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It takes a village to raise a child

A lot of parents that practice attachment parenting or natural parenting point to the fact that this is the way children are often raised in traditional societies. This is true, to a great extent, but there is one big exception. In our society we seem to feel that practicing attachment parenting means that the parents alone are raising the child or sometimes even one parent alone (usually the mother) while the other one works long hours, goes off to war, or just runs away.

We parent alone. We raise our children alone. That is exhausting.

In traditional societies, it is true that people co-sleep, breastfeed much longer, and wear their babies all the time. But the village raises the child. There are grandparents, aunts, neighbours, and older children to share the parenting. In our society, if the mother cannot do it all, all of the time, we look down on her. Or, alternately, if she isn't willing to just leave her baby with some stranger in order to get a break, we look down on her.

I have never been comfortable just dropping my children with strangers. We have never called up a 13 year old babysitter from a flyer left at the mailboxes and then happily waved goodbye for the evening as we left her with our children. We were not able to just drop our son at a day care with a bunch of strange adults and strange children when he turned one because it was time. And we have turned down invitations to parties and weddings if it wasn't possible to get a trusted babysitter, someone that our child knows and trusts, to babysit. I don't think I should have to be comfortable dropping my children with strangers.

Share the responsibility

That said, I also don't think the entire burden of raising my children needs to fall on my shoulders or my husband's shoulders. In our case, we have been very lucky to be able to have my mother as a regular and trusted presence in our children's lives since the time they were born. We live out in the country and until recently didn't realize that we had other people nearby with children. I think if we had lived in the city, closer to friends, we would have tried to forge a closer and more consistent relationship between our children and our friends, to create opportunities for trade-offs (I'll watch your kids today if you watch mine tomorrow). I think it is important for parents to have help and to have breaks. Just as it is important to create a strong attachment with your child, I think it is important to your own mental health as a parent to encourage a strong attachment between your child and at least a handful of other trusted adults.

A lot of parents worry that their caregiver needs to use the same parenting approach that they do. I have seen people on attachment parenting boards worried about what will happen if their baby is not worn all day at daycare. Or what the impact will be if their child is put in time-outs at preschool if they don't agree with using punishment as a discipline tool.  As I've said before, for me, practicing attachment parenting is about the relationship I want to have with my child. I don't think it will hurt my children if another caregiver uses other approaches that I have decided are not right for me. Obviously, you want to agree with a caregiver on any points that are incredibly important to you (like corporal punishment, cry it out, and scheduled feedings perhaps...well that is my list, yours might be different). But I think it helps children to learn how to interact with different people in different ways.

Child-led independence

I think one of the other things that weighs us down as parents is the burden we place on our shoulders in terms of both teaching our children things and taking care of them. In traditional societies the adults often do not seek to actively teach anything to their children. They let the child approach them to learn something when they are ready. I think that we make things difficult for ourselves in two ways:

  • First, a lot of parents continue doing things for their children even after they have expressed interest and willingness to do it themselves. I admit that I am guilty of this a lot of the time because in the short term it seems easier to just do it than to teach your child.

  • Second, a lot of parents push their children to do certain things too early. Time to wean, time to toilet train, time to learn to count, time to start piano lessons, and so on.  If the child hasn't expressed an interest, it will only be more difficult for both the parent and the child.

Allowing our children to lead in developing their independence can take some of the burden off of us, but it requires a good dose of patience and a focus on teaching, not training our children. It requires confidence in our children.

Create a village and listen to your child

I hear a lot of people say, I couldn't possibly do attachment parenting because I'm a working mom or I couldn't possibly do attachment parenting because I have to use day care. I don't think that is true at all. For me personally, the fact that I am a working mom makes me feel it is even more important to practice attachment parenting because it makes it easier to create the strong bond I want to have with my children despite the fact that I have less time with them than a stay at home mom does.

