Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dr. Sears is Not My Son's Mom

Now that the frenzy about the scandalousness of the May 21 Time's cover and the general public reaction to it has passed, I'd like to address what I found actually scandalous about the whole situation. It wasn't the somewhat awkward photo of a mother nursing her pre-schooler. In truth, I actually really liked the discussion that happened after cover was released and the reaction of several mom bloggers who really helped educate the public on what full term nursing is like and it was a discussion that likely would not have happened if not for that cover. Some of my favorites included this piece on what extended nursing really likes from Dionna at Code Name:Mama, this piece on attached dads and several other wonderful pieces that arose during the I Am Mom! Enough! Carnival hosted at Hybrid Rasta Mama. As a facebook user and the first mama in my family to practice full term breastfeeding, it was awesome to suddenly have all kinds of wonderful links I could share with my friends and family who up until that point had assumed that I was an anomaly. So, if I do not address why I think choosing to stay at home can be just as feminist as working, it is because Tara has already written about it so effectively that I really want you to read her words or the words of Mandy at Living peacefully with children. If I do not address why I don't find attachment parenting oppressive, it is because Julian's impassioned message addresses it so beautifully that I want you to turn to her (and the multitude of beautifully written pieces from the carnival) for that.Laying aside the attempt to "reignite" the mythical "Mommy Wars" (which I personally have never found evidence of existing. No matter what other moms around me believe and whether or not they stay at home or go to work, it always seems to me that most moms support one another. If there is a war, it is an internal war that every woman fights within herself about what is best for her family.), what I found scandalous about the Time cover emblazoned with the words "Are You Mom Enough?" was that the article inside did not talk about real moms at all. Instead, the article discussed Dr. Sears and seemed to imply that because my family practices what many see as the defining characteristics of attachment parenting, I must be doing so because he told me so. Furthermore, in lieu of talking about Dr. Sears as what he actually is, a pediatrician that has written some resource books that support attachment parenting both from his own experience as an attached father and as a doctor, the article seemed to imply something more. The author, Kate Pickert, calls Sears "a hero" (p.37) and calls those who use his resource books or practice attached parenting "Sears' followers" (P.36). In fact, the entire piece is crafted in such a way to strongly suggest that Sear's experience of having a working, single mother who was unable to stay home with him from the time he was one month old on because his father left them has become his motivation to "ask a great deal of mothers" with his "demanding" "dogma" (p.34) of attached parenting. Now, I like Dr. Sears. I've read some of his books, but he has never, ever claimed to be a mom and I have never turned to him for anything other than support for what I already wanted to do as a mom and for what I already believed was right. And while I have talked with several women who are at a place where they may be rethinking their parenting decisions or who are interested in reading what other experts have to say about sleep training, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, babywearing, etc. and I have chatted with some moms who may feel at various times for various reasons that they have "let their children down" or aren't being the mom they want to be. (And usually, I'm that mom, to be honest . . . just because like many of you out there, I can be very hard on myself.) I have never met or read anything by a woman who remotely resembles the parents who try "Sears" and fail and are then "immobilized by their seeming parental inadequacy" and are suffering from "posttraumatic Sears disorder" (p.37). Rather, most of the parents I know who struggle with feelings of inadequacy do so because of the high expectations they have for themselves. In short, I don't know a single woman who needs Sears, or any man, to tell her to have high expectations for herself and to do the best she can for her child.Even if such a sect of parents were to exist who felt enslaved and inadequate because of their inability to live up to some impossible "Searsian" picture of attached parenting, Dr. Sears himself states clearly in most of the books I've read by him "If you resent it. Change it!" I am not nor have I ever been a mindless follower of anything or anyone and I resent Pickert's implication that attached mothers must be enslaving themselves to (slightly) misogynist tenets of Dr. Sears in which they blissfully miss all the "shades of sexism [and] naivete" (p.37) that she (Thank goodness!) has found for us in his writing. Frankly, said implication is beyond insulting and misogynist in and of itself. I want the world to know that women are stronger than that article seems to think we are. We are perfectly capable of making parenting decisions that happen to align with attachment parenting principles all on our own. We don't need any man except one we have chosen as our partner to help us make those decisions, either. I decided to co-sleep, breastfeed, and wear him in baby carriers because I wanted to. I am my son's mom, not Dr. Sears.Thanks for Reading.Shawna


Amy said... [Reply to comment]

I totally agree Shawna! I hadn't even heard of the term "attachment parenting" when I had decided to do all of those things. I already had my cosleeper and baby carriers etc... picked out when I was pregnant, and THEN decided to read his Baby Book. It was nice having an affirmation of the things we'd already decided on doing, and that's when I first heard the term. I've always told people when attachment parenting comes up, that I parent from my heart. In honesty, his was the first and only parenting book I read. I don't do things because a book tells me to. And yes, those decisions work for us with our arrangement and no, I'm not sure if I'd still be cosleeping or breastfeeding if I wasn't a SAHM, but it works for us because that's what we decided to do by following our heart and our instincts.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@AmySee, that's been my experience, too! I had a friend recommend Dr. Sears while I was pregnant, but I read a little about him online and thought . . . um, I don't know that's me, but when my son came I started doing things because he needed them and because I wanted to and that's when I bought a Dr. Sears book, as moral support! I don't blame other mothers for making different choices, I think that's their right. I just know that I treasure the nights I've spent with our son in our bed, and the moments I have spent nursing him, and all the time he spent in a carrier next to me.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... [Reply to comment]

Great point. I've said before that we'd be parenting this way regardless of what it was labeled (or whether there was a philosophy at all). We just do what feels healthy for our family. (And I'll go ahead and admit that the only Sears book I've read was on vaccines!)

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Dionna @ Code Name: MamaThanks, Dionna! I hope you don't mind me linking to you! I just love your blog!

Sheila said... [Reply to comment]

Dr. Sears didn't invent attachment parenting by a long shot. He even says, in the intro to the Baby Book, that he got these ideas from parents. When he treated a happy, well-adjusted child, he'd ask the parents what they did. And these parents -- MOMS mostly -- all ended up listing the same basic practices. That's where it came from.

But all of it is just traditional parenting, practiced for thousands of years by, you got it, women. They're saying now that the first baby sling, presumably invented by a woman, was what allowed us to evolve larger head sizes without dying of the "premature" birth a large head necessitates.

Dr. Sears is great and I loved his book. But he never invented attachment parenting, just described it.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

That is exactly how I feel about it, too! I'm not anti-Sears, I just really hated that the article seemed to want to turn any attachment parenting decisions into a weird cult run by Dr. Sears!

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