How does Attachment Parenting inspire you?

Inspired Parents cover_Page_01Parenting is inspirational.

Our children motivate us to become better role models, to move past our childhood hurts and to find new ways to nurture and guide our children.

Mothers and fathers who have discovered Attachment Parenting (AP) find that their creative geniuses come alive as they question the status quo and dare to do something different than the cultural norm — to have warm, nurturing relationships centered on compassion and respect.

A boost of creativity is channeled directly into families, as parents strive to improve their relationships with their children, their spouses and partners, even their communities.

Just allowing themselves the freedom to think outside the box is enough for many parents to open new worlds of possibilities throughout their lives, within and beyond parenting. For many parents, this boost in creative energy spills over into a desire to reach out to other families to provide support and education about Attachment Parenting.

Many parents find their outlet in writing. Our journeys into motherhood and fatherhood, personal growth and change in perspective — not to mention, any of our individual interactions with our children — combine to make for some great writing material, as parenting bloggers can attest.

In the latest issue of The Attached Family, we celebrate “Inspired Parents” with features on:

We hope that this issue of The Attached Family will inspire you to open up your potential for creative parenting problem-solving in your home. And perhaps if time and inspiration allow, you may choose share your experiences with APtly Said, API’s blog by parents for parents.

Writing not your thing?

AP parents may also find their creative outlet in becoming accredited in API Leadership and facilitating local API Support Groups. Others choose to volunteer with Attachment Parenting International (API) on national and international projects. Many become an API Member for free or donate a small amount to become involved as an AP Advocate. Like-minded professionals have the opportunity to join the API Professional Associate program. There are so many options to choose from when getting involved with API.

A working mom seeks balance

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 7, 2008, but it gives timeless tips to working mothers struggling to feel balanced.

Guest post by Annie, PhD in Parenting

working-3-546230-mMommy guilt.

Just about every mother suffers from it, but there is no cure.  It seems no matter how much we give, how hard we try, in our own minds it isn’t enough.

Some days I feel like a do a pretty good job of balancing my career, my family and myself. But other days, it feels like I’m falling desperately behind and failing on all three counts.

As a society, I often get the impression that we are slipping behind. That families have less and less time to spend together. It used to be that Sundays were sacred family time, and now some people work Sundays while others use it to get chores done. It used to be that mom was waiting at home with freshly baked cookies when the kids hopped off the school bus, and now kids are in after-school care programs while waiting for Mommy or Daddy to finish the work day and hurry off to collect the kids. But according to an article in the Washington Post, maybe we’re not doing as badly as we think:

In 1965, mothers spent 10.2 hours a week tending primarily to their children — feeding them, reading with them or playing games, for example — according to the study’s analysis of detailed time diaries kept by thousands of Americans. That number dipped in the 1970s and 1980s, rose in the 1990s and now is higher than ever, at nearly 14.1 hours a week.

So if we are spending more time than ever with our kids, why do we still feel so unbalanced? Why do we all feel like we’re not doing enough with our kids — or at work, or for ourselves?

I think part of it is that society tells us we need to achieve balance. We need to spend quality time with our kids. We need to get recognized and promoted at work. We need to be perfect wives. And we need to carve out time for ourselves. If we fail on any of those fronts, the guilt starts again.

I haven’t found a perfect solution, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that make it easier, that make me feel like I’m progressing in finding that balance and in particular in being more present for my kids, which is the most important element of the balance for me:

  • Finding a new job — When my son was born, I decided that I couldn’t let someone else set my priorities any more. So I started my own business, where I get to decide how to balance my family and my clients, I decide how much work to take on and I decide when enough is enough.
  • Taking advantage of the time we do have — There are things that are part of our daily routine where I could shut my kids out, but where possible, I try to bring them in. My son likes to help me bake and cook, so I try to get him involved in meal preparation. It helps him learn how to get around a kitchen and also gives us some extra special time together. I drive my son to school each day and pick him up, a total of about an hour in the car together each day. We have developed a repertoire of games and conversations that we have, and I really cherish this time. Instead of leaving my daughter at home with my husband while I do the grocery shopping, I take her with me and talk to her as we go through the aisles. Sometimes it makes these tasks take a little longer and makes it more hectic, but I think it is worth it in the end.
  • Cosleeping — I have heard so many working parents complain about how little time they have with their kids during the week. Some parents arrive home from work at 6 p.m. and have their little ones in bed by 7 p.m. We do manage to sneak in more than an hour of time together in the evenings. Usually I end up having close to three hours with my kids at home before bedtime. But being together doesn’t end there. I share a bed with one or the other of my kids every night. I find this time to be an essential way of staying close, even when we can’t spend as much waking time together as we would like. As I sit here and type, my daughter is sleeping on a boppy pillow on my lap.
  • Planning dates with my kids — I try to set aside some special dates with my kids. Sometimes my husband brings my daughter in to meet me for lunch. Every once in a while my son and I go out for an early dinner after school before going home. On weekends, I try to carve off half days to go out and do special activities like a walk or a visit to a museum with one or both of the kids. In the summer, I take Mondays off and often spend the day out and about with one kid or the other, going to the park, stopping at a cafe for a snack, visiting the bookstore, having an ice cream, etc. When we just stay home and hang out, we do get some time together but that is often combined with doing the laundry, checking e-mail, cooking meals, cleaning up and all the other things that get in the way of focusing on each other, and we definitely have no time for this and want to do other activities like going out, we better get the Cleaning Services Edmonton to help us with chores and have more time for other activities.
  • Reading, reading and reading some more — Reading is a way of sharing stories and ideas. Reading promotes literacy. Reading lets parents and children bond and gives them a stepping off point to discuss feelings and topics of importance, to develop hobbies, to laugh together. We read to our kids every day and even when everything else is falling apart, I try to keep this as a constant. We have books everywhere in the house. We have books in the car. We have books in the diaper bag. Anywhere we go, we have books.
  • Accepting less than perfect in other areas of life — I’m lucky to have a husband that helps out a lot around the house. He is a stay-at-home dad and he has also taken on a lot of the household chores. But among the chores that we share or that I do, I’ve accepted that I don’t need to be perfect all of the time. Sometimes I get my daughter and I dressed all week out of an unfolded and unsorted hamper of clean clothes. Often I pay the bills once per month, rather than paying them as they arrive or paying them at the “best” time as per due dates and interest rates. I started out making my own baby food, but then gave up and went for store-bought instead. My hair looks better when blow dried, but except on the coldest winter days or the most special events, I leave the house with wet hair.
  • Striving for balance over time, not every day — I work really hard at some times of the year, often working several hours at night after the kids are in bed, but I also take almost two months of vacation each year that I spend exclusively with my kids. Sometimes I take a night to go out with friends, but at other times if my kids need me, I may have to put social activities on hold. Some weekends I need to work, and sometimes I take a long weekend so that I can focus on family. If I try to achieve perfect balance each day, I will fail. But if I let things work themselves out over time, I may have a fighting chance.

All that to say that I don’t have the cure for mommy guilt. Not even close. But I’ve discovered a few tricks that help me give my kids more presence within the constraints of our ever busy lives. What tricks have you discovered to spend more quality time with your kids while maintaining your career?

A New Year, a time to pause and reflect

fireworks-behind-tree-1436469-mLike cooking turkey on Thanksgiving or giving flowers on Valentine’s Day, I cannot help feeling the tug at this time of year to pause and reflect.

Yes, January 1 is just the next day after December 31. But it feels like a beginning, and the part of me that loves rituals and traditions always comes forward with thoughts and questions:

  • Does the way I live reflect what I believe?
  • Do I treat my family the way I want to be treated?
  • Do I take care of myself with as much care, time and energy as I do my children?

These are life-long questions and not easily answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

In thinking about this New Year, I imagine my answers turning from “sometimes yes” to “mostly yes.” And what can I do to make this true?

The simple act of reflection helps — checking in with myself regularly and remembering to ask the questions. Taking a moment each day, week or month to revisit and think about the choices I’m making.

This is not an exercise in perfection, but rather the setting of an intention to live with more love, forgiveness and joy.

What are your questions?

Struggling with Attachment Parenting?

100_0272I feel it is such a sign of true strength when parents can be honest with themselves and others that they, too, struggle.

Especially with Attachment Parenting (AP), many parents feel that they have to be “perfect” but that is an impossible standard. We all have moments where our knee-jerk reactions get the best of us.

Just the other day, I stubbornly insisted my oldest daughter was the one misunderstanding a situation. She was in tears, and I was adamant that I was “right.” It was a little past our usual lunch time, but it didn’t even dawn on me that perhaps I was seeing things in a different light because I needed to eat.

And then as soon as I got some food in me, my mood mellowed out and I quickly realized that I was completely in error in how I related to my daughter. So I apologized and we talked about how I need to work on taking care of myself better so I’m not taking out my low blood sugar on others.

