Archive for the ‘co-sleeping’ Category


Much of the darkness stems from the cultural and economic quicksand in which Bridgette Bird (Shaw) finds herself: As a would-be hookup says to her late in the first episode, “You’re living in a small room with a 2-year-old.” Working as a part-time nanny while going on acting auditions—all while trying to raise her young child, Larry—the show follows her efforts to simply keep her little family afloat, even as she makes bad decisions, acts impulsively, and tries to renew some semblance of a sex life.

While the episodes are distinctly carved up according to various misadventures (Bridgette is stuck at work while her child needs a clinic visit, Bridgette scrambles for cash to pay overdue rent), much of the ongoing narrative unfolds like an earnest indie film, inserting abrupt character backstories and plot complications at a sporadic pace. We gradually learn that Bridgette struggles with an eating disorder, that she has nannied for the same cluelessly bourgeois family (led by a reliably great Connie Britton) for years, that she has talent as an actor. But a big part of her identity is bound up with the feeling that she’s stuck, too. After being encouraged to start a vision board by a wealthier acquaintance who assures her it will help “actualize” her dreams into reality, she asks to borrow magazines, tape, scissors—then quietly adds, “I’m gonna need a dream, too.” By the end of the third episode, the strange admixture of lacerating humor and downbeat drama has gelled into something more potent and politically savvy than the sex-centric first episode might suggest.

From “SMILF is a good show with a horrible title” by Alex McLevy in AV Club. 

I really liked this series. It captured lots about the single motherhood experience – the suffocating combinations of financial and time poverty; the lack of adult space; the penalties for sexuality; the cost of childcare ‘help’ from family; the vulnerability to judgement for your parenting; the intense intimacy between mother and child.

It’s not perfect, and it’s quite dark, but I think it is probably the best series about mothering while poor since Roseanne

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There are lots of interesting questions being raised in this conversation highlighted by the New York Magazine in “Is attachment parenting a plot to force women back into the home?”

From my anecdotal experience, it seems like … all three popular myths you listed, and attachment parenting in particular, are propelled by the incredibly damaging sense that women should have everything they need to make their baby happy all the time. It seems that the most anxious mothers are those who don’t allow their children to deal with distress in small, controlled doses and thus constantly confirm their need to be overbearing with their children because of their inability to deal with distress.

Firstly, do you agree that these myths are attractive to women for that reason? If so, how do we fight against the guilt associated with not being able to fix all of your child’s problems instantly? Finally, for the anxious parent how do you short circuit that cycle of deskilling their child leading to greater anxiety?


Natural childbirth, lactivist and attachment parenting were started SPECIFICALLY to force women back into the home. It’s not a side effect; it’s the desired effect.

Now is as good a time as any to announce that I am speaking on a plenary panel on this topic in Melbourne in July. (Early bird registration closes on 18 April 2016). More details soon, but I would love to see you there if you are in town. And also the panel includes some wonderful thinkers on this topic such as Dr Petra Bueskens, Anne Manne and Dr Fiona Giles. 

I have written a LOT about this topic before. Ooh sixty-something posts and articles, but here’s some examples:

Why attachment parenting NEEDS feminism

Wootan is aware that his advice might be restrictive. Helpfully, as father of eleven and grandparent to twenty-one children, Wootan offers a suggestion from his own experience on meeting the specifications of the no-separation-until-3 rule.

In our family, we have found that many events that would require leaving our baby or toddler at home are the ones that we don’t particularly mind missing.

Sounds a little isolating. Well, for the mother anyway. Presumably  Wootan, as the father, still managed to attend plenty of events without the children, allowing him to pursue his career as a doctor, health writer and attachment parenting guru. Still, don’t bother talking injustice here, you’ve already been trumped, because everybody in this discussion on peaceful parenting is talking about the needs of the child.

Feminists, a little perspective, please

How did Feministe watch this debate being cooked up in mainstrea media and not get how anti-women it all was? Why doesn’t Amanda Marcotte want to question men’s roles or the incredible inflexibility of American workplace practices more? (I mean, you want to talk about privilege, how about how poor mothers are left behind on paid maternity leave?) Why does Hanna Roison deliberately bait mothers now, instead of just questioning one-size-fits-all parenting?

