AP and guilt

I was raised a Catholic, so I’ve got a head start on this guilt thing.

But I realized yesterday as I was making cookies that AP (Attachment Parenting) and Natural Living has become all about feeling bad.

It’s not enough for me to make my kids a good meal for dinner. That alone doesn’t make me a “Good Mama.” I have to have a treat ready for them afterwards.

And it’s not enough to buy some cookies at the store. A packet of Chips Ahoy isn’t going to win me that “Good Mama” badge. I have to provide a homemade dessert.

And it’s not enough that I make a treat from scratch that they love. In order to feel genuinely good about it, I have to let one of them help me.

And it’s not enough to allow their assistance. I can’t express one tiny bit of frustration, irritation or, heaven forbid, anger, while we make our treat.

I’m not saying anyone in the NL/AP world is trying to make me feel any of this. I’m just saying that these are the words of self-flagellation that torture me on a daily basis.

Does it not defeat the entire purpose of moving toward a better life if along the way (which is all there is) I am going to be a miserable wretch?

Isn’t the point to cultivate a life of meaning, love and joy?

Can you get there by way of constant, unrelenting negativity?

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13 responses to “AP and guilt

  1. I just make sure there’s forgiveness in there, too. (I have the Catholic Guilt, as well) And I actually make bargains: it’s ok that I bought these cookies, because we’ll *make* play dough together today…. but mostly I just try to forgive myself.

    • That’s a wonderful approach! I need to forgive myself more. I wonder if I could head it off at the pass, though, and just not be so hard on myself in the first place?! (I doubt it, but I’m pondering the possibility…)

  2. I don’t think the guilt is relegated to the NLAP philosophy- it’s motherhood that kicks the guilt into overdrive. We’re expected to be Mother Superior on all fronts. Whether we admit it or not I imagine that when we see another mom not meeting our own standards we derive a moment of joy because we feel validated somehow. It’s the competition of being super mom that robs the pleasure from us and we can’t measure up because the bar is set so impossibly high. Part of the reason moms do this is because (gasp) other moms LIE about their own perfection, their children’s, their spouse….If we were all honest about our screw ups maybe then we’d be able to relax and enjoy the job of mothering. As to stopping the cycle? We would have to agree to let down our guard and be real with one another. We’d have to tell the truth about ourselves and our emotions. Depressing as it may be, I can’t foresee this happening because the risk of feeling judged or somehow “less than” will scare even the best mom into keeping quiet. Maybe someone more enlightened than me can come up with a solution but for the most part, so much of our self worth is tied into our role as parent that I can’t believe that many would be willing to risk their raw emotions being used against them.

    • You’re right… parenthood in general leads to a lot of guilt. From where I stand, though, parents trying to do it an “alternative” way like NL/AP have an extra layer of crap to wade through, maybe because we feel like we not only have to get through the day to day but we have to prove to everyone that our way works. Our self worth becomes tied into not only our role as parent but our whole way of life, and whether it is even worthwhile. We can’t just relax and say, oh well, that’s how everyone does it. There’s always that possibility that someone will say, “You WHAT? Homeschool, co-sleep, breastfeed, babywear? *chortling* Well THAT’S your problem right there!” So if I don’t do it perfectly and MAKE it work, then… I don’t know, the sky falls? πŸ˜›

      • Elena, even if in your (our) endeavor to be the best at AP failed miserably, we still wouldn’t be any worse off than the mainstream way of life because they fail too. It’s not always easy to go against the grain especially if you prefer a life of non-confrontation but what does it really matter what Jane Doe stroller pusher, formula feeder, public schooler thinks? You don’t answer to them anyway and you don’t need their permission or acceptance to do what you feel is best for your family. If you need reassurance that you’re awesome I’m just a phone call or email away. πŸ˜€ ~Teresa

        • You’re the best, Teresa! I appreciate your support. Always.

          You are absolutely right about not worrying what other people think, and I think I’ve got that licked, pretty much. The problem is I’m still beating myself up on a minute-by-minute basis because things are not “perfect,” whatever the heck that might be. I need to seriously chill.

