Responding Differently: School, Work and Parenting

by Amber Strocel on April 18, 2014

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Even before my first child was born nine years ago, I knew Attachment Parenting was something that fit my personality and values. My own parents practiced many Attachment Parenting principles, so it came very naturally to me. When my children were very young, I especially took the principle respond with sensitivity to heart. I wanted to be there for them when they needed me … and as babies their needs were very urgent. A newborn simply doesn’t understand the concept of waiting.

Now that my children are older, the way that I respond to their needs and requests has changed. More and more, I encourage them to try things by themselves while offering my support and encouragement. I also balance their needs against my own in different ways. While it would be unreasonable to expect a newborn to wait 15 minutes for a meal, it’s not so unreasonable to expect the same thing from a five-year-old or a nine-year-old. Today when I hear, “Mom, I’m hungry,” I might say something along the lines of, “We have fruit and cheese in the fridge,” or , “Dinner will be ready soon.”

Last month I shared the post Mother / Student here on APtly Said, in which I explained my decision to return to school this past January. With my children now both in elementary school full-time, I decided the time was ripe to do something for myself. I started taking some classes at a local university, working towards the goal of becoming a math and science teacher.

Studying (this was actually my history textbook)
Studying (this was actually my history textbook)
My return to school has also changed the way I respond to my children. Now that I’m balancing parenting with both paid employment and schoolwork, my time is stretched a little thinner. I’m spending more time working in the same room as my kids, while they play independently. I’m letting go of outside commitments, being gentle with myself when I don’t vacuum as often as I’d like, and explaining my time constraints to my kids. It’s not all work, though. Now that my first semester is over and I’m on break, we’re planning a family weekend away for some quality time. In short, I’m working to be present and responsive in a way that’s age-appropriate, and that balances the needs of everyone in our family.

The good news is that my kids are pretty resilient and independent little people. I credit Attachment Parenting for that – I believe that by responding to them consistently and compassionately as babies and toddlers, I helped them feel safe and confident. Of course I’ll never know how they would have turned out of I had parented them differently, but it’s safe to say this parenting style has worked for my family. It wasn’t always easy to get up in the middle of the night or to comfort a toddler mid-tantrum, but now that my kids are older I’m reaping the rewards. I’m still responding with sensitivity, but it looks different now, and that difference has allowed me greater freedom.

I’m happy to say that my first semester at school went well. My kids are proud of the work I’ve put in. My daughter, especially, loves to tell people about what I’m studying. It hasn’t been easy, but just like those sleepless nights in early parenting, I’m trusting that it will all pay off in the long run.

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breastfeeding2014taf

The core of Attachment Parenting is responding with sensitivity.

API recognizes that breastfeeding can be difficult in our society. It is hard to do something different than our family and friends, who are our social network prior to becoming parents, and to find a new support system for our choices. It is hard to navigate new motherhood relatively alone, compared to other cultures where family rallies together to give the mother a “babymoon”—a time when mom and baby can bond uninterrupted while housework and caring for other children are taken up by others in her life. It is hard to make the choice to return to work and then try to integrate a child care provider into our way of parenting. It is hard to pump while away from baby. And it is hard to continue to push through difficulties, whether they be a poor latch or milk supply issues or teething or night waking, when so many others in our lives are trying to convince us to just give a bottle of formula.

But breastfeeding, like any choice made through the lens of Attachment Parenting, is ultimately about responding with sensitivity to our babies (and toddlers). There are great nutritional and health benefits to feeding breast milk, but what makes breastfeeding special enough for many mothers to continue despite societal pressure and their personal hurdles is that breastfeeding is more than a way to feed their babies—it offers the beginnings of a relationship with their child that cannot be easily replicated another way.

The human mother was designed to breastfeed so that a relationship is borne from the effort—from the mother and her baby learning about each other and what will work or not, from the gaze between each other, from the oxytocin rush each receives, from the gentle discipline necessary in teaching baby not to bite or to eventually night-wean, from the mother finding her balance while caring for her baby, from the mother learning to be flexible as baby grows and needs change. We can find a bit of each of Attachment Parnting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting within the act of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding behavior is very literally the embodiment of responding with sensitivity to our babies—and responding with sensitivity is a skill and art form that all mothers need no matter their child’s age.