Emotion coaching is such a huge part of AP. It’s not that AP parents always have it together, that we are superhuman in handling our strong emotions and therefore never raise our voices or give in to our knee-jerk reactions. It’s that we are comfortable with teaching our children that all of their — and our — emotions are healthy. We don’t need to be scared of our emotions, and there are ways to work through them in a healthy way.

That includes when we’re thinking thoughts that we think “real AP parents” never think of. Ha! It’s not that other AP parents don’t have these thoughts, and sometimes the actions that go with those thoughts, but rather how we repair the disconnection that happens when those thoughts/actions arise.

I try not to sweat an occasionally hard day of relating with my kids. But when I get into a pattern of relating with disconnection, I go back to Attachment Parenting International’s Eighth Principle of Parenting: Strive for Balance. I also go back and re-read my AP books to relearn and remind myself of what I’ve been taking for granted.

Earlier in my “career” as a mother, I had a very difficult time with API’s Sixth Principle of Parenting: Practice Positive Discipline. It took me seemingly forever to get the healthy patterns in place to change my mindset from punitive discipline to positive discipline. I was particularly vulnerable to others’ opinions of my parenting approach, especially from disapproving family members.

When I was a younger mother, and still figuring out how AP was going to work in our home, as well as healing my own childhood emotional wounds, it helped me so much to talk to parents who had “gone before” me and whose children were living proofs that AP works. There are times in the early years when it seems to some parents new to AP that this child-rearing approach might be setting a child up to be aggressive or “spoiled,” but so much of that perspective is part of the growing pains of wrapping the non-AP brain around the concept of Attachment Parenting.

The development is different for a toddler who is being raised AP than for a toddler who is raised in a way where strong emotions are suppressed, but when a child is raised with guidance through API’s Eight Principles of Parenting, the seemingly difficult toddler grows into a child very aware of his or her emotions who is empathetic and creative and exceptional at problem-solving.

I’m seeing it in action with my own children, the oldest of whom is 8 years old. And I’ve seen it in action with others’ AP-ed children, some who are in their teens or preteens and even a few who are grown, married and are raising a second-generation of AP kids. Attachment Parenting works.

There were times when I would have to remind myself that my child acts a certain way, because he or she was not raised with an iron hand or where crying was punished — and that is OK. For example, some of my family members’ views on children are that they are “to be seen and not heard, and preferably not even to be seen.” Children are expected to play by themselves in an out-of-the-way room while the grown-ups talk together. But my kids are used to, and like to, be part of the togetherness of family. They don’t want to be out of the way; they want to be with and connect with the grown-ups.

Some of my family members may see this behavior as impolite or bothersome. And that is OK. What any one person defines as “good” behavior is subjective.

What’s more important to me is that my children are absorbing the values I want them to have as adults — and right at the top of the list is a desire to connect with others, emotional health and authenticity. So much of that is how I respond when my own strong emotions come up — like anger, sorrow, fear, disappointment, jealousy, embarrassment and others — especially when I didn’t deal with them well the first-time around.

My children are learning how to navigate life from me, and it’s important that part of what they learn is how to navigate when I make mistakes in my relationships so they know how to do that when they are parents themselves.

Control or the lack thereof

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2008, but it puts into perspective why new motherhood can sometimes be hard to adjust to.

lady---childrens-art-2-1422726-mI’ve always liked to feel in control of my life. In my pre-baby days — back in the mists of time — I used to work full time in various office environments. My desk was always tidy, my in-tray cleared by every evening, my out-tray filed away neatly. Any outstanding work issues were jotted down in my diary at 16:45 so that my head was clear of work details, and when I walked out that door every evening, I left work behind me!

And then I became a stay-at-home mammy.

This job is 24/7. My desk is a mess and covered in unmatched baby socks — don’t ask!. There’s no in-tray, which I suppose that’s a good thing, as it would be overflowing. There is no out-tray, although also no need for one as no task ever gets completed. My work diary has been replaced by a meal planner and a wall calendar.

My new boss is…how can I put this…quite changeable in her outlook on life. I never know, each morning, whether we will be continuing the project we started yesterday — covering the patio in chalk drawings — or liaising with other bosses and their employees — toddlers & their mums — or lunching in exotic locations — the garden, the porch, the stairs — or indeed whether I will be given the opportunity to sit down for lunch at all.

Yes, this new job is much more complex than my previous positions, and it is almost impossible to feel as if I am in control day-to-day, because truth be told, I’m not!