But, I couldn't be an attached mom if it was all on my shoulders. I think when people practicing attachment parenting get burned out, it is because they are trying to do too much alone. It takes some work to create a village, especially in our very nuclear family based society. But I think it is worth it in the end. If you don't have family nearby, seek out friends that can be part of your village.

Finally, listen to your child. Take cues from your child about when she is ready to learn something new and follow through on it. It will be harder that day, but easier in the end.

Take some of the burden off yourself and put it onto the village and onto your child. Now put up your feet and enjoy a margarita.

Image credit: rogiro on flickr
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Reader Comments (67)

AMEN! It's funny you wrote about this topic because I've actually been thinking about it a lot ever since a very conservative family member of mine recently (once again) bad-mouthed Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes a Village." I guarantee he has not actually read it, and his opinion is undoubtedly based in large part on general dislike for Clinton, but it bothers me that someone can think the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child" is stupid or wrong on it's face. Or that no one should have to ask for help in raising their children. It's so obvious to me, especially as a parent, that it DOES take a village. And that's not something to be embarrassed to admit or to file under a left- or right-wing political ideology. It's the way it's supposed to be! It makes me sad to see moms putting so much pressure on themselves to live up to our society's impossible standard of independent/nuclear child-rearing.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterczarina

Whoa. I am one of those moms who thought "I'd LOVE to be an attachment parent but I can't wear him ALL the time!"
This post made me proudly proclaim, "I AM an attachment parent!!"

How could I not realize this when just last week I wrote a post called "It takes a village" http://mattrosanna.blogspot.com/2009/07/it-takes-village.html

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrosanna

@rosanna: Attachment parenting is a frame of mind, not a list of rules. You may find my posts on http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/16/what-is-attachment-parenting/" rel="nofollow">what attachment parenting is and http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/06/18/attachment-parenting-is-not/" rel="nofollow">what attachment parenting is not useful as well.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

So true - but so very hard to do.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Well said. I had worried before our daughter was born that my husband and I would have no support since we live far from family and close friends. I have since been pleasantly surprised to find acquaintances blossom into friendships as so many people offer help with our baby. We have received offers of babysitting, clothes, equiment and advice on othe resources. It really has been wonder to be welcomed into the "village".

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

@Kris: It is hard. But I think it is important. The alternative is either having a breakdown or disrespecting our children. No one can do it alone and do it well. Or at least no one that is human!

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@Olivia: That is great. It is nice to hear about people that used parenting as an opportunity to expand friendships and relationships. So many people shut themselves off when they have children, which isn't healthy for them or their kids.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I've been thinking of this lately because I was talking with a couple of girlfriends about how great it would be if we could all pool our resources and buy a huge house for all of our families to live in. While it started out as a joke, the women all think it would be a fabulous idea and would do it in a second; unfortunately, the men need more convincing.

I don't think it will actually happen but I've been day-dreaming about how wonderful it would be to really have a 'village' all under one roof, raising a whole bunch of kids together. It's a nice dream...

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFamilyNature

@FamilyNature: It is something I have thought about too. We need to balance the village concept with our desire for some privacy too. Maybe buying townhouses in the same row or getting a triplex with a shared back yard or something would be a solution. That way each family has its space, but it is easy to do things together too.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well written (as usual). While I've always believed this to be true, I hadn't realized just how true it was until we moved closer to family and had a stronger support system around us. It feels wonderful. We plan to make a much more focused effort to grow our community in our new location after we move (again) next month.

I also couldn't agree more with letting kids direct their own learning. While I think there is a time and a place for a parent to be aware that their child needs a bit of a nudge in a certain area, for the most part waiting until the child expresses interest is a far more effective approach. We plan to homeschool and will use a self-directed learning approach throughout.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia

@Cynthia: Nice to hear from you! Glad you're finding a community in your new home.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I couldn't agree more with every word you've said! I feel burned out this summer because it's my first summer as a SAHM and the first when our kids were not in a daycare or preschool at least half of the day. My daughter doesn't nap anymore, so I get virtually zero time to myself and it's beginning to show. We're new to the area, so it's really hard to find people to help out. I need to try harder.

