Breaking the Silence: Attachment Parenting Is Hard

You don’t have to be a martyr to be a good mom.

I just had a long conversation with a fellow AP friend of mine. She is feeling burnt out… even as she LOVES what she does and spending time with her bubbling, smart, energetic two-year old. In the conversation, this came up: we don’t have to be martyrs to be good parents.

Parenting is hard. Attachment Parenting mamas and papas are, arguably, even more likely to make choices that put the child first, sometimes at some personal sacrifice. Everybody reminds us not to do it. It is about finding ‘whole family solutions’ that meet everyone’s needs – that is something I myself am fond of saying, for example. Even the Sears, who coined the term Attachment Parenting, emphasise balance and remind us that ‘if you resent it, change it’ and that you need to take care of yourself as well as your baby. Metaphors of putting the oxygen mask on your own face before you place them on your kids abound.


Still, I find those of us in the natural, attachment parenting movement are sometimes particularly guilty of setting crazy high standards for ourselves. Breastfeeding ‘on demand’ until they are four? – sure! Cloth diapers? Absolutely. Co-sleeping and waking several times a night, every night, until they are three? No problem. We will even argue publicly that these are, for us, the easier choices. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping are easier in many ways than bottle-feeding, for example, especially in those first 6 to 12 months. This is true.

And again, let me be clear that I know all parents make sacrifices and put their kids first often… but I am talking here to AP parents who know some of those extra lengths many of us will go to in the name of creating secure attachments and staying ‘crunchy’: ALL food has to be home-cooked; baby must be carried not pushed; we don’t take breaks, ever! I know I am talking of the extremes here… and still I bet this is something many of us can relate to, choosing the ‘higher’ rather than the easier path.

We do not regret it. We probably would do most if not all of it again – AND it is bloody hard.

People don’t like to talk about this. There is a conspiracy of silence surrounding how hard Attachment Parenting can be, especially for those of us who do not live in any kind of ‘village’. We don’t want to talk about how hard it is because it seems like  it would be giving in to our critics, who accuse us of competing to be ‘mom enough’ by being self-sacrificing to a fault. We don’t want to talk about it because, hey we chose this and nobody wants to be a whinger. And still, sometimes it has to be said, too. Attachment Parenting is NOT the easy path, most of the time. It is fulfilling. It yields wonderful outcomes and, in any case, most of us deeply enjoy the actual process, the doing of it, most of the time, anyway. We do it out of love. And, yes, it can be done in a more or less balanced way (especially if you have family or a strong support network near by) but I feel as a movement that is trying to re-define or re-purpose these old ways for a modern world, this is our challenge: to meet all of baby’s needs without neglecting our own.

Maybe some of you do this wonderfully already. Many of us, including me, are still learning.

— — —

[Yes, I know you could and many probably have written similar posts speaking specifically to single parents or working parents or parents of kids with disabilities or those really struggling financially or… all those  challenges are REAL and incredibly hard. I bow to all working parents. I have deep respect for the work all single parents put in. And I cannot begin to do justice to my admiration for those who parent kids with physical or cognitive impairments who somehow do it with joy and grace and positivity. You amaze me!… and still, even knowing many parents have it way worse, I still want to take a moment to talk about some AP challenges in particular.

Of course if you are a single, working AP parent with a disabled child and on a low-income (or any combination of the above) – well then, F*CK, you rock! And please PM me as I’d happily host a blog post on how you do it!]

— — —

For the APers:

Share here, if nowhere else, aspects of Attachment Parenting which (though you would chose them again) you find extra-specially challenging and draining?

What do you do to take care of your own needs? How do you keep yourself from burning out while being the very best AP parent you can be?

What areas have you willingly compromised on? What standards did you let drop (despite your original dream to do them) because they proved to be unrealistic for your individual family? (cloth diapering being one of mine – I totally wanted to do it… but I just did not have the extra energy in me at the time so it was when that fell by the wayside)

And tell me areas you are really proud that you stuck with despite how very exhausting it was to do and despite the fact that you were, perhaps, one of the only people you know that went that extra mile?

I am hoping (and will work to ensure) this will be a safe, AP-supportive place to confess among friends and those who won’t judge some of the things we find hard even though we chose them and would chose them again.



