I should be pretty bloody careful about tossing stones. I never intended to be an extended breast-feeder myself. Pre-parenthood I thought I’d last 6 months so, just short of 24 months was a surprise for me. I can’t judge this woman’s decision to be an ‘extreme extended breast-feeder’ as I’ve never experienced it myself and frankly, her decision really is none of my business. Maybe her sense of self is intact and healthy, hopefully the documentary touches on such questions.