Feminism and attachment parenting and why they’ve more in common than in conflict 

Recently I was interviewed by a feminist writer about my thoughts on where the resurgence in attachment parenting fits with feminism. I raised a number ofchallenges but I also higlighted what I see as harmonies between feminism and this style of parenting. There are two significant areas of overlap in my opinion. The first is that attachment parenting, at least in theory, is a style of parenting allowingwomen to perform parenting within their everyday lives. When babies are breastfed, co-sleeping and carried they’re potentially very portable. You can be caring for your baby while also getting shit done. In practice this isn’t always the case. The workplace, and public space in general, can be pretty child unfriendly and not every mother decides this is how she wants to live her life. But in theory it should be possible – women should be able to be full participants in life without being marginalised by their gender. And that’s feminism.

On judging mothers

If feminism, in approaching the unresolved question of mothers, does not recognise that motherhood is messy and emotional and diverse and political then it has missed the mark. It is important not to try to over-simplify mothers, not to stereotype them and not to ignore that their tasks are real work. Again and again in my writing I try to emphasize that last point, because I suspect much of the hostility towards mothers, including between mothers, would fade if we just understood that mothers are people trying to do a job and it’s consuming and tiring. It is difficult to imagine we would be bothered with The Mummy Wars if we were mobilising around the exploitation of unpaid care in our economy instead.

In defence of the mothers you hate

There are two types of mother here: one is professionalising her role, and the other politicising hers. Both are displaying a passion we condemn as smug. But the space for public conversations about motherhood is limited. We can have this conversation in one of two ways: we can endlessly divide – between the stay-at-home and paid-work mothers, between the breastfeeders and the bottlefeeders, between the caesarean mums and the homebirthers – or we can talk together.

A couple of things to bear in mind with the slacker mum movement

Finally, the slacker mother movement seems to be taking a nasty turn lately towards judging mothers it sees as being too dedicated to the pursuit of motherhood. This begs the question what business is it of yours how another mother does her care work, because it’s inherently sexist that we routinely consider women’s lives our business and that we also have so many ways to criticise women? Also, are you sure she isn’t the oppressed minority, rather than you? In which case, step off her neck you big bully, she’s got enough on her plate. Lauren Rosewarne’s piece for The Drum was a classic example of this problem, in my opinion, as was Mia Freedman’s piece about birth activists, which I tackled in this article of mine atEssential Baby. Even Caro’s piece, which is notably about “over-mothering,” pictures ‘intervention-free birthers’ as some dominating group of mothers she is bravely breaking free of when, actually, having a medicalised birth is hardly taking the path of most resistance in Australia.

How did the patriarchy influence parenting and what problems did it cause?

Every now and then I come across a piece of writing that connects up a series of thoughts I have been having and I never quite see the world the same way again. This is one of those articles; it isn’t talking about anything new for me, but it is making those links in a more concrete, more overarching way for me. This is where feminism meets economics meets parenting:

In turn, what Hrdy finds is that a supportive network of caregivers is an evolutionarily stable strategy, ensuring children have many attachment figures. Patriarchal society isolated mothers by creating an environment that immured them from the social support that has long been the hallmark of our species. The image of the mother as “an all-giving, totally dedicated creature who turns herself over to her children”, says Hrdy, is not one that “takes into account the woman’s perspective”.


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This is an excellent article on the infuriating mistakes made in public health policy for co-sleeping.

As states have adopted the AAP 2011 recommendations, the advice to never sleep with your baby has backfired in the worst possible way. Rather than preventing deaths, this advice is probably even increasing deaths. Included in 2009 study that the AAP even cited in its statement for other conclusions, parents of two SIDS babies who slept with their infant on a sofa did so because they had been advised against bringing their infants into bed but had not realized the dangers of sleeping on a sofa. In fact, deaths from SIDS in parental beds has halved in the UK from 1984-2004, but there has been a rise of deaths from cosleeping on sofas.

In contrast, medical authorities in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia have different messages than the American Academy of Pediatrics. They all acknowledge that most mothers do share a bed with their infant at least some of the time. If one chooses to bedshare, they educate the public on risks and on ways to markedly decrease the risk of infant death.

In addition, research shows that bedsharing facilitates breastfeeding and is associated withlonger breastfeeding duration.

Breastfeeding mothers who try not to share a bed with their baby either end up giving up breastfeeding or bed share anyway. The nutritional content of human milk necessitates frequent feeding both day and night and frequent close contact.

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This response from Eliza at tea plus oranges is such a considered response that it’s hard to imagine it was written with a sleeping baby on her chest… and reading it was a lovely opportunity to revisit those first early months of motherhood. All my love to new parents.

If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?

