It can take a while to create a village. Recently, I took a look around and we had finally arrived – but slowly and not without tears. Still, sharing my daughter has taught me a great deal about parenting and about myself.
When Iris was born, my mother was here and my partner was on paternity leave. When they went back to respective house and workplace, I felt very alone. Our baby didn’t sleep well or nap for long and I was exhausted. We always assumed our friends would provide some help when called upon, but they didn’t. Well, they offered to come but usually couldn’t make it. We had only a couple of friends with children and they were…busy! This is the story of so many new mamas today.
I wanted to be the perfect attachment parent. But as my sleep deficit became more intense and my desire to attend to my work and my art became more pressing, I slowly acquired some people to help. Both asking for and then dealing with that help have been spiritual lessons. While practicing attachment parenting and letting someone hold the baby for a few minutes was fine, letting someone else really care for my baby was difficult.
Letting someone else teach my baby something new? Let other people wear her or worse, feed her! Take my child out of the house, to the park? Watching my child hug someone else, call her “best friend.” And as my daughter became a toddler, she would occasionally even prefer the super-fun style of an outdoorsy caregiver younger and more full of energy than myself. Ending a few hours of work to find my sleepy child twirling the hair of someone other than myself? Each new situation or realization found me grappling with guilt and jealousy.
So far, we have had some amazing players in our life who have proven to be truly consistent. They have given me a break while supporting a mostly exclusive breastfeeding relationship, they have allowed me to be the one to put her to sleep, they have worn her in packs and helped me complete her early potty adventures. This is a little list of what sharing attachment with them has taught me:
Louise, the surrogate grandmother from church. (Our parents are far away.) She has come every Wednesday from the day I became willing to accept help – to give me a shower break or let me make a meal in peace. She brought to my child new music and hand dances and because Louise couldn’t pick Iris up as much as I usually would, I learned that Iris could explore on her own and for longer periods of time as a crawler.
Nora, our first “roommate nanny” – our friend came to live with us for a time while studying early childhood education. She taught me all of the newest research on early childhood education and reminded me to mirror my child’s unusual sounds right back to her as communication.
Reed, my best friend’s partner who has been there from the beginning to help out with our daughter here and there and to show our dog some love. He has blessed our family with incredible enthusiasm for our parenting journey and incredible finds of gifts and books from none other than the Goodwill. Through him, I could find joy again in our mundane days.
Kristin, my parenting mentor and her two girls for Iris to look up to. How amazing it has been so have someone I can call anytime to share my challenges and to have her say exactly how it was for her back then and to always say “It gets better. Oh, and then it gets hard again.” And her eldest daughter, who at 12 has played with my daughter in a pinch.
Sarah, our very part-time “au pair” from Indiana, who lives with us and has recently gone from 15 hours per week to 20 hours per week as I recently took on a new business venture of opening a baby academy while continuing my parent coaching practice. Sarah provides love, guidance and security in the way a much older sister or cousin would. I also feel that when I return and scoop my child up in my arms, I am renewed and refreshed as a parent. It isn’t something this attachment parent could have done before 6 months, but it certainly feels great now at 22 months.
Mu, our ever-present dog, is yet another consistent player in raising Iris. I cannot forget him because he watches over us. He used to come and get me when the “baby woke up” or was crying. Whenever I am not in the room, he feels that he is on caregiver duty.
These are just a few from a longer list of people who share an attachment to and provide consistency for Iris and myself. The list of course includes my wonderful partner who finds new ways every day to be more and more attached while I find new space in my heart to witness their own brand of closeness. I believe that by being willing to share attachment I am raising a more secure, social, smart, and funny child.
I truly feel that children are greatly enriched by having a community and by having multiple teachers and ways of being to emulate. And I have always felt that the more friends visit our home, the happier a place it is. This is also why I am always trying to form moms groups even when it sometimes doesn’t work out and why I can’t wait for my daughter to experience preschool to make more friends with new families in the neighborhood.
What does your attachment village look like?
Alternative Caregivers, Attachment Parenting, Balance, Consensual Living, Consistent Care, Equally Shared Parenting, Family Structure, Parenting Philosophies, Responding With Sensitivity, Work and Family