attaching and detaching

A couple of parenting books recently caught my attention: Alyson Schafer’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ (here‘s a review at BoingBoing) and Judith Warner’s Perfect Madness (excerpt here).

Now that the girl is three (four in a week’s time!), our overall parenting strategy has settled in and matured, and so I’m looking forward to a book (Schafer’s) that deals in tactics, specifically. Whether or not the book’s advice is consistent or always appropriate with our overall approach isn’t important. Great ideas (as in music) are often just creatively adapted from one cultural context to be used in another. I think it works that way with parenting styles, too.

That said, I’m looking in Warner’s book for some affirmation of our more negative experiences with attachment parenting. We’ve done our best, but certainly appreciate the critical claims that Dr Sears’ approach is only workable with networks of help, and loads of cash – two things we’ve had to go long periods of time without (even in a progressive, walkable, baby friendly neighborhood). Adopting the approach we did has taken a toll (less privacy, less sleep, less time for personal pursuits) but has surely produced numerous benefits (a child who is highly social, highly active, strongly attached, and highly intelligent). I’m also interested in a general critique of North American perfectionism, and it looks like that constitutes another seam in Warner’s work (having browsed the excerpt). Maybe this book will lead me into a parenting-themed Marxian critique of Late Capital? And tactics, man… Lock up your eyeballs.

Before I start channeling De Certeau into parenting discourse, I should also acknowledge that in most cases attachment parenting takes a heavier toll on mothers than on fathers, and in this we were no exception. In many ways it has reinforced traditional gender expectations (i.e., that all this attachment formation is really just code for domestic servitude) – especially among communities of mothers, it seems, where they always seem to be looking over their shoulders at what other mothers are doing, freaked out about being judged. As a dad I’ve never really felt this sort of anxiety. Perhaps Warner can give me a clue what’s going on there…

One more somewhat related thing. I’m wondering if any other dads (or moms) out there have come up with a good tactic (or strategy for that matter) for dealing with this challenge – one I’ve found particularly difficult since day one: how do you manage the transition from worker-mode to parent mode? Think about the moment when you come home (or get up, as it may be for home office types like me) from a long day, brain still mired in all the stuff they have to pay you to do, and you are suddenly asked to put on a fairy costume and chase your preschooler vigorously around the park, make up stories on the spot, and/or dream up new shapes to cut food into so the kid will eat something, anything? I seem to be able to switch out of parenting mode and into work just fine, but switching out of work and into parenting is usually quite a jarring experience. Any thoughts?

(Cartoon courtesy of The Parenting Pit)