I’m interested to see how this will pan out. It’s something we’ve talked about a lot at various stages of our relationship, mainly in relation to balancing two careers. We met at uni as two ambitious law student types, and he fully supports the idea that I should be able to go forth professionally and do interesting, meaningful things in paid work, as well as being an available and attentive parent. However, there is an inevitable tension in trying to carve out an equal relationship in a non-equal society. “Lean in” feminism emphasises the need for a supportive partner; but the limits of individual action in working around structural problems also apply to the concerted actions of a couple. He wants to support my career, but doesn’t want to sacrifice his. That’s fair enough. Why should either of us have to? Why can’t employment conditions accommodate family life for both partners? Yet, they don’t. So we intend to find some way of realigning the division of labour once we’re through the early years of parenthood (in which I want to be at home with my babies). Watch this space.

He took four weeks’ leave when bubs was born, which was really really fantastic. I’m now passionate about the feminist importance of paternity leave. There was a revelation in that month – he “gets” household management now. Five years of living together, I’ve done more than half the domestic load, but since bubs arrived that has changed. All it took was four weeks in which I completely abdicated responsibility for everything other than breastfeeding… He’s back at work now, and while our relationship may look very traditional at the moment, in many ways it’s more equal than ever (we’re both exhausted). I’m really grateful to be able to spend a full year at home with bubs. In an ideal world, we’d have better maternity leave provisions, so that women’s ability to do this doesn’t depend on the work status of the father. In the meantime, I’m pretty glad to have a breadwinner spouse just now.

(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).

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Comments received on an article I write for The Guardian in which I mention briefly that I am no longer with Bill, the father of my children:

“You might also consider giving the father custody or putting the children up for adoption with a home that is able to be more child oriented. Just a suggestion”.

“I wonder, for what whimsical and self-indulgent reason you chose ( these days it’s always the women who chose ), to split up with your children’s father”.


The grief is long and deep. A good part of the grief involves worrying about one another’s grief. One evening my eight year old daughter, Lauca, is worn out and sad.. and I am too. We lie down on my bed together in tears. Cormac comes in, and while only four years old he none the less performs some kind of quintessential male ritual of discomfort with emotion for us.

Cheer up, cheer up you two, cheer up, he says.

Oh for godsake, I say, cuddling him up to me, it is ok to cry.

I am amused that I have to reassure him so. This is Cormac, he has a crying jag virtually every day of his life and he is quite happy to use them for something as routine as being required to take his plate back to the kitchen or to find his shoes.

When we are all quiet again together on my bed I tell them the fun of crying is over and everyone into the shower with me so I can supervise hair-washing.


Me: Please don’t feed the kids chocolate at your house for breakfast. That’s real divorced not-even-trying dad behaviour.

Bill: Worried you can’t compete?

(We both laugh).


A friend tells me that she lies in bed awake at night frightened for my future. I know she means it kindly but I am hurt by her sense of hopelessness for me. I am alright, I say, I really am. I decide I shouldn’t tell her about the nights when the children are staying with their father and I sometimes sigh with pleasure in my empty house. And then there are the nights when I do not even stay home in my empty house.


Everything becomes adventurous and untested. I have a strange energy. One day I see a government policy announcement in the paper and I have mixed feelings about it. As I am leaving work that evening I write a quick pitch to the editor at The Guardian. On the way home I stop at the supermarket for dinner ingredients and then I go to a friend’s house to pick up my two children. As well as collecting my children from school and kindergarten she has bathed them with her own children. I am grateful to her for trimming half an hour from my evening’s tasks for me. At home I check my emails and see that the editor has accepted the pitch but that they want the piece tomorrow by start of business.

I decide I can do this. So, I cook dinner, exchange accounts with the kids about the day, read bedtime stories, cuddle them to sleep, clean up the kitchen and then, begin writing. I give myself until midnight to finish it. In the morning I proofread my piece while we are all cleaning our teeth. I email it to the editor and then hurry up hurry up hurry up us out the front door to our various places – kindergarten, school and the train station for the commute to work. The article is published by the time I reach the office.

The piece happens to mention briefly that I am no longer with Bill, the father of my children. I receive some of the most hostile comments I have seen on an article of mine.

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a asleep

Cormac sleeps with his bow.

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After all that debate around whether attachment parenting is anti-feminist for mothers this is an interesting finding:

Results showed that feminists were more likely to support attachment parenting practices than non-feminists, and non-feminists were more likely to endorse strict schedules for children. These results suggest that attachment parenting is a type of parenting that is attractive to feminist women.