11 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence: Attachment Parenting Is Hard

  1. So so true- when my baby wouldn’t sleep or wouldn’t settle and we had friends over – there were times when I would have liked to have been able to put her to bed and walk back to the dinner table and enjoy people’s company instead of reading books and then lying with bub while they drifted off to sleep. I was especially envious of this with my first – but with my second, thankfully I discovered the simple joy of sitting and being with her while she slept… although there were still many, many moments when I just wished she would go…to.. sleep… lol

    Great article

  2. Thanks for this. Sharing our feelings is ultimately the only thing that will keep us going, venting without being judged is so nice :)
    It is super hard, but at the same time, for people who chose AP, it’s the ONLY choice. It would be a million times harder for me to hear my baby cry, or know that she needs something and not giving it to her. THAT is not an option.
    Producing a brand new human who, at least for a few years needs so much from their parents will for sure be a lot of work, and it will take a lot of your time and energy, which of course you will take from the tme and energy you used to put in your own needs. So I think that being tired is a good sign, your babies needs are probably being met.
    Cloth diapers are also something I didn’t even attempt. It was just too much. I love my awful contaminating diapers. But breast-feeding on demand, co-sleeping, paying attention to her as much as humanly possible, all of those I have achieved and will continue to do. One of the most difficult things I had to do was probably get my partner on board. He is on board now, but it took many talks, articles, parts of books read out loud to get there :)

    • Maggie… go you! I love that you managed to infect your husband with your passion for natural parenting!!

      And I totally agree, those who practice AP don’t even feel it is a choice, often, it is just what is right for us and no other option does it for us in the same way – for sure.

      Yeah, I am pretty much the same, cloth diapers were my personal downfall (well, one of them). But I breastfed for 3.5. I co-slept for 3 years. I baby wore non-stop for 2 years… and now I am pregnant so there is a chance to do it all over again (if that works for me and this new baby). :)

      Keep doing what you are doing, loving mama.

  3. Great post, I was really needing to read something like this!! I have a boy who’ll be 2yo next sunday and I am struggling with the breastfeeding on demand. I beggan to think that it is not possible anymore, I am tired of puting my t-shirt up everywhere and at any time. Actually sometimes I think he’s breastfeedind more now than when he was a baby. I don’t know, but many days he’s stuck to my nipples maybe 8 times or more! Is this happening to you AP parents also? And then I am also tired that he’s not only breastfeeding in one but also is twitcing, pulling, etc the other.. I really feel like I have no time to myself and I feel that people around (father and stepson) don’t really have a clue on how I feel. I don’t want to stop breastfeeding, but reducing it was really great, I think I have to start doing something towards it. The co-sleeping… We started to be online 2 sleeping, I put a small matress in the floor next to our bed and this alows us to have some moments in bed without him. But what«s happening is the same I saw in your picture, I sleep with him while daddy sleeps alone in the big bed (lucky guy hehehe).
    The burning out… yesterday I just heard myself screaming NOOOO when he was making a big pool with the tea for the 3rd time in the same day. I hate to sream, but sometimes I can’t. He’s really persistent and independent, the second being one of the outcome of AP they say, but sometime I wished he wasn’t soooo idenpendent. I have go after him all the time, and I can tell you I am bvery relaxed and trusting, but some places are really dangerous and I’ve had some big scary and dangerous situations brought up because I wanted to trust but I shouldn’t. This came through the TCC. I understand that many situations are created by our lifestyle and also the fact that we don’t live ina community really makes it much more difficult for us. I would like to go on, but dinner is almost ready and I have to go…
    Anpother thought is about school, sometimes I don’t know if I can homeschool and I look at me thinking that maybe pre-school would be good for him and for me to have some time for myself, but then I see the way people deal with children and I don’t want him to be treated like that so, here I am, not knowing what to do…
    Some more kid(s) around would help a lot. Anyone interested in traveling to the Azores for some extended holidays???

    I’ll keep folowwing this post, thanks for having writen it Gauri.

    • Ola’ Raquel,

      Estas nos Acores? O meu pai e’ da Madeira e eu cresci em Portugal. :)

      And back to English having bonded with my compatriot.

      Raquel, sorry it has taken me so long to see this and respond to it. I kind of suck of answering comments, clearly. I think I just missed these, too, completely. Bummer. How are you feeling now?

