Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding your flock

What some people call attachment parenting came very easy to me in the beginning when my baby was born.  I nursed, co-slept, and responded instantly to his cries, as if I had a choice!  In the beginning, it didn’t bother me if people didn’t agree with some of my choices.  But as my baby grew older, my choices became less and less socially acceptable.

When my second was born, I decided we needed to join a playgroup so that my son could get out and interact with other kids.  Immediately I was nervous about joining one though.  I know how judgmental mothers can be, I am one and am often guilty of the same thing.  I knew how different my parenting style was to my friends and had only recently admitted to some of my close friends that I was still co-sleeping and nursing my first out of fear they would run screaming.

Would we be accepted in playgroup?  Would they be able to tell I didn’t follow the mainstream parenting rules?  Would I be “allowed” to nurse my baby in front of their children?

All these questions and worries kept me from joining anything for a few months until my doula, who also had kids, mentioned to me that there was an Attachment Parenting group that met locally.  I still didn’t fully know what “Attachment Parenting” meant at that point, but I knew I liked my doula and thought I would give it a try.

The first playgroup we went to was at a park.  I walked up nervously to a group of moms and almost cried with happiness when I saw a mom with her toddler nursing openly in a sling!  She didn’t have her healthy 15 month old shamefully covered with a blanket while she nursed him.  She just said hi and welcomed me to the group without a second thought.

Nursing a toddler in public was something I had never had the courage to do.  I immediately knew this was the perfect group for us though and was relieved to know that when my baby was a toddler, this would at least be one place I could openly nurse without issue or judgment.

Since then, I have grown as a parent with this group.  I am so grateful that I found them when I did.  They have helped me gain confidence in my parenting choices and feel proud that I parent the way I feel is right.  For so long I felt like my choices made me an outcast.  But now I knew I wasn’t a freak.  There were lots of people out there that made the same kind of choices I made and suddenly these choices seem normal.  Sure, there are still more mainstream parents out there than AP parents, but it helps to know you’re not alone.

I think it is so important to find people who have similar parenting philosophies to you, especially if you don’t follow the mainstream crowd.  It is exhausting to constantly feel you have to defend your choices or filter what you say around certain people.  It is important to have people you can talk openly with and go to for advice or just be a sympathetic ear.  So if you find you can’t talk to your friends about sleep issues because you know they will tell you to just let you baby cry, try to find a group of people you can talk to.  It might help more than you think!

So how do you find your flock?  Google it.  Check Facebook or Yahoo Groups.  You can even find some on the Attachment Parenting International website.  I know!  I didn't know that page existed either!  There are lots of local AP groups all over.  If you can't find any, start one!  There's a good chance that there are other AP parents in the area that would like to join!

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