I have been watching this strange and disturbing trend of “attachment parenting” with bemusement. I first heard about it a few years ago, through a friend who knew a woman who fed her son breast milk until he was old enough to walk to her, grab her breast and demand his “milky, milky” as he bit her nipple because he had all his teeth.
A bit extreme for me. Still, I fear that many of us moms suffer from some form of attachment parenting.
My parents are from Mexico, and they were raised in a culture where children are to be seen and not heard. This doesn’t mean that they were not engaged as parents, but they think it is unhealthy for parents and children when the children rule the roost.
CHILDREN KNOW THEIR PLACE
When my brother asked a friend who grew up in the States and recently moved back to Mexico what she enjoyed most about living there, she unabashedly told him: full-time nannies.
Her children and the nannies adore each other. She has no guilt about dedicating much of her time to and energy to developing her own relationship with her husband and her friends.
“Mexico is a society for adults where the children know their place,” she told him. “And believe me, it is not first or even second.”
My mother and her mother and her grandmother were all raised by nannies. My mother’s nanny, whom my mom always called Mi Nana, was really like her mother. My mom adored her. Nana was the one she feared, the one she confided in, the one who would keep her company and tuck her in at night. My grandmother was there of course, but she was more a glamorous presence who would breeze in and out of their lives, always beautiful and usually cheerful.
Before I moved to the United States, my brother and I had our nannies. And they were ever present, although my mother was much more hands on than her own mother. Still, my parents had an active social life and would frequently go out with their friends. Nobody seemed to be wracked by guilt.
I don’t think having nannies raise your kids is necessarily a good thing. But it seems like in the United States, moms are fed—and we gobble up—guilt for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Maybe this attachment craze is really just about guilt.
When I had my kids, we had a full-time nanny. She was great with the kids and they adored her, but I was miserable working a full-time job. I calculated that I spent more time with my computer than with my children. Finally, I quit my full-time job and our nanny left.
Staying home was a steep learning curve and one that I was not prepared for. When my husband came home in the evening, I was drained and cranky from spending all day with two needy people under the age of six—and I wasn’t even breastfeeding! Going out to dinner with hubby or with my girlfriends became a once a month event—if that.
Now that my children are older, it is still hard to find time with my husband and girlfriends. Everyone is so busy and exhausted. Friendships have fallen to a distant, distant third for most of the women I know.
ARE WE OVER-PARENTING?
Most of the moms I know, including myself, are either helicopter parents or in their children’s business way too much. Do I really want to know how my kids’ day was every single day? Do I really need to volunteer at my kids’ school every week? Should I really care if my kids don’t get straight A’s in elementary school? I wonder if this is an issue that affects mainly middle- and upper-income women? Moms that are working their tails off to make ends meet cannot afford to wonder if Sonny was nice at school today.
Once upon a time in America, the pioneer woman was a role model. There was something very inspiring about having a strong, fearless, tough woman be an icon (think Abigail Adams shooting her musket or inoculating her own children against smallpox or California’s Juana Briones de Miranda who raised seven children and became an entrepreneur, bought land and ran a rancho).
But it seems like that woman has gone the way of the dinosaur. Pioneer women put their kids to work, didn’t ask their opinions, expected respect and let them know who was boss with a single raise of the eyebrow.
So instead of miring in the silliness of being attached at the hip and negotiating parenting with your child, I think we should ask the question: Where have all the cowgirls gone and how can we reclaim that spirit?