Why All This Parenting Style Stuff Matters Even When It Feels Like It Shouldn't

By Heather on July 25th 2013
Today, I saw an intense image pop up in my Facebook stream, shared by a page dedicated to supporting mothers with breastfeeding challenges. It showed an emaciated mother with very little breast tissue (mostly skin) breastfeeding a similarly thin child. Naturally, many of the comments the post illicited expressed guilt about fretting over low breast milk supply when this mother is clearly giving, quite literally it seems, all she has. Almost reflexively, I also admonished myself for being occupied with "first world problems" such as lamenting my previously challenged milk supply when alternatives are so readily available to me. Then, I got to thinking about all the things we talk about here on the Boba blog and many of us in our "conscious parenting" circles. I began searching for my own reasons for making important those things which many people in the world cannot fathom fretting over for their sheer lack of basic health and safety. While children are starving in all corners of the world, we are fighting about nursing vs. bottle-feeding, breast milk vs. formula. While children huddle with their families, or each other, or alone through uncertain nights in war-torn regions, we are pushing the co-sleeping agenda. While struggling single and married mothers alike the world over are working however they can just to feed and shelter their children while their kids may or may not have access to school or daycare while they’re on the job, we are heralding the benefits of unschooling. While babies in slums are learning to pick through garbage while toddling through it with bare feet and empty bellies, we are talking about the importance of organic, fair-trade, shade-grown cotton, milk, coffee, you-name-it. While mother and baby mortality rates are climbing in impoverished nations, we are bemoaning the rate of babies born safely via cesarean surgery. Why? How could all this stuff matter when there are so many on the planet who don’t even know they could dream of such privileges as most of us in the attachment parenting community have? Well, because it does. In fact, I think it matters more than we might ever realize in our lifetime.

"To change the world, we must first change the way the babies are being born.” – Michel Odent, obstetrician and author of 13 books, including the recently released Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens

Call it ripple effect. Call it birthing the change we want to see in the world. Call it wishful thinking even, but if we care about the state of things we simply must contribute to changing this world for the better. How could pushing the limits of our privilege and seeking more and more refined, even elitist, parenting options do that? Quite simply (or is it?) by reconnecting people, reweaving a sense of relatedness, reinvigorating care and kindness in our next generations; that’s how.

“However we treat the child, the child will treat the world.” – Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting.

All I’ve been taught about the history of the world shows me that disease, war and famine have long been struggles plaguing the nations of shifting borders and the peoples inside them. However, there is no one I know who would deny that the times we live in are poignantly scary not just because of the horrors of illness, war, and hunger, but also because of the disconnectedness we witness among our own generation, which is worse still in the next. From outrageous youth gun violence to simple mass eye-contact avoidance in the street, we’re surrounded by indicators that we’ve grown more and more divorced from our empathy, our shared humanity. We the privileged among our world community are living behind screens, shopping ourselves and the world into grave, un-payable debts, and contributing if not outright causing increased suffering for those that fall outside the lines of our good fortune. Indeed, our lack of connection is fueling the worst of and for humanity. What gentle parenting, natural parenting, attachment parenting aims to do is to use this good fortune, the options we’ve so luckily been born into (including the option to work to provide these options for ourselves) to help change this negative trajectory, starting with ourselves and our children. We may not all work consciously towards this greater goal, but I believe we are contributing to it nonetheless. By efforting to birth and raise this generation as a more connected, kind and confident one, and by seeking to support businesses and practices that also act with more consciousness than the “norm”, we are offering up our best effort at changing the tides. Boba.BabyHeadBlog I chose to give birth at home so that my daughter would start her life as peacefully as possible, because I believe every being deserves to be born in only love and peace, and because, as a beloved Buddhist teacher of mine once said, “We are always practicing something.” I want to help my daughter practice peace and love, so that she may know it deeply in herself and give that to the world, too. I fought to breastfeed so that her body may have the best nourishment and her whole being feel the most connection with me I could offer, this the first and most consequential intimate relationship she will have. I want to mother her in a way that resources her well for future relationships. I consider her feelings, her whole person well-being, her fears and her joys in every parenting choice I make, and put them before my own comfort and convenience when able (though admittedly many of these choices provide long-term ease in comparison to some of the alternatives). From co-sleeping to babywearing to preparing her food from scratch, I work hard so that she will be aware of her worthiness, of mattering deeply, of being a priority. I do this because she deserves to know herself this way and so that she may grow to freely offer her beneficial qualities to the world as well.

“Nothing is more important in the world today than the nurturing that children receive in the first three years of life, for it is in these earliest years that the capacities for trust, empathy, and affection originate.” – Dr. Elliott Barker from The Critical Importance of Mothering

I do not think that babies and children who are raised outside of an idyllic “attachment” parenting model are flawed, nor that it is all or nothing (my own young family life is far from perfect in AP or conventional terms). I do believe, however, that parenting from gentleness and respect, and prioritizing connection over convenience will give my daughter a perspective and fortification that is special in today’s fast food, TV-babysitter, independence-prizing, consumerist, media-driven, medically-birthed society. I hope that’s what happens, and that this special confidence and self-love will reflect outward, compelling her to help change the world for the better. Perhaps just being in the world more connected and compassionate, with a growing number of others who are as well, will be enough. Perhaps her impact on the world will be no different than any other child raised far from the AP style. From where I sit however, from what I see, I think the former is more likely and even if it isn’t, it’s worth a shot (and filled with so much sweetness on the way). As a friend of mine said on Facebook today about parenting her new baby to the point of exhaustion, I’m all in. I’m glad to know personally and from afar so many parents that are also all in by way of choosing connection over disconnection, even though there are so many much worse things to worry about in the world.