In this special edition of Attached Family, through the “Voices of Breastfeeding: Advocating for Acceptance” issue, we take a look at the cultural explosion of breastfeeding advocacy, as well as the challenges still to overcome. API writer Sheena Sommers begins this issue with “The Real Breastfeeding Story,” including a look at “Extended Breastfeeding Around the World” by API writer Rivkah Estrin, followed by API Professional Liaison Patricia Mackie’s interview with the founder of Breastfeed, Chicago! and finally, I present researcher Jeanne Stolzer as she makes “Nature’s Case for Breastfeeding.” Scattered throughout this issue are parent stories, project highlights and additional resources from around and beyond API.

That said, not all mothers are able to breastfeed.

Thankfully, the key behaviors of breastfeeding can be mimicked while giving a bottle of expressed milk or formula to a baby. A mother-baby pair unable to breastfeed, therefore, is not necessarily unable to form a secure attachment. That is the beauty of Attachment Parenting.

The reason breastfeeding is considered a key element in Attachment Parenting is because it is this very act that is nature’s best teacher for new parents in how to sensitively and consistently respond to their babies, forming the foundation of reciprocity of a healthy relationship meant to serve the parent-child dyad for a lifetime.

Largely due to cultural pressures, even when mothers are able to get breastfeeding off to a good start, there is a sharp overall decline in breastfeeding rates in the weeks and months after delivery. If mothers do not have adequate support when breastfeeding problems arise, premature weaning often happens. There is even less support for teaching mothers who feed by bottle how to do so within the parent-child relationship framework.

This time of learning how to parent is crucial to the mother-infant relationship. Attachment Parenting helps mothers—whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding—view infant care in the context of the holistic parent-child relationship and learn how that give-and-take interaction that builds the foundation of secure attachment can be applied beyond feeding with love and respect.

Through the “Voices of Breastfeeding: Meeting Challenges with Compassion” in this special edition of Attached Family, we take a look at the “other side” of breastfeeding advocacy—championing compassion for the mother who encounters challenges in breastfeeding and who may not be able to breastfeed at all. API’s The Attached Family.com Editor Lisa Lord opens this issue with “When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work,” followed by a look at a “Mom-Inspired Milk Bank” by API writer Kathleen Mitchell-Askar and the debute of API’s Parent Support Deserts project—each with accompanying parent stories (including that of Sara Jones Rust, who graces the cover), project highlights and additional resources from around and beyond API.

While we at API wish that breastfeeding was possible, and fulfilling, for all mother-baby couples, it is as Wendy Friedlander of New York City, USA, says on page 8: “In the end, it doesn’t matter because they loved her. When it comes to a situation where you are low on reserves and low on support, there is only so much one person can do. Your children are getting served by love. That is the number-one thing that serves them.”

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Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 2

April 14, 2014
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Continued from Part 1 As we relearned loving sleep routines with our son, we did strike upon a few techniques that worked well for us as a family. We are Roman Catholic, and praying a quiet rosary with our son before bedtime has two benefits: It relaxes him, and it relaxes us. He delights in our voices, […]

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Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 1

April 9, 2014
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by Abigail Flavin My husband and I learned about Attachment Parenting when, after reading many, many reviews of various baby books, we selected one by William Sears, MD. We found the principles and practices intriguing. They offered us clarity for our own thoughts and hopes for ourselves as parents. Repeatedly, we discussed the principles, sharing […]

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The Challenges of AP Fathering – Part 2

April 2, 2014
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Continued from The Challenges of AP Fathering – Part 1… To be very honest, I believe sensitivity is the key for a father to get along with Attachment Parenting. We must allow ourselves to feel like this, without fearing or caring about what others might think of our manhood. What is to be a man, […]

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The Challenges of AP Fathering

March 28, 2014
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Let me start off telling a little bit about myself and my family. My name is Thiago, I live in Brazil, and I have a beautiful one-year-old toddler, Dante. I am also currently an API Leader Applicant, preparing myself to start the first API support group in Brazil: API Rio. Dante was born at a […]

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Mother / Student

March 14, 2014
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Two months ago, I returned to school, some 14 years after completing my first degree. It was the first time I’d done anything more than a two-day workshop since I got married and had children. Right now I’m taking three classes at a local university, gathering prerequisites with the hope of eventually studying education and […]

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API Reads, March 2014: Giving the Love that Heals

March 10, 2014
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Let’s start out March talking about Giving the Love That Heals by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. Just a few of the topics we’ll be discussing in March will be : The Unconscious Parent The Child as Teacher The Conscious Parent Growing Yourself Up Through this read you will learn how to […]

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