It’s been a huge change for me, and to be honest, it’s been a bit hard to get my head around at times. One minute I’m managing projects, organizing schedules, socializing with workmates and in control of my life. The next, I’m holding this tiny helpless bundle who I love so completely yet have no idea how to communicate with.

It’s been a huge learning experience for me and coming up to Littlepixie’s second birthday, I only now feel that I’m starting to catch up with myself.

But I’m learning to accept that I don’t need to be in control of everything. Littlepixie has taught me that.

I am slowly learning to stop sweating the small stuff. There are some things I like to keep control of: For example, we have a sit-down dinner every evening. And there are some things I let go of: For example, our sit-down dinner may involve sitting on the floor at Littlepixie’s kitchen table.

I know many of our friends and family think our parenting style is too intensive, that long-term breastfeeding is too much work, that cosleeping robs myself & my husband of our marital bed, that carrying Littlepixie will make her clingy and break my back, that having our dinner at a child’s table is pandering to her needs and spoiling her, and so on.

But I think the fact that all of this feels so right to us has made this new job easier. We haven’t had to fight against our instincts. We are letting them lead the way.

So I suppose while my head is only just now starting to catch up, my heart has been in control the whole time!

Half Pint Pixie

Taking time for self makes me a better Mommy

Kelly ShealerIt was 8:00 at night. I was putting my oldest son to bed, and I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner.

I had made dinner for both of my sons, had nursed my baby multiple times and had even made sure that my husband took food to work with him. But I had completely forgotten about myself.

And because of it, I was getting irritable and was on the verge of losing my patience with my son, who was doing nothing wrong except not relaxing for bed as quickly as I wanted him to.

I quickly made a decision to leave the room for a few minutes, grab something to eat and then go back to my son. I almost immediately felt better. My whole attitude shifted, not just because I finally ate but also because I felt good about taking the time that I needed for myself.

When I went back to my son, I exaggerated how happy I suddenly was, hugging him, tickling him and being silly with him. I told him that I knew he had wanted me with him but that I’d needed to eat so that I could be happier and be a better Mommy. I wanted him to see that it’s important for my needs to be met as well and that I’m much happier when they are.

I believe balance is one of the most important of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting, because you need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of your children. But it’s also the hardest to put into practice.

I know so many other moms who spend all day caring for the needs of their children, giving their all to the point where they don’t have anything left for themselves.

We fail to make time for our own needs, because often our children’s needs are greater than ours. We cosleep in uncomfortable positions and wear our babies for an extended time, so our bodies are sore. We respond to our children with sensitivity and feed them respectfully, but we don’t treat ourselves with the same kindness and care.

When we do take the time to care for ourselves, we often feel guilty, even though we shouldn’t. We need it. Our children need it, too, because we’re better parents when we take care of ourselves.

With three children ages 4 and under, I generally don’t make much time for myself during the day. Lately I’ve been trying to find quick, simple ways to help me feel like I’m doing something for myself throughout the day — things I can easily do with my children present.

Some of my favorites are putting on perfume or lipstick and I use aluminum bottles for packaging so it looks more pretty, finally taking the time to brush my hair that I’d thrown into a messy ponytail at the start of the day, looking at family pictures that always cheer me up, doing some stretches or just taking a few deep breaths.

Then another top tip that we have is to shop around for low cost perfumes and beauty products, we found this online store in the UK that offers cheap beauty products and perfumes from the top designer brands so a brilliant way of getting some cheap deals.

When I need something more than this, I’ve found that putting on some of my favorite music and letting my boys have a dance party usually helps us all feel better.

And when all else fails, there’s always chocolate.

Attachment Parenting in shared custody

apm logoWe are in the midst of October, which happens to be Attachment Parenting Month,  and I am wondering what this year’s theme — “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” — means to me?

As I sit with this question, I am reminded of the many times lately that I have found myself in conversations about how people sometimes assume that to practice Attachment Parenting means to give yourself up fully to your child: to exist only for the benefit, safety, love, health and security of your child, for all legal matters in regards custody check out https://lalawknoxville.com now.

Upon learning about Attachment Parenting, I can see exactly why this is what people believe, since many of Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting seem different than what our mainstream culture has associated with parenting.

Now I could go into a long discussion about mainstream parenting, Attachment Parenting and how it all came to be, but what I want to focus on is how it might look like in my household and why cherishing the parent is vital so that children can flourish.

Let me begin by telling you that I am a mom who shares custody of my children with their father on a schedule that is as balanced as we could make it. We have been doing this for the past three years, and the time away from my kids is often extremely difficult but also provides an opportunity for me to heal and explore my interests.