And yes, I have done things for my kids just for the sake of speed or less mess--but this is one area that is better now that I don't work outside the home. I have more patience with long tasks and with the excruciatingly slow clean-up practices of my children. But now they are more likely to clean up their own messes without being asked...An unforeseen benefit to being home with them!

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndi

I've also always thought, and still do, that it would be easier to take advantage of the village if we were IN a village. We're on an acreage, only 10 minutes from a literal village, but far enough that it's extra effort that we haven't yet taken, which is ridiculous since we have not one but two families we're related to, who adore children, living in said village who would consider helping out to be a pleasure. Luckily one of those families sends their children to the same daycare my daughter attends, so at least she sees family quite a bit.

I've always considered myself an attachment parent although I work FT, but it is very squarely on DH's and my shoulders - our parents don't live near (the closest are 45 minutes away, the others on the two coasts while we're in Ontario), but we should most definitely take more time to meet up with the village. We've considered giving up the acreage to live nearer to other folks, but I think we'll probably stay but make more of an effort. I've never felt the need to take a big break from my daughter, but with another on the way, I can see that the exhaustion level will increase...

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

@Juliette: We have that same challenge, living out in the country. My mom lives a two hour drive away, but we are lucky that she comes and stays with us for two nights each week.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Well said! I absolutely think it takes village, and that's something we are sorely lacking these days. I wish I had more of a village type community here. I love being able to send the kids off with a friend's older daughter to the park while she and I drink coffee and chat on the couch. The kids get freedom and we get community we crave.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

What an excellent post, I truly enjoyed it.

I completely agree and am so envious of parents who have helpful family members close-by, or even friends! My family is a five-hour drive away, and our friends 40 minutes. Making new friends is quite daunting, especially when most people in my area are Francophone.

When I had to return to work, I was lucky enough to find a DCP whose parenting style meshed well with my own, and I was determined to try and help my son get to know and build a little trust in her before leaving him. She allowed this to an extent (some brief visits) but informed me that most daycare services in Quebec do not allow the parents to stay for visits at all! Parents are expected to just drop their child off cold-turkey for gradually longer periods of time. I find that absolutely barbaric and feel so awful for the families who go through that.

Last summer I tried taking on a mother's helper in order for my son to establish a bond with someone who could become his babysitter, but it didn't work out. Right now my husband and I have no one to watch our son - I've got to come up with a plan...

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I agree with this post completely. Having family nearby is so valuable to me. But it has been at least as valuable to foster a community of like-minded mothers. I live in the suburbs, and so I have been able to have this. Even if just for moral support it's so valuable. We can all get together, our kids can play, and we don't each have to be as 'on' as if we were by ourselves.

I also agree that it's not critical that other people ascribe to your parenting style in every detail. As long as we're not dealing with major conflicts I think it's good for kids to learn how to relate to different people. Having different caregivers with different styles contributes - even two parents rarely agree on absolutely everything.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Nicely done. And timely too. I have been collecting thoughts from moms about why we don't ask for help and where our "mother guilt" comes from and I think this all ties in. Have linked this post into the one I have just put up.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

"That said, I also don’t think the entire burden of raising my children needs to fall on my shoulders or my husband’s shoulders."
If you choose to have children, the responsibility is ALL yours. You are responsible for choosing the people you have spend time with your children.
You also mentioned that you lived in the country and you didn't know that you had people nearby with children. Attachement parenting does not mean you should become an insular family. What should have happened is you should have reached out to your community to provide a diverse and supportive 'village' for your whole family no matter if the other families were a few feet away or a mile away.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterscargosun

@scargosun: The responsibility is mine, but it doesn't mean that the entire burden needs to be mine. You are correct that I am responsible for choosing the people that I have spend time with my children and that is what I have done.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is a wonderful and true post. Sometimes I get frustrated and feel like attachment parenting is a subtle backlash against the earlier feminist movement. Now women are looked down upon for owning a crib and putting their baby down. I also find it fascinating that attachment parenting is practiced mostly by the upper middle class (I know this is a HUGE generalization, and I know there are exceptions, including me). I think instead of looking down on those who don't (or can't) practice attachment parenting, we need to understand WHY. This post is a step in the right direction.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

I don't have family near by (that I'd trust with my daughter), but I do have a great group of moms from a playgroup. I know if I ever needed anything, they'd be there for me and if I was out of commission, they'd even breastfeed my daughter for me. It's our little "tribe." It's really nice to have that available.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat

blimey! so attachement parenting is defined as wearing your child day in, day out?
this explains a lot regarding the sanity of some of my mummy friends - i am still mystified that they don't understand the need to carve out time for themselves in addition to all the quality-time exploits for their precious bundles

and yes, i'm being sarcastic

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterebbandflo

Mom's stop beating yourselves up! There is a BIG difference between teaching children (not your job, you are not trained as a teacher) and leading children (helping them learn - this is your job!).

Please leave the 'teaching' to teachers and find ways to 'lead' your child to learning (hence the name of my blog). You 'lead' your child to learning by helping them develop foundational learning skills such as language, memory, cooperation, responsibility etc. If you do this then a teacher can teach your child anything he or she wants to learn.

So, yes, it does take a village ....., but everyone in that village has their own particular skill to impart to a child. Your skill- as a parent- is to love your child,care for your child, allow them to develop the skills they need to be able to go out in the world and become successful.

You can't do this if you are exhausted and cranky, get the support you need and do not feel guilty about it. Children are incredibly resilient. I have worked with children from very difficult situations (poverty, disability, failure to learn) and as long as you love them enough to get them help when they need it (the village thing again) they will become all they are capable of becoming.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world - and the most important!

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDr Patricia Porter

humm yes time to find a bigger village...living out in the country...make the effort...yes must do... thank you

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

First, I love the picture you chose. I found it so stricking. It made me think how much my daughter would love to put her brother on her back.
Second, the village is so imporant but can also be challenging to build. I found with a second child we needed more help than ever from the few family members within driving distance to us. They have been amazing. But with two kids (one a baby still) it is also harder to go out and develop those relationships. We are tired, just getting through the day, etc. I hope that will become easier with time.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCapital Mom

Great, well written post, as usual! Thank you. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly now that my daughter's last set of molars is coming in and no one is sleeping well. Many things come to mind: mothers need support, but feel guilty about asking. I have felt like I must be a wimp many times. I bet there is a relationship between this sense of guilt and PPD. For months, I felt like attachment parenting was not realistic/considerate of the mother's needs. That being said, I have been realizing that we are essentially attachment parenting, in the way that works best for our family. I like how you put it: "Attachment parenting is a frame of mind, not a list of rules." Lots in my mind! I apologize for the long-winded comment.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohanna Silva

i've been living in cohousing since my oldest turned 1, and it's just been wonderful for our family. we have traded childcare with neighbor families, and our kids get to know a large but manageable set of children and adults of all ages. having other kids over to play often eases my burden if the kids play well together! and of course having my kids elsewhere is a big help, too. and from about 3.5 kids seem to be able to play on their own outdoors without constant adult supervision.

we're still pretty on our own inside our own house with the nitty-gritty of childrearing, but even the amount that we do get involved as a village in raising the children of the village is a big sanity saver!

i love that my 2 year old spends 11 hours a week with a girl 6 months younger than her due to our child care trades... and that they both get to be cared for in their home community. they're going to get to grow up with each other, which is so not true for the daycare my son was in for a while when he was 1 - nice folks there, but it wasn't a community and it won't be part of his history - the stories we tell of what his life was like growing up.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRosemary

