I got involved in a discussion about breastfeeding and early child care today. This is a subject that I can carry my end of the conversation with, despite not being a parent. I was around it all for years, and the babies in my family and our extended family/friends were breastfed for a really long time. I mean, the kids in our family were still breastfeeding when they were old enough to hold conversations about it. I agree with breastfeeding for as many years as the mother and child need, and I agree that women should be able to breastfeed in public.
This led to the topic of attachment parenting, as it’s all related. And I am writing this as a daughter and a sister, not as a mom. I know there are varying degrees of attachment parenting, but I didn’t even know until recently that there was a word for what that is. I only knew a general description. I knew that in many, many households, babies come into the home in carriers and sleep in cribs, and that in our household, the babies spent a lot of time in people’s arms. I knew that babies slept with their parents in our house, while in other households, the babies always seemed to sleep in another room. I knew that in our home, if it was warm, the baby would often be wearing just his or her diaper and maybe a little cotton t-shirt, and other than that there was a lot of skin on skin contact. I even slipped into these patterns quite naturally when I was a nanny for a six month old baby. Once the baby and I got used to each other, I would carry him a lot, in my arms. I even started carrying him in some pretty odd positions, that I had only seen in my own home, where you hold one leg and let the rest of the baby balance on your arm. I did this without thinking; I just realized I was doing it one day. I also remember, as a kid, watching my mom sit the sunny spot by the window and letting the baby crawl around without anything on, to let his or her body get fresh air. I remember how happy it made the baby, because most babies love being nudie. I remember the baby looking at the mommy and they were both so happy, having that little moment in their day to just bask in something so simple and wonderful. I also remember laying down a blanket in the living room or out in front of the house at sunset and hanging out, and all of our attention would end up going towards the baby or toddler because there was so much joy and energy coming from its little body. These were moments that, I’m sure, we all benefitted from. I knew that our household wasn’t the only one in the world that was like this, but when I talked about it with friends, I didn’t quite know how to describe it. I just understood that there was something very much non-assembly line going on in our household, and it the households of a lot of my parents’ friends. Along with this seemed to come a very extreme feeling that the child was being treated as an individual little person with its own individual personality, and not just a wearer of all things blue or pink. I’m sure it’s like this for most kids, but maybe since ours was OURS, it seemed like so much more than a baby. I’m sure the parenting had a lot to do with it though, affecting both the baby and my view of the baby.
When I was younger I assumed that I would have kids someday. This, of course, was before nannyhood changed me. The baby that I nannied for had an older sister who I also cared for, and she came out of hell and made my biological clock freeze over in a way that nothing has ever melted, not even those wonderful memories of my younger siblings. I used to stare at those parents that I worked for, and it hit me with such force that something so evil could come out of two perfectly normal people, and I knew then that it could happen to anyone, no matter how good your prenatal care was. Things like that just happen in nature. It’s a risk that other people take. These people took that risk, and I wanted to call in an exorcist for that poor little girl, with her head all spinning around and pea soup shooting out of her mouth.
Before all this, though, in the long long ago time, I used to really want kids. I also knew that it wouldn’t matter if I had children at the same time as my friends or not, because I would probably be raising them a lot differently than my peers. When pressed to describe this “different” way, I could only say that they’d probably get frustrated watching me parent my children. They’d probably think I was too lax and didn’t do things in a normal way. The breastfeeding would go on for years, and the offspring would be a high priority. I wouldn’t work, and that wouldn’t be because I think the mom belongs at home, it would just be because I belong at home, and wouldn’t want it any other way. I couldn’t have imagined anyone else raising me other than my mom. And I couldn’t imagine having to wait for her to come home, and only getting a bracketed amount of time to spend with her each day and each week. And, most importantly, I wouldn’t want to miss out on those precious years that go by so quickly. My sister had it the same way, in that she was able to raise her daughter without having to work full time, and it showed. Her daughter never felt like she was anything less than her mom’s highest priority. They were very much in tune with each other, especially in those very early years when a little kid’s mommy is the world to them.
Parenthood is a lot of work, and no matter what, people deserve a lot of props for what they go through in raising their little ones. Night terrors, trails of toys around the house, having to worry when they’re sick, having to make every decision knowing that it’s going to affect someone’s life; it’s a harder job than anything else you’ll ever do with your life. I’ll have to enjoy it from the sidelines, and believe me, I am watching in awe.