Interestingly, non-feminists, and mothers in particular, held misperceptions about the typical feminist who they saw as largely uninterested in the time-intensive and hands-on practices associated with attachment parenting. Non-feminists perceived feminists as less interested in attachment parenting than they were when, in fact, the feminists were more interested.

The study, which was mentioned in PSYPOST, is relatively small but the results are noteworthy. The findings make intuitive sense to me because, anecdotally, among the feminist mothers I follow on Twitter and at other blogs more of them seem to be into AP than not. But then you could reasonably argue that there is a significant amount of self-selection bias in my own sampling, too. This is not to say that I don’t also really dig my feminist parenting people who are not into AP. Just, these are interesting thoughts.

(Thanks to Dylan for the link).

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If you cannot afford separate master bedrooms in your house may I suggest co-sleeping and bed-hopping with your children as a suitable substitute for retaining this kind of ‘novelty’ feeling with your partner?


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There’s an Elisabeth Badinter triptych happening at Huffington Post at the moment that’s worth reading.

Here’s Badinter’s essay (she’s not all bad, in my books, some of her thinking has merit; for instance, there is an unnecessary preoccupation with perfectionism in contemporary motherhood):

Nature knows only one way to be a mother. This is not the case for women, who are endowed with consciousness, personal histories, desires and differing ambitions. What some do well and with pleasure, others do badly or out of duty. By failing to take account of women’s diversity, by imposing a single ideal of motherhood, by pursuing the notion of a perfect mother — one who has the exclusive responsibility of making or breaking her children — we fall into a trap. We neglect the other business of modern women: the unfinished assault on the glass ceiling, the fight to close the salary gap, the struggle for equality at home. We overlook women’s need for financial independence at a moment when one marriage in two ends in divorce.

We also fail to remember that raising a child doesn’t last forever, that when children grow up we have thirty or forty years left to live. To make a child the alpha and omega of a woman’s life deals a terrible blow to women’s autonomy and to the equality of the sexes.

And Badinter’s interview (I think Lisa Belkin narrows in on one of the weaker aspects of Badinter’s argument here):

I agree that women are at a disadvantage at work, and are not free to completely fulfill themselves in the workplace, if they follow the recommendations of doctors, such as breastfeeding exclusively for six months. But isn’t a better solution to change the workplace? Isn’t that where the problem lies?
Businesses certainly need to make improvements to help young mothers, particularly by setting up nurseries on the premises. But this problem can be solved. What is more difficult today is to get people to acknowledge that not all women want to breastfeed and no one has the right to pressure them to do so. You can be just as good a mother giving a bottle. But in some countries, this statement has become almost unspeakable.

And this from Melissa Fay Greene on how maternal desire ultimately trumps Badinter’s argument:

Most mothers are doing the best they can. They swing-shift, job-share, freelance, temp, telecommute, fill in, work part-time, babysit for others, substitute, carpool, invent and consult. Young American mothers today, to an incredible degree, are discovering how to generate income from home, online. Millions of women see the rearing of children as the richest, most meaningful work they will ever do. But even the Most Extreme Devotees of Mothering live in the real world; they, too, must buy groceries and gas, pay rent or a mortgage, and pay back student loans. Some will make do with the old car, the small house, the clothes from the consignment shop, if it will allow them to stay home with their children another year. Like everyone in this recession-hit world, most hope that someday, when they re-enter the job market, they will find work equivalent to their skills and talents.

To choose — whether for weeks, months, or years — l’idéologie du naturalisme, attachment parenting, is not to forgo all ambition. It is not to create a retro scene that, as Badinter writes, “sexist men can celebrate” nor is it to grimly and with a sense of biological destiny take up a life of “masochism and sacrifice.” It is to enter into the world of the baby and young child with passion and creativity for as long as a mother finds it enriching and necessary and for as long as she and her partner, if she has one, can afford it. The high energy and joy of my early years of mothering were highlights of my life. It wasn’t a trade-off. I wasn’t choosing the rearing of happy children over the desire for a career. I always wanted both.

More of my views on Badinter’s ideas here: Oppressed by breastfeeding, The mediocre mother, The split, How did the patriarchy influence parenting and what problems did it cause?, Feminism and attachment parenting and why they’ve more in common than in conflict, Why attachment parenting needs feminism, Can attachment parenting be saved?, and The accidental attachment parent.

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