I feel so blessed to have a community of friends who share my parenting values and who I can ask to watch my kids once in awhile when I have an appt to attend or something similar. My mom lives an hour away and hardly ever comes to see us. It is hard for me as her mom, my Gramma, was alway there for us as kids, she practically helped raise us. We saw her numerous times a week and stayed weekends. My moms has had only one of my daughter's over night at her house twice. Once was when I was giving birth.
Anyway, sorry to ramble on (i.e., vent!) but I get jealous when I read about moms and dads having family to rely on for help with the kids. And it's not just help, it's love and support for the whole family unit. I guess I just wish my mom wanted to be a part of our "village." Thank goodness for our friends!

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

Great article. It's something that everyone should know. Its ok to be exhausted as child raising was never meant to be done alone.

And what I hope more people realize is that having people help you isn't the sign of a bad parent, I am yet to meet a mother who hasn't needed at least some help at some point.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKiera

I think that you raise a very important point. Even here, just about 50 or 60 years ago, mothers had much more support from their mother and the rest of their family. I'm not sure when the shift toward doing it all happened, but the situation is that, today, we are expected to do it all, regardless of our parenting choices. Especially within the AP circle, and withing the mainstream critics of AP, there is the idea that the very core of the philosophy is to always be a strong present for your children, less you will damage them psychologically. As if they could not possibly adapt to being cared for by someone else from the close circle (of friends or family), the "village". What a lot of people don't realize is exactly that - traditionally, children were raised by the village. Of course, the parent, especially the mother, provided the core of the child-rearing, but it was highly possible for her to pass the baby on to grandma or an older sibling so she could, say, cook dinner. I guess it helped that the village was small and in close quarters, too.

Basically, what I'm saying is that we need to keep this in mind. Otherwise, we'll absolutely burn-out! It doesn't mean that, as of now, we may leave our kids with a friend left and right, but we certainly shouldn't feel guilty if we do here and then.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohanne

@Dr. Patricia Porter:
I read your reply to the comments made about this post and have to wonder why parents are not allowed to be "teachers." Yes, I have visited your blog and understand some of your history regarding education. I also think I understand that in trying not to make parents feel poorly about not being able to "do it all" you were boosting your image a little bit. That's fair. We all come to the posts we read and write with our own biases and histories which we can't help but include in our comments. That said, as a mother of boys aged 11 & 8 and a homeschooler (with a TOTALLY unstructured approach to learning and teaching styles) AND as an adult educator (professionally) I think that you miss the mark when you suggest that parents are not "teaching children" because as you so subtly put it, "[it's] not [their] job." You go on to tell them you don't believe they are "trained as a teacher." That's full of presumption. And I think you miss the mark.

You are right that everyone who comes into the parenting circle (the "village" as it may be in this case) has something new and different to offer the child. Dare I say that they might even have something new and different to TEACH the child? I would argue that they do.

I get the impression that you believe the best and only teaching can be done by "qualified" instructors. I personally disagree with this approach. I think to close one door to spite the other is to lose access to a whole variety of options and tools that may make the whole learning process fun and collaborative. It is certainly a well documented fact that collaborative learning (versus "being taught") results in better retention of information and happier learners overall.

I understand you probably meant your comment to remind parents not to feel guilty or that they have to feel as though they are everything to the child they bore. I even see that you might well believe that the concept of the "village" is important. I just worry you might have missed the mark when you boxed the parent into the "non-teacher" role and gave that to someone else. I think everyone has something to teach the child. I think the whole village has that role and often a parent is better at it than a "teacher."

I think if we need to "teach" parents anything, it is how to FIND their village and create one in which they can feel totally safe and supported!

