Attachment Parenting Does Not Mean Martyr Parenting: Parents Have Needs, Too

September 5th, 2013 by Dionna | 5 Comments
Posted in Consensual Living, Consistent and Loving Care, natural parenting, Strive for Balance

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Attachment Parenting Does Not Mean Martyr Parenting at Code Name: Mama

I wrote earlier this month about being in the pit for a local production of Sound of Music. The hardest part about committing to the show was overcoming a lingering feeling of guilt. Why would I feel guilty about doing 15 evenings of rehearsal and production? Because so much of the attachment parenting community glorifies the image of mother as a constant presence in her children’s lives. Of the mother who eschews all wants and desires in subjugation to the whims of her kids.

That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s really not. I’ve been around long enough, seen enough Facebook threads bashing mothers for daring to _________ (fill in the blank: go back to work, attend a mom’s night out, pump a bottle and go on a date with her partner, etc., etc.).

Heck, even when I posted on my Code Name: Mama Facebook page about the opportunity to do Sound of Music, I got at least a couple of comments advising me to wait, because my children are only little once, and I’ll have plenty of time to do my own thing later.

And I get where they are coming from, I really do! I don’t want to miss motherhood. I don’t want to outsource the short time I get to parent my littles.

But I do not believe that I need to forsake every one of my own wants and needs in order to be a securely attached parent.

Doing things for ourselves is SO important.

Just because we are parents does not mean that we lose our humanness. We are still people, and it is still ok to have goals, dreams, desires, needs. It would be unhealthy not to have our own wants and needs!

There are times when it is necessary – right – to set our wants aside in favor of our children’s needs. But I think that a lot of us who identify as “attachment parents” often confuse our “wants” and “needs,” assuming that anytime we want something, it automatically takes a lower priority than something for our children.

Here’s what we need to remember: our desires can be indicative of very real needs. Take a look at this “needs inventory” from the Center for Nonviolent Communication. Let’s just take violin as an example. I have very real needs of belonging (I love being part of musical groups), beauty (the beauty of music), and self-expression. I could have listed more, but those needs jumped out at me.

Now let’s look at the needs of my children at bedtime. They need closeness, nurturing, safety, security, trust, rest/sleep – all of which can be met by myself or another trusted caregiver. And that’s what we did: my husband parented them to sleep. That was a good thing, for our children and for my husband.

I can take care of my needs – the need to express myself and belong to a group of talented musicians – and my children’s needs can be met by my husband and/or mother while I’m gone.

Each of us needs to balance the needs of our children with the needs of ourselves and our family units. Each of us has to take time to listen to her inner voice to know when needs are going unmet. When your needs are not being met, you are less likely to be able to meet the needs of others.

And let’s take a moment to reflect on the fact that our needs are not identical to anyone else’s. While one mother’s needs for purpose and appreciation may be met at home, another mother may seek work outside of the home to meet those same needs. While one mother’s needs for spontaneity and independence may be met in a family atmosphere, another mother may seek an adult group to meet those same needs. Neither is more right than the other.

Attachment parenting considers the needs of children and caregivers. Attachment parenting means working to nurture a secure, trusting relationship in a balanced environment. Attachment parenting does not mean martyr parenting.

Have you ever felt guilty about doing something for yourself?

How do you balance your own needs with those of your family?


Photo Credit: Image adapted from a photo by Helen ST

5 Responses to:
"Attachment Parenting Does Not Mean Martyr Parenting: Parents Have Needs, Too"

  1. Ruth Mitchell

    I absolutely agree with you 1,000 percent!!! I was so happy that you decided to spend that time just feeding your soul because I know how you love music and being part of an orchestra!!! AND it gave me the PERFECT excuse to come and spend TONS of quality time with my two precious grandchildren!!! I cannot TELL you how proud I was when I actually managed to soothe Ailia to sleep!!!! :-)

  2. Ariadne   positive_parent

    Wonderful post Dionna and I agree. We simply cannot give it our all without a chance to refuel our own tanks. Taking time for ourselves is not only good for us but models many important qualities to our children as well. If our children watch us reach for our own dreams, they will hopefully be inspired to do the same! Plus, what a great opportunity for children to see that they are so very lovable and can be cared for other important people in their life. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Amy Phoenix   forcefreeparent

    Dionna, I have also noticed that the idea mom is supposed to be near her young is very prevalent in some circles and theories. I also find that kids really do benefit from interaction and care from others. Even young ones, and especially with the other parent or close, trusted caregivers.

    I’ve swung back and forth on the pendulum of self care and guilt – as if me caring for me somehow reduces what I have to offer my children. That’s so ridiculous!

    I do respect their needs and when I need to do something all by myself I trust that they will not suffer in my absence. Albeit it is rare, but they are getting older and they want to interact with others more, they want to explore the world and relationships. And when I return from such brief excursions we get to experience the bliss (or just common “hello”) of reuniting and knowing that all is well…

    I have often thought that possibly some/many of the proponents of AP/positive parenting are addressing hurts from their own childhood through their parenting (me included) and that sometimes we take it too far… thinking that we are unreasonably selfish if we do something we enjoy. Joy is really important and if we’re seriously lacking in it we may not really be the presence we want to be around our children…

    Thank you for this insightful, honest post. I appreciate your wisdom and willingness to discuss your experiences. :)

  4. Lulastic   lulasticblog

    Yes, yes, yes! I absolutely agree :) perfectly put! I wrote about this very thing myself a wee while ago- about the importance of authenticity as parents too:
    (I hope you don’t mind me dropping a link)
    I did worry after though that some none attachmenty parents might read it as an invitation to not feel bad about leaving tiny weenies to cry etc :/

  5. Teika Bellamy   MothersMilkBks

    I love this article! It explains clearly what I’ve thought many times – that AP is NOT about being a martyr. Many thanks for this concise and well-written piece :-)

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