When I was expecting my first child I committed to attachment parenting. I wanted to meet my child’s needs in the way that felt right to me. The past four and a half years with my daughter Hannah and then my son Jacob have confirmed my commitment to my principles. I believe it has strengthened our relationship and helped my kids to feel safe and nurtured. I’m satisfied with my parenting approach.
I will admit, however, that there are certain situations where my resolve is tested. Almost invariably, those situations arise in public settings. It is in public where I can feel the judgment of strangers and the disapproving glances. It is in public that my kids seem to become tense and unruly. It is in public where I feel a heightened fear for my child’s safety as we deal with parking lots and crowded shopping centers. It is as if all of my parenting buttons are pressed when we’re out in the view of others.
I have found myself heavily pregnant, running after my 3-year-old as she bolted away from me in a busy parking lot, and it was not a good time. I have stood beside a screaming toddler or bounced a crying baby in the bank line-up and felt all eyes on me. I have nursed my 2-year-old in the mall food court and felt concerned about what other people would think. As much as I am committed to attachment parenting, I admit that some part of me does care about the opinions of others. I’m not terribly proud of it, but it’s the truth.
So, how have I handled my fears? How have I let go of my need for approval, my desire to please, so that I can get on with the business of parenting?
A few things have helped me with public parenting. I’ve reminded myself that I will never see these people again, especially in situations where that is the truth. I’ve allowed myself to accept help when it is offered, whether that means holding my things while I run after my child or helping me get my groceries to the car. I have found like-minded mothers who provide me with support and insight. And I’ve gained more parenting experience with each passing day, which has increased my own confidence.
The thing that has helped me most of all, though, is viewing my public actions as my own contribution towards establishing a positive parenting culture. You never know who will be see when you’re out in public, and the positive effect it might have. Breastfeeding your toddler, wearing your baby, or handling your two-year-old’s outburst gently may set an example for someone else. It may bolster another parent’s own confidence or resolve or help someone to consider something they hadn’t before. And along the way, the world just may become a more welcoming place for all children and parents.
You can catch up with Amber’s regular musings on life and parenting on her blog at Strocel.com.