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

Nicely written post. In western culture we seem to feel the need to be independent. If we were truly independent, public schools wouldn't even be available, for example. Parents also need to be willing to let other trusted adults have a part in their children's lives. I remember, as a college student, attempting to volunteer with a local organization. I was offered office work rather than work with the children because the parents expressed concern that since I was not a parent myself I wouldn't have much to offer their children. I was young, yes, but I already had years of experience working with children. I wanted to be helpful using the talents I had. They didn't even need more office workers, but apparently a clean background check, willingness to read and play for hours, and a love of the community's children aren't enough sometimes.

Now I work at a fabulous nursery school that attempts to build a community out of the families that we serve. It was such a liberating experience to be connected to other families once we had our own children since I had been so isolated when my first child was born. Now that I work there I see the parental stress slowly melt away over the year as we all (staff and parents) become a village for the children in our care. And it's only a part time program.

Anyway, thank you for the good observations and thoughts.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

@Dr Patricia Porter: : I hope no one was beating themselves up here! Did you get that perception from my post or any of the comments?

With regards to "teaching" we perhaps have a different definition and a different philosophy. I am not a homeschooler, but I think that parents can do an effective job teaching their children using a structured or an unstructured approach. We have chosen to send our children to a school where they can learn the things we cannot teach them effectively at home (Spanish, French, music), but we also see it as our role as parents to teach our children in other areas. There are skills that we have, values that we have, that we want to be able to share with our children when they are ready and express interest. I am a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard and I am teaching my children to swim. My husband is a native German speaker and he is teaching our children German. We have taught our children to use the toilet, feed themselves, dress themselves, play games, throw a ball, ride a bike, etc. We have taught them about different animals, different cultures, different natural environments.

In our lives what we teach our children and what their teachers teach them are complementary.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

The best advice I was given was advice never taken, "Stop being a Martyr." I was one of those working moms who made the decision to become an at home mom. As such, parenting became my new job with a responsibility that I was not willing to share. Bad idea. If, just if, I had gotten the help of a small village, I would have been a much better mother, wife and happier self. Being a mom is by far the hardest "job" I've ever accepted. And, the most rewarding.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBradi Nathan

Lovely post. I had lurking in my mind a post about how I consider our daycare to be our "village". Your post struck a chord, since a friend recently asked " how did you leave her with strangers""? I was baffled for a second, since the wonderful daycare my daughter has been at for 3 years is like a family to us. They started out as well vetted strangers, but are now part of our lives. Parents volunteer, read to the kids and bring science activities, I usedto go in in the middle of the day and nurse, it works as a true partnership between families and caregivers. You do what you can to give your kids a safe enriching life, and by Being part of this comunity I give back to other kids too. I'm trying to say that daycare can work, can be your village, especially for folks like us with all our family overseas. Carefully chosen strangersthat you pay to take care of your children can soon become friends.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGeekymummy

Thank you for this post - its encouraging. My husband and I have our first baby, and are attached. We are by ourselves - there is no village for us. Neither of us have mothers anymore, we live far from my family, and his family is not interested... He works full time and long hours, and I am going back to work shortly. Its hard, and I wish we had better options for our child, but we must do what we need to, and its great to have this encouragement that we can still be attached. You are inspiring!

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTammy

@Geekymummy: I think a day care can be a village. The one that we tried to leave our son at when he turned one was very much not a village. There didn't seem to be a real effort to get to know him or our family. Their focus was just on feeding and changing the kids and getting them to take their naps without too much fuss. But the preschool our son went to later is very much a village and we have friends that have a cooperative day care that also sounds very much like a village. So yes, villages can be found in many places.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What a wonderful post! I agree with you completely. We rarely leave our children with someone other than family. When we do, we leave them with friends they know and we trust. While I understand that some parents don't feel the need to leave their children for reasons we choose to, I also like the reiteration that what we are choosing to do is not harmful. I think sometimes in the AP world, we are sometimes so afraid to do something that might *look* like a step into the mainstream that we sometimes forget to look at what is best for our families and instead do what we think should be best for our families.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

