Category Archives: Attachment Living

Attachment Living

A while ago I wrote about a nebulous concept, one I called “Attachment Living”

Today I’m going to expand on what I meant a little more, because, well because it’s pertinent to me right now, and I think it’s a concept missing in certain sectors of the attachment parenting community.  I think it’s something that get’s forgotten in a desperate game of one up-person-ship.  Who has the best baby carrier, who is “more” of an attachment parent than the next person.  To be frank, I couldn’t give a monkey’s bollocks about that sort of rubbish.  I really couldn’t, and I don’t think the monkey would be too happy if I did.
Plenty of posts have written about this topic.  About not being so freaking rigid.  I’m going to link all of the ones that speak to me right here, so that we get that part out of the way FIRST.

  • This post here from Conscience Parenting, did my head in at first, but now I get it.  I’m with her, I’m tired of the evangelical nature of some people.  I’m not leaving to community, but boy I have been sorely tempted.
  • This post here is the response from Evolutionary Parenting to Conscience Parenting, and it’s one where I support the conclusion, I’m sticking with the community.
  • This is one I wrote eons ago, about what I think attachment parenting is and is not.
  • This one echoes many of the things I wrote, but does it so much better, I only found it yesterday, but boy is it good.  Attachment parenting, is a frame of mind.  This I am in love with.
  • PhD in Parenting has a brilliant definitive history and list of what it is and is not, and breaks down the little nuances.  I’m particularly fond of this quote:  “When people think of Attachment Parenting, they often think of Dr. William Sears. He coined the term and came up with the 7 Baby B’s of Attachment Parenting. This list is essentially seven tools that can help parents to foster attachment with their babies. You do not have to do all seven of these to be an attached parent and you can do all seven of them and not be an attached parent. The seven B’s are a toolbox that can make attachment parenting easier. It is easier to use a drill than a screwdriver in many instances, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to do the same job with a screwdriver or that it isn’t preferable in some circumstances, but it probably will require more effort and more time.”
  • Jan Hunt, someone I deeply respect and admire has this to say on the topic.
  • And finally Dr Laura Markham, another of my go to parenting gurus has these insights to offer.
All of them (and I’m being arrogant enough to include myself in this) say that there are tools, the tools that Sears himself describes, but none of them, like Sears himself are prescriptive about those tools.  Sears himself says they are tools, not rules. So, tools.  Tools that help us form the most secure relationship we can get to with our children.  Like PhD says, it’s easier to use the screwdriver, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible without.  Which brings me to attachment living, and what I mean when I talk about attachment living.  You need to have a good understanding of Attachment Parenting and Attachment Theory to get this, I think Tracy at Evolutionary Parenting has done a fabulous job of this in this post here, so please do go and read it!
Attachment to me, the philosophy, NOT the tools, is about love, and building secure relationships, and about trust and knowing people, and assuming the BEST of someone, and not the worst, and putting yourself in their shoes.  It requires a huge dose of empathy and, to a large part, a huge leap of faith.
What would it look like if we took it outside the parenting relationship.  What would it look like if I tried to apply it to everyone I met, everyone I thought about, everyone I saw.  It means putting aside all the dogma and shit in society that tells you to expect the WORST of someone.  It means letting go of labels and stereotypes.  It means opening your soul to the possibility, the greatness of human change and hope.  It means, against all hope, that you believe in the human capacity for change, for growth, for a person to genuinely see that what they might have done is wrong, even after many years, even on their death bed.  It means that the door for change is ALWAYS open.  It means that you believe in the profound plastic ability of the human brain for change.  It means you trust that someone can look upon others with love and respect.  Yes, I know it sounds utopian.  I want it to be normal.

Like Attachment Parenting, Attachment Living does not mean blind acceptance.  It means being consistently flexible.  I’m a bit of a fan of the concept of “authoritative parenting”.  Like some other parenting philosophy junkies, I call it Backbone parenting.  Just because it makes it easier to distinguish from authoritarian parenting,  The words are so easily confused!  I like the backbone image because it shows at once how we can be strong and flexible, we have our limits.  So when I say Attachment Living, I don’t mean Permissive Living, a la permissive parenting, where there are no boundaries at all.  Note, I’m with Dewar when she talks about her concerns about how people define Permissive Parenting, for me it means letting kids get away with hurting other people, violating other peoples rights and feelings, and deliberate rudeness, so let’s be clear on that before we move on!

