Attachment Mom or Feminist: Why Should You Have to Choose?

Mom baby shadowDespite the rise in attachment parenting in the last decade, it seems as though there has been an even greater backlash to the parenting style espoused by Dr. Sears, Mayim Bialik, and many others. To hear some people speak of attachment parenting, it's so bad for moms and babies, anyone who practices it has "issues." As someone who focuses on the history of parenting, this baffles me.

Even more baffling is the growing argument that being an attached mom means you can't be a feminist.


It's a view that's been popularized by a certain sect of feminists led by the likes of Élizabeth Badinter and Joan Wolf, who are vocally against any type of mothering that involves, well, mothers using their biological assets to mother (e.g., breastfeeding). Though once in the realm of academic discourse on parenting, this anti-feminist argument has been making the rounds in popularized media as well.

The two main points, according to these “feminists”, are (a) that women can’t work and practice attachment parenting, and (b) that attachment parenting makes women slaves to their own biology. After all, what could be more patriarchal than accepting one’s biological role as mother and parenting as such? The irony here is that this view of feminism is actually the anti-feminist one, not attachment parenting. 

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Let’s first get rid of the notion that women (because this argument really is centered on women and mothering -- not parenting more generally -- though it has effects for men, which I’ll get to in a moment) can’t work and be attachment parents. It’s such an asinine view that I can’t believe I actually have to write something on this, but as there are those that buy into it, so I must. 

Nothing in attachment parenting says you can’t work. Nothing. 

In fact, if work brings you great joy, then it would likely fall in the “balance” category of Dr. Sears’ attachment parenting elements. If you are set on only breastfeeding your baby from your breast, going back to work at six weeks is going to make that all but impossible, but seeing as we covered above that none of the elements of attachment parenting are “must-dos,” then it becomes about individual women making the decisions about what works for them. What this highlights would be the need for better leave in certain places so that parents can be the parents they want while keeping their balance of work, if that’s what they want.

So what is feminism if not to fight for women to be in the work place like men? Feminism is about fighting a system that only values hyper-masculine traits and behaviors.

The problem, as many other feminists see it, is that by only placing value on the hyper-masculine, we don’t value the expression of the feminine, regardless of who does it. This system places undue burden on men and women alike for it doesn’t inherently favor males (just certain masculine traits), it just creates an system that devalues all but a very small segment of society. 

It is this system that the anti-feminist argument fits right into; for trying to claim that parenting in a way that accepts the value of our biology makes one a “slave” to one’s biology is to devalue the feminine role in reproduction and parenting. By only placing value on the traditionally male ideal of getting a job and earning a paycheck, these so-called feminists are actually endorsing the system that other feminists are trying to fight.

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By linking women’s biology to something “anti-feminist”, they degrade and disregard one of the greatest powers women have. After all, reproduction and sustaining life is pretty freaking incredible, and that should be respected and valued. 

What does this do to parenting more generally? It reduces it to something unimportant and not worth our concern. Men shouldn’t aspire to be stay-at-home dads, even if they want to, because the work has no value. Daycare workers continue to be paid low wages because what they do is seen as something anyone can do and do well (when we know that’s not the case at all and the differences between high-quality and low-quality daycare continue to predict outcomes for years). Women who do stay home are often looked down upon as not doing “real” work.

Quite frankly, I don’t think there is a more dangerous view to the well-being of our children and our future society than one that puts no value on the raising of our next generation.

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Feminists should embrace attachment-style parenting because it highlights some of the very real value that women have in our society. It isn’t our only value and no one suggests it’s all we should be seen as, but at its core, attachment parenting values the traditionally (and biologically) feminine role of caregiver as a huge part of a child’s development. By valuing this feminine role, we embrace men who want to take care of their children, we fight for the rights of parents to have appropriate leave from work, but most importantly, we champion people’s choices to play to their strengths and desires while valuing the work done by all, feminine and masculine alike. That’s feminism.

So ... what does practicing attachment parenting makes someone? Put quite simply: A parent. And there should be no backlash against that.


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