I totally agree with this. We live in Australia with one set of grandparents in England and one in Argentina. We are slowly building a network of friends but it's not the same. To leave my child with my mum is to do her a favour. To leave him with a friend is them doing me a favour. Our parenting style is a compromise between our parenting ideals, the resources available to us and what we need to maintain our sanity. It's not ideal. But it's not so bad either :)

August 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKeelie

This is a great post which affirms our view (me and my husband) that although our kids attend daycare, we are all still a very attached family! You could write an entire book on this concept: "As I’ve said before, for me, practicing attachment parenting is about the relationship I want to have with my child. I don’t think it will hurt my children if another caregiver uses other approaches that I have decided are not right for me. "

In my mind, I think many parents don't have the vision of how a partnership can work between caregiver and parents. Therefore you end up with too many daycares following the model of "fed, changed, napped" vs a partnership is fulfilling different needs for your child.

Our daycare is wonderful and has become part of our family! I might even print off your blog post to share with them!!

August 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

If you're interested in discovering your parenting style based on the latest research, please check out the http://www.parenting.com/Mom/signalPatterns.jsp" rel="nofollow">Parenting Style Application by Signal Patterns on Parenting.com.

The underlying model developed by our team of psychologists reveals an underlying complexity far richer than just 'strict' or 'relaxed' classifications.

And what's particularly interesting is that you can take the test for a spouse and see where potential conflicts might lie and get advice on how to deal w/them. You can also compare results to your friends'.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

@czarina: I haven't read Clinton's book, but I should put it on my list of things to read.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am a bit of a stuck record when it comes to commenting on your blog, and I most often am furiously nodding my head as I read your posts.

I love how you differeniated between teaching children and training children. The more I go down this parenting path, the more I see the wisdom in taking the lead from the child and being sensitive to where the child is at overall. Trying to force an issue just gets everyone stressed out from what I have experienced.

I have also been contemplating my lack of village. I live in a foreign country with my IL's having very different values from mine. I really do not feel the village around me. When I was worrying about IL's shaming my son to coerce him to behave how they wanted him to, I decided that if that is how they want to interact with my son, that will define their relationship with him. I know that I will always be available to support him and help him understand the differences between people. That is the best that I can hope for - that he would tell me if something is bothering him for us to work it out together.

For me I just was not prepared to have anyone practice CIO on my son when he was a baby, or feed him any sort of food/drink that I have not chosen for him or place him in front of the TV. Which left me caring for him myself 24/7, together with my amazing, very supportive husband. Yes, our lives looks very different for making these choices, but it is a change I am happy to make knowing that it is not forever. This stage too shall pass. I am doing the best I can. And learning as I go.

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

Yes, why IS is that women would normally agree to pool resources and live together, but men are not so keen? Is it that the men are far too used to us being superwomen: romantic partner, baby bearer, child feeder, teenage guider, housework doer and general all-round make-nice-home-er? Can it be that they want as much of us as women as is possible, thus not want to share us so that our burdens are shared? What would happen if women who would prefer to live closer with other women woudl stand up and say, "Look, I need this," in the same way that mean have in the past said they they need that which they get today. I say this dangerously!

August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJasmine

[...] It takes a village to raise a child posted at PhD in Parenting. [...]

I agree with this post. But I'm going off on a total tangent here in response to your first line, because I think it raises a completely different but important point:

“A lot of parents that practice attachment parenting or natural parenting point to the fact that this is the way that children are often raised in traditional societies. This is true, to a great extent...”

Well, in what way is that true? I don't think that, in the average subsistence society, parents are putting a lot of time and thought into being emotional coaches, or creating atmospheres of complete trust and intimacy where they respect their children's individuality, feelings, and thoughts, or the other things you say attachment parenting is really all about. Maybe I'm wrong about that – I don't know any more about anthropology than the next average person - but I think those sorts of concepts are much more a feature of affluent Western societies. I think that, generally speaking, the priorities of parents in traditional societies are to maximise their children's chances of survival through infancy despite harsh conditions, and to raise them to be productive members of society who obey whatever the social norms in the area are.