I have friends who envy that I have alone time built into the week and other friends who cannot even imagine having days where they would not see their kids.

I also want to mention that my children are hitting the pre-teen years. Next summer, I will have one daughter who is officially a teen and another daughter who has hit double digits. They are growing fast, and I have to cherish all the time I have with them.

lisa fiertagWith everything that is going on in our lives, I know that I am doing the best I can with my girls.

I have beautiful children who are loving, kind and supportive. They engage in activities that interest them, even if I have to push a bit to get them to try something new. My girls have an awareness of who they are and a willingness to navigate more choices, along with the freedom to explore what they like and don’t like.

All of this is possible because their dad and I have encouraged this, no matter how difficult our lives became.

My children are flourishing.

There was a time when I didn’t believe this would be possible, as my family went through years of one crisis after another. We experienced separation and divorce, major life illnesses and the death of a grandparent. Even with all this stress, the one thing that kept us together was our commitment to parenting.

For me, it was a knowing that my girls might need a little extra time with each parent, so canceling activities that took us away from family was vital. Living in a way that allowed for flexibility was also important, as it is not always known what might emotionally set off any one of us. Having stability in these little ways was important.

My girls know that they can be with me, when needed, at any time day or night even if they are with their dad and vice versa. As my girls have grown older, there are times when I know they need to be closer to me and times when a little freedom is desired, which is all part of the flow.

I have found that parenting does not necessarily get easier as our children grow older, but it is different each and every day.

Cherishing myself, as a parent, does help to make things smoother.

When I am not with my girls, I am engaging in activities that help me grow. I tend to spend my time exploring interests that feed my spirit or allow me to relax. Sometimes I just want to sit on my couch in silence and do absolutely nothing.

This all helps me as a parent. When we cherish ourselves and allow for balance in our daily routines, we are creating security and may thrive from these experiences.

As we cherish our time, our individualism and our interests, we grow. As we grow, we become secure parents who are able to be with our children throughout the worst and the best of times. As we cherish our minds, bodies and souls in whatever way calls to us, we are creating and opening space that allows our children to flourish.

What did you do today to cherishing yourself so that your children may flourish?

Dating

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Aug. 25, 2008, but finding couple time while meeting our children’s emotional needs is not only extremely important for our relationships with our spouse/partner but also teaches our children about the critical need for family balance. Couple time is also very possible. All it takes is a little creativity — which further teaches our children about problem-solving.

holding-hands-1439676-mI met my husband on a leap of faith when I decided to date black singles on InterracialDating.com, I came across his profile, we met for coffee and it was love at first site. We went on regular dates, got married, and continued to go on dates for our couple time. Then when my husband and I became parents, we expected parenting to be the focus of our lives. We anticipated that we’d be spending essentially all of our non-work time as a family, taking the children with us when we visited friends, went to restaurants, traveled and so on. We’d both had this kind of experience growing up, so it never really occurred to us that family life could be some other way.

As we were expecting our first child, some well-intentioned people told us that we should be sure to go out on dates so we’d have “couple time.” We couldn’t figure out why we would want to do that. After she was born, we enjoyed spending time together taking care of our new baby.

After the first couple of months, we still had plenty of “couple time” in the evenings at home after our daughter went to bed. We couldn’t figure out why we would need to get a babysitter and leave our house in order to spend time together as a couple.

The birth of our second child complicated things considerably. We were much more exhausted physically, and dealing with the competing needs of two children was emotionally draining.

When we had only one child, it was possible for one of us to take a break while the other spent time with our daughter. With two children, one of us had to be spending time with both children in order for the other to take a break, which has rarely seemed worthwhile. We prefer to have a one-to-one ratio between adults and children whenever possible in order to minimize parental meltdowns!

We found that we weren’t getting as much “couple time” in the evenings, because we were so exhausted and because we seemed to have even more chores to catch up on. So a few months ago, we finally started going out on dates.

Starting around the time our son was 15 months old, we’ve felt fairly confident that both kids would stay asleep from the time they went to bed until at least midnight. This has provided us with a great opportunity to have someone from our babysitting co-op come over and hang out while the two of us got out of the house.

We’ve been out on three or four dates now, and it’s definitely been nice to set aside time to spend together away from the chores and tasks of home. Yet, I’m also sure we wouldn’t be doing it if the kids weren’t asleep. It just wouldn’t feel right to leave them with a babysitter when we know they’d rather be with us.

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