My sister has been an au pair, a nanny, and a child minder for very rich people for all of her ten years of work experience. She has formula fed other people’s babies, looked after them overnight, spent more time with them than their own parents do, known them better than their parents do, played with them, disciplined them, and cared for them much more than their own parents have.
I knew nothing at all about children until the day my daughter was born. I had a crash course in being a mom – kind of as it happened – and must admit that instinct kicked in. Within a day, I could recognise what the different newborn whimpers meant. I’ve learned to be an attachment parent from this community far more than from anyone I know in “real life”.
I’ve been wondering a lot recently about what kind of a mother my sister will be. Will she fall back on her training, or will instinct kick in and she’ll love her child more than her charges? Will she instinctively look to my example? I don’t know, and it is her choice, but it led me to thinking about the types of people who pass on Attachment Parenting and how they have affected me.
- There are those people who use scare tactics: If you formula feed, your baby will grow up fat. If you use a crib, your baby will have trust issues. If you work, your child won’t know you. Scare tactics and bullying. A scare tactic may work on one in ten people, but it will also alienate the others from your message, however good or right that message may be. Sadly, the person persuaded by the bullying scare tactics will just as easily be dissuaded when a bigger bully with sharper words or more qualifications comes along.
- There are those people who talk about it: Whether by way of a personal blog, journaling their experience, creating a resource for others, or sitting in a play group and sharing what they know or believe with others, these people primarily influence those who are already curious. They influence those who are already aware that they are looking for another way. For example, I wrote a post on my blog about reasons to practice baby led weaning (BLW) and an old friend commented on it saying that she loved BLW and loved me for introducing it to her (I didn’t know I had!). She said that she could see the difference in attitude to food between her two children – the first fed purées, the second fed following a BLW approach. This second type of person influences by sharing what they know in a gentle way, even if they don’t know whether anyone is listening.
- The third kind of mother is the pioneer: She is the only one doing what she’s doing, but she’s doing it anyway. She is the only one of her friends to have even thought about a natural birth, to want to discipline gently, or to stay home with her child for a while. The pioneer is breaking boundaries and introducing brand new concepts. She is committed, dedicated, and firm in her convictions. She is also often lonely and feels like an outsider among her peers. She leads by example, the hardest way of influencing because everyone’s watching to see where she slips up.
- The fourth kind of person influences by living it: This person is very close to the person who talks about it, with the distinction that they’re just getting on with doing what feels natural. They’re not trying to educate, not trying to persuade anyone, they’re simply getting on with it. This person will answer questions if they’re asked – which they often are. She influences without even knowing it. She’s like the billboard you didn’t realise you’d seen. Like the TV ad you don’t think you’ve noticed until someone starts telling you about it. She’s the jingle you’re singing in the car because you heard it in the dentist’s waiting room. This is the person who ‘normalises’ breastfeeding in public each time she does it. She’s the person who encourages someone else to babywear because she makes it look graceful and her child is peaceful. Her children will homebirth or breastfeed or parent the way she does simply because it never occurs to them that there’s any other way. She’s the one who changes your perception and your life without either of you realising it.
These are the ways we share the AP way. It’s how we encourage and influence. It’s how we reach out to others and how we make a difference.
I only hope that when my sister’s time comes to be a parent, I’ll have been enough of each of these types of influences that Attachment Parenting is the only way that makes sense to her.
Photo Credit: Lucia Du Preez, used with permission.