(I've only read about one such society in detail – the Gusii of Kenya – but it was really noticeable how far the description of child-rearing practices was from this ideal of looking out for your children's emotional needs and long-term emotional development as a priority. In Gusii society, children are pushed towards noticeably greater independence from around 16 – 17 months so that the mother can concentrate on conceiving/maximising survival chances of the next baby, and they're raised to be quickly obedient and compliant, with their mothers spending little time talking to them or responding to anything other than signals of distress from them.)

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make here is that when I see people claiming that traditional societies practice attachment parenting, they never are trying to claim that the parents in those societies concentrate on being emotional coaches or any of the other things. They say it for exactly the same reason that you just did – these societies practice extended breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping. And I find this telling because, despite all the talk about how attachment parenting isn't about a list of particular practices you have to follow but is about how you go about building a relationship with your child... well, it seems that, in practice, attachment parents *do* judge it as being about whether you follow that particular trio of practices in infancy/earliest childhood. It's symptomatic of what I see in the whole movement – this huge and disproportionate emphasis put on three practices that, really, don't seem to have any particular advantage over any other mutually enjoyable activities as far as the enabling of parent-child bonding is concerned.

August 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah V.


I have to comment on your response here because it stands out to me as lack of information/education further perpetuating misinformation and poor parenting decisions made by parents who don't "know better."

You challenge Annie's opening line of this post and ask, "in what way is that true?" You also admit you "don't know any more about anthropology than the next average person." Is it possible that the "one society" you've "read about . . . in detail" wasn't enough for you to be used to make your informed comments?

I would recommend reading the writings of DOCTOR Kathryn Dettwyler (an anthropologist from Texas - affiliated with the University of Delaware as well as Texas A&M University) AND DOCTOR James McKenna (an anthropologist from Indiana - affiliated with Notre Dame University) who both write about how North Americans would do well to look at the traditional child-rearing principles from "traditional societies." I know they will fascinate you, although, given the way you respond to many of the posts that favour "traditional" child-rearing approaches you might disagree with their mutual years and years of research and findings. I hope you like them.

I am sure I am coming across as snippy and rude. It is not my intent. It DOES however, become frustrating to read your responses over and over again perpetuating information that I know isn't true and read you passing judgement on others when you tell Annie that you don't like when she (or other AP parents) "*do* judge."

I am willing to be wrong and often I am. I have worked with HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of families and babies and I have always found the best approaches to happy, well-established, confident parents AND children come when we follow the leads of our babies and respect is passed around the whole group. This mirrors perfectly the way families worked in "traditional societies."

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

@Sam: I completely agree with your response. Very well said indeed.

@Sarah V: You said, "I don’t think that, in the average subsistence society, parents are putting a lot of time and thought into being emotional coaches, or creating atmospheres of complete trust and intimacy where they respect their children’s individuality, feelings, and thoughts, or the other things you say attachment parenting is really all about."

I agree with this. They aren't sitting around thinking about why they don't use kids CIO with their kids. What they are doing is living in communities, sleeping together as families, wearing their babies (or carrying them constantly; either the mum or another family member), breastfeeding and generally living attached lives. Children are not nuisances; people aren't desperate for their kids to sleep through the night, or become more independent. They let children be the people that they are and instead of fighting to change who these little people are, they incorporate them into their everyday lives as valuable members of the community. The natural result of this is what we North Americans call "Attachment Parenting".

August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFamilyNature

A village would be really nice. I have a bunch of aquaintances with many of the same philosophies as me, but I've never managed to actually make friends with them. I've never had much luck making friends and the one I did have has now moved to another country. It would be wonderful to have someone I trusted with my kids, even if I didn't take advantage of that very often.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

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