      I think bringing in limits that help you continue with typical AP practices (like breastfeeding or co-sleeping) at a level that feels right and comfortable *for you* is totally appropriate. And yes, my child breastfed still a lot when she was two! But sometime around then (maybe it was 2.5, I forget) I started bringing in some limits. At first it was that we would only nurse at home and in the car. Some months later, it felt right to make it so that it was only at home. Then sometime after 3, I was, truthfully, really beginning to resent how often she was asking to nurse, so I talked to her about cutting it down to only nursing before nap and night sleep (and during the night – the night time feeds bothered me less than the ‘boredom’ feeds and that ‘I just miss you so much I want to reconnect with you, mommy’ feeds – I wanted to find new ways to meet those needs, other than just through nursing). At three we also asked if she was ready to move to her own room (after talking about it for some time – and buying a fun bunk-bed when she was around 2.5). So, at 3 she said ‘yes’ and – I think because it was her choice – she has stayed there ever since. She never asked to come back to our room. I still breastfed her down every night in her room until she weaned at around 3.5yo. Now, at 3 and 3/4 she sleeps in her own room, she falls asleep on her own, after some stories and lots of cuddles and, most nights, sleeps through the night. It feels like a long journey, but we got here in a very gentle, gradual and co-operative way. She was part of the decisions and the timing, every step of the way.

      You will find your own rhythm between you, I am sure, but my point is, do feel free and confident to make changes that will meet your needs, too. My ‘thing’ is all about finding ‘whole family solutions’ – that meet everyone’s needs. I trust you can find a win-win for you both/your whole family for all these issues you are facing.

      Homeschooling, too, is only worth doing if your heart is in it, too, imo.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job, though – especially in a community that is totally not making similar choices or, most probably, all that understanding or supportive of yours. That alone, to follow an AP path when you are one of the only people you know doing it, that makes you an inspiration.


  4. AP is crazy hard. I’ve had three babies (four pregnancies) within the first 5 years of our marriage. We’re on year six now, and if it weren’t for my husband we would have probably quit co-sleeping and having a SAHM atmosphere long ago. Why? Because, I feel like kiddos are super taxing. When I try to nurse our youngest (15mo), the older two run around, being destructive, busy, age appropriate but crazy and it is SO stressful to keep tabs on them during those nursing sessions.
    Also, I want my bed back. We finally have a policy that the older two “at least” start in their bed. But, they always end up with us and 5 people in a bed; albeit a King, is not comfy. My husband’s and my feet touch- that’s about it, and only sometimes.
    As previously mentioned, I am still nursing our 15mo old, age two is a good goal for me to cease, but, she nurses a fair amount and always seems to want to permanently latch on when I have somewhere to be or something to do…in my heart I know that nothing is more important than being there for her, but in the moment it sucks. And, nursing for nearly 4 years straight is going to yield some costly cosmetic surgery. I’m not too crunchy to want things somewhat looking ok again.
    I honestly found this blog post because I google’d: “Remind me why I practice AP again?” LOL

    • Dear Kymm,

      Hahahaha! I love how you found this post… and I am glad you found it. YES! This is exactly what I am talking about. Attachment Parenting is hard, it is crazy-hard (especially in today’s society, without a ‘village’ to support us) and it is okay to admit it. Saying it is hard, does not mean you regret it or you made the wrong choice. It is possible to hold both ideas at once, right?: it is hard AND it feels right in my heart. We are complex beings and we can handle these complex, seemingly contradictory emotions. Our heart is big enough for them all.

      For what it is worth, there are two main reasons I personally keep doing it despite finding it so, so challenging. The first is because it feels right. The second is that it ‘works’, in that I see the results (on my child, on AP friends’ children and even through research and stats) and I like what I see.

      That is the short version (and I usually don’t do ‘short’) but I am hoping it is enough to serve as a pointer or reminder to what is in your own heart and what brought you to AP in the first place. And you know, if you need to tweak some of it to make it work for your family, to ensure *your* needs are met, too, hey… a happy, sane mommy is pretty essential to being RESPONSIVE to your child’s needs. That is the true core of Attachment Parenting: listening to our children’s feelings and meeting their needs – and we can only do that for them when we have first done it for ourselves, too.

  5. Wonderful article. I am parenting my 2nd totally differently from how I did my 1st…I like to call it ‘Gentle Parenting’! She has just turned one and I am exhausted a lot of the time! We BF on demand, co-sleep, babywear and I have finally decided not to send her to nursery which has been a hard decision for me. I don’t use cloth nappies, but feel I have made the best 2nd choice in Beaming Baby’s (partially) bio-degradable disposables. It is SO hard at times and has made me think we won’t have a third baby as I’m not sure I could go through it all again :-( , but I have NO regrets and wouldn’t change what I am doing. And there we go again she is awake after only being down for 3 hrs…bye!x

    • Thanks for stopping by. I admire that you are learning and evolving as you go. Not everyone does that… at all. Many just stick with what they know and what is comfortable. Your growth is inspiring. HUGS,

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