Elena wrote about attachment parenting today. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, basically it is a theory of child rearing that states that a child must be securely attached to his/her parents, particularly his/her mother, in order to achieve appropriate independence later in life. In order to foster that attachment, the theory goes, parents, particularly mothers, need to be constantly physically and emotionally present to the baby. True believers in attachment parenting take this so far as to eschew the use of cribs, swings, pacifiers, and sometimes even strollers. They practice "baby wearing", toting their babies around in slings for much of the day. A few even practice "elimination communication" foregoing the use of diapers and instead trying to pay attention to the child's cues so as to take him/her to the potty or other place when s/he was about to urinate or defecate. Elena mentioned that one website suggested that those who reject this form of parenting aren't good Catholics. I agree with Elena, that idea is foolish.
Personally I think attachment parenting is a concept grasped onto by overachieving moms who have chosen to leave the workplace but haven't given up the competitive mentality that got (or would get) them ahead in the workplace. They choose an image of parenthood that the majority of parents couldn't achieve even if they wanted to. Not only can Mom not work full-time outside the home and leave the poor neglected baby in daycare, she can't work part-time on evenings or weekends (unless it is something she can do with a nursed-on-demand baby present). Mom can't work at home (at least not very effectively since she can't use things like swings, pacifiers or the TV to entertain the baby). She can't have a large brood of closely spaced kids because the baby doesn't get enough attention that way. In short, instead of selling more widgets, managing more people, or handling more projects than the person in the next office, I think these moms "achieve" by parenting "better" than the rest of us--though I haven't seen any research to indicate this form of parenting is any better than any other.
I find the term SAHM (stay at home mom) to be interesting in and of itself. In my mom's day, women who did what she did were called housewives. They took care of the house and kids. The cooked the meals, shopped, did laundry, ran errands and otherwise took care of the family. Yes, they played with the kids, read to them, helped with homework and did some chauffeuring, but when those of us who are baby boomers were kids, our moms were not our major source of entertainment. We played with the kids in the neighborhood. They came to our house or we went to theirs. Doorbells were rung, and kids could either play, or not. Our moms didn't take us to "playdates" they arranged in advance. Our bikes were for taking us places, not for riding in circles up and down the street under the watchful eye of Mom, or going for a ride with Mom or Dad at our side. In other words, women my mother's age took care of their kids, but didn't see being constantly within eyesight of their kids to be necessary.
My grandmother and I have something in common. We both utilized daycare when our kids were young. I used a daycare center and a sitter; she used a "hired girl". My grandmother didn't work outside the home--she had more than enough work at home. She got up in the morning and cooked a large breakfast over a wood-burning stove. After cleaning up from breakfast, she started cooking dinner. During the day, she gathered eggs, killed and dressed chickens (if on the menu), worked in a large vegetable garden, canned the products from that garden, washed clothes using a wringer washer and hung them on the line, made and mended clothes and cleaned house. Supper had to be put on the table daily too--and remember that cooking was pretty much from scratch. In short, I doubt my grandmother considered herself a mom any more (or any less) than my grandfather considered himself a dad. She couldn't have performed her chores with a baby strapped to her all day any more than my grandfather could have performed his.
I've read about a group of people in China who lived where there was a very fine absorbent type of sand. The norm for peasant babies was to be buried up to the neck in this sand during the day. The sand would function as a diaper and keep the babies where they were put. Mom would return periodically during the day to nurse them. It sounds awful and cruel to most of us, but the parents had been raised that way too. The parents needed to work or no one was going to eat, and mom couldn't work if she was holding the baby. Ever heard of a papoose board? Basically it is a board to which a baby (or in the modern medical setting, a child) can be tied securely. Again, someplace to put the baby while Mom worked. Mom not working--not being an economic producer, but rather focusing all her energy on the kids--is not historically normal. It is a product of modern affluence, and I think that attention, like many things, is wonderful in the right quantity and can even be harmful if there is too much of it.