  3. I’ve yelled at my kids, tell them “no you can’t help because it will just make more work for me”, and told my husband I won’t teach them to memorize their multiplication facts because I don’t want to deal with it. Many times I have wanted to throttle them for not remembering what I just taught them last week/month/year, and many more non-super mom things like that. I’m not proud of it, and I’m not guilty of measuring up to any one’s standard but the one I set up for myself. I like what Anonymouse points out: many mommies lie. Personally, I tell it like it is (and shock some of my friends) but find that once I just lay it out there, they are willing to do the same and seem relieved.

    To cultivate a life of love, meaning and joy to you may mean something entirely different to someone else, but negativity will get you running in circles.

  4. I have said that exact thing! πŸ˜€ “I just want to get this done without cleaning up after you!”

    It’s the running in circles that needs to stop before I pull my hair out. I thought about writing a whole post just about that – having a general life habit of negativity. It’s something I’ve always danced around philosophically, eliminating my negative approach to life, but lately I feel the desire to extract it bodily, like a festering thorn. If I just knew where to find some tweezers…

  5. The true definition of attachment parenting isn’t about cookies. The pioneers were Bowlby, Winnicott, &,Ainsworth. It’s about being emotionally available for your child, meeting the need when it arises so it doesn’t become suppressed (Freud), and is best summed up on the Circle of Security website (http://www.circleofsecurity.org/).

    I’m not sure about the Natural Living movement. There are some people who follow it here, but I don’t know where it sprung from. From my observations they make life harder for themselves than is necessary and create anxious children. A lot of them also don’t understand child development. I caught one mum teaching her 1 year-old to smell things rather than mouth them. Young children have an innate need to put things in their mouth, that’s why it’s called the oral stage.

    There is also something called “good-enough parenting” proposed by Winnicott. “It is the quality of the immediate moment-to-moment behaviour of
    the parent towards the child that is the major influence on the child’s wellbeing.” (http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/docswr/_assets/main/documents/researchnotes_parenting_keyissues.pdf)

    Go easy on yourself, buy those cookies, and give your kids some extra hugs!

    Be well.

    • Best place to go on the Circle of Security website is http://www.circleofsecurity.net/cos_resources.html. Go to the “COS Downloads” section.

      • Thanks for the info!

        I think it might be helpful for me to examine attachment parenting and natural living as possibly separate ideas, because I have always seen them as fairly inseparable. I think connection is the most natural way to relate, and I think that having a deep connection to the natural world and living simply provides much opportunity for deep connection to people. I appreciate you pointing out that they might not be completely intertwined. Food for thought!

        • Due to my academic training I always go back to where ideas originated – the original theorists. Attachment theory has been embellished with a lot of new age thinking and come out in the form of attachment parenting. The difficulty with the new age embellishments is that they are not evidence based, no research, no longitudinal studies. So, they are anecdotal, and as we know, what works for one child/family may not work for another.

          Attachment theory and natural living definitely did not originate together.

          Personally, I am slowly peeling back the layers of modern society. I have always been an advocate of “live simply so others may simply live”, but I am looking at the food we eat and ways that we can make it more wholesome and as close to its natural state as I can get. But I have to acknowledge that as a working mum, I still have to rely on others to grow much of the food we need.

          Spiritually, I look to shamanic teachings for guidance on connection. Once again, one has to be careful about new age embellishment of practices which were largely transmitted orally, and practitioners who claim to be something they are not. There is a Druid movement (The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids) in the UK which I have found to be honest and simple in its approach.

          • I’m so glad that you regularly share your experience, thoughts and perspective here! I feel like I have a lot to learn from you and I’m grateful that you take the time to give me things to ponder or further investigate.

            I spent some time yesterday considering AP and NL separately, and I realize that I’ve really got that connection ingrained. I think so many aspects of NL are very supportive of being attached/connected not only to one’s children but also to one’s community and one’s own self. I imagined (and remembered) living a typical, disposable, artificial American lifestyle, with the constant noise, unending spectatorship of any variety of electronic devices, perpetual enclosure within the walls of a building or a vehicle, steady stream of pre-packaged or restaurant food, and I feel like any kind of healthy attachment is a struggle in those circumstances. The times in my life that I have been in a position where I had to endure such conditions, I was edgy, unfocused and disconnected beyond tolerance, but maybe it’s just me.

            I guess I am basing this purely on personal experience, so I could not scientifically extrapolate it to apply to anyone else on the planet, but it has definitely made me look at the essence of AP in a new light, which has been helpful.

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