How does that look in real life?  Well, it’s freaking hard.
If you want to live Attachment Living, I think there’s some things that are pretty fundamental… so here we go…
You need to be committed to seeing the best in people, doesn’t mean you will do it all the time, it’s a hard thing to do, but it does mean that you will try very hard to do so.
You need to be committed to seeing beyond labels.  Labels are not people, they put them into boxes and don’t allow them to be them.  It’s a way of granting conditional acceptance to someone.  Sure, keep the label if *you* gave it to yourself, but be mindful of giving other people labels.  Sometimes we can’t help it, I do it all the time too, but I am getting better at not doing it.
Be aware that other people haven’t travelled the same journey as you have.  Their journey’s are different, you don’t know the troubles they have gone through, and more importantly the impact of those troubles on that person.  This is called checking your privilege, something people get their knickers in a knot over constantly.  If you’re unsure about what privilege is then check out this link and this one here and watch this clip – it’s short I promise.  Then if you think you need a bit more understanding of it, then read this piece here.  Actually that last link is VERY important, because it talks about how to show empathy, and it’s VERY hard, to someone who seems to be denying their privilege.
Be honest with yourself, and other people.  Being passive aggressive and dishonest seems like the easy way, because it’s non confrontational and it hides things, but really, it’s hurtful.  I’ve been terrifically guilty of being passive aggressive in the past, and probably will be in the future again, but try not to be, it’s not pleasant.  If you have an issue with something someone has said, then say it to them.  This is especially true in the online world, remember, I can’t see your “honest” eyes, or hear your sarcastic tone.  All I have are your words.
Be honest about how you are treating other people, how you are treating your community, your country, the world.  Is it really being connected with other people to not worry about how you are treating the world?  Is it really ethical to not care in the slightest how your chocolate is made or where the parts for your electronic items come from?  Start caring.  I know we can’t fight EVERY battle, that’s not what I am asking you to do.  I’m asking you to make small changes, to think to engage your brain, to attach and not detach from the world around you.
Be honest about your needs and honest about the need to put yourself first and the need to walk away.  Being open to everyone doesn’t mean you have to stick with them, or hold their hand or tolerate what they are doing.  You can and should choose to say enough, I won’t tolerate this any longer, I come first right now, my needs are important, and I choose to walk away.  How that manifests might be different depending on the relationship and context.  Above all, as you walk away, as you put yourself first in that moment.  It could be putting your baby down momentarily, while they are crying, because you are overwhelmed (note I said for a moment, I’m not a proponent of leaving babies to cry for a long period of time!).  It could mean saying no to an abusive partner.  Equally it could mean saying no to a child when they want to do something that is not healthy for them or you.  Be honest, don’t hide yourself and your needs, don’t allow yourself to be a doormat.
Don’t sacrifice all to the cultural gods of either independence or interdependence.  Know that both have their advantages and disadvantages.  One is traditionally associated with the East and one with the West, but it doesn’t make either intrinsically better than the other.
Accept that words have power, that they can hurt, and they they build and define realities.  They have the ability to include and exclude, and your words will build or destroy your relationship with others.
Finally, and fundamentally, for goodness sakes think critically.  Question things, open your mind, don’t just accept what comes, engage with things and think, encourage others around you to think, but think with compassion.  Above all else think with compassion.  Thinking with compassion, acting with compassion.  Even when others diverge from our path.  Even when they walk a path that is littered with the corpses of a detached world.  We still MUST show attachment.
I’m also prepared to believe that this list isn’t definitive for me, it’s a process, there are probably things I’ve missed.  If you think I have, then by all means let me know and we can discuss it, it’s a growing list, the door is open for growth and healing.
So this, this I hold to be true.  I will keep the door open for anyone and anybody, for I above all things believe in the possibility for human change and human growth.  I know that some people believe that there are people in our communities incapable of change, the psychopaths, the sociopaths, I still hold that with the plasticity of the human brain, and the advances in neuroscience that one day there might be an opening for change.  I am attached to that concept, and I swear to live by it.  I may fail on a day by day basis, but I hold this to be my goal.  I aim to act compassionately and with empathy to all within a given situation.  This doesn’t mean I tolerate all, I will not ever tolerate hate speech, or stereotyping, or intolerance.  I will still speak up.

"Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice" - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

That’s the backbone, that’s the bit that is without cowardice.  But when you do it, do it with compassion.  Do it with love.  For you do not know what journey the other person has been on, or is going on.
You do not know what has happened to that person, in their head, in the last hour, day, week.  You might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  You simply might be at the wrong place, at the wrong time.  So, above all compassion.  Speak up, with love and truly be the change you wish to see in the world, and hold that door open, even if just a little bit.
Attachment Living by Eileen Joy

Time to rethink family rules

Do you have rules in your family?

Do they sound a little like this?

Don’t hit

Don’t jump on the bed

Don’t do this…

Don’t do that…

In my family we’ve gone through different incarnations of family rules.  We started out with a set that looked a little like the ones above.  It was, no hurting people or animals, using polite words… there were a couple of other things, and then the last one was to have fun.  We wrote them on a list and put them on the fridge.  Even though our eldest, at that stage, was pre reading age, he knew those rules off the top of his head and was able to point to the fridge in reference of the rules.

Did those rules help family life?  Not really, not one iota.  They were just something to pull out like a stick to say, “you haven’t been following the rules”.   Are the rules effective?  Do they advise you what to do?  When we say don’t hit, don’t hurt, what do we end up thinking about, hitting and hurting obviously.  It’s like saying, don’t think about the elephant in the corner of the room.  It’s impossible to not think of it, it’s there!!
Elephant in the room

When we take something away, when we say that you “can’t” do something, we don’t put something in place to say this is what you CAN do.  Children find it far easier to accept something when we tell them what they can do, in fact adults do too.  So there’s no point in saying, you can’t hit, it leaves a vacuum.  Ok, so I can’t hit, what do I do instead?  You’ve taken away what I thought was my response to a situation, but help, what can I do instead!

This is the problem with rules.  They’re inflexible, they tell us what we can’t do, and they don’t help to create a climate of trust.  They can’t be used for all situations.  And if we have a list of rules for a toddler, pre-reading child, they are very hard for them to get to grips with.  In short, they’re a bit limiting :)

What can we do instead?

In the last two years my family has adopted something a little different.  It was inspired in part by seeing these pics come up frequently on Facebook posts:

Family Rules

Family Rules

I love both of these images.  In fact, I have the second one as a decal,  which I haven’t put up yet.  But, I noticed there were still a few problems with these.  Chiefly being that they were quite wordy and hard for little kids to remember.

So that’s when I hit on something else, something far simpler, something that would last forever, and that my kids could easily remember.

We are… the:





That was it.  Simple right.  There was not much I couldn’t fit into that.  Hitting someone, well, that’s not gentle touch (hugging) and it certainly wouldn’t help someone to be happy would it, not to mention not helping the situation.  However there were a couple of things that I had failed to add to it.  My son, being the wordsmith that he is added two more words to it.



There.  It was perfect.  We don’t jump up and down on the bed, (most of the time) because it’s not healthy to do so (dirty feet on the covers and you run the danger of hurting yourself).  We try to really *hear* people when they speak to us.  Not just their words, but we really try to hear what they are saying too.

In fact in the two years we’ve been using these words, I haven’t come up with a situation that I can’t use them in.  Quite simply they cover everything.

And recently, that’s when it hit me.  They aren’t rules at all.  These are family values.  Values that can be as old as time.  These are the things that we VALUE in our house.  These are the things we WANT in our house.  We don’t want to harp on about the things we don’t want – that’s what rules do.  We want to celebrate the VALUES of our house.

What do you think are the values in your house?  Do you think you are celebrating them?
5 Hs Happy Hugging Helpful Hearing Healthy House


Guilt, being Right and being Challenged

My husband would say that I don’t like to be told that I’m wrong, especially by him, but that when presented with “evidence” from “experts” then I start to sway.  To a certain point he is right, and to a certain degree he is wrong – hardly surprising really.  When I became a parent, on August 14th, 2005, I learnt that there was another person, whom I loved fiercely who would also tell me that I was wrong.  Unlike my husband though, I couldn’t have a “logical” conversation with my beautiful son and attempt to convince him otherwise.  He was who he was and he wasn’t prepared to listen to any humbug nonsense I had read in some Baby Whisperer book somewhere.  He knew better than I did, and boy did he.  He spent 9 months trying to tell me what was going wrong and what was wrong and trying to let me know what to do better.  But I didn’t listen, something that I really struggled with, I’ve talked about that before, so this post isn’t really about that, but it’s related.

This post is about the struggle to accept the new, the “uh-oh” moment when we are confronted with information that seeks to challenge us, that may make us doubt what we did and will almost certainly cast what we did in a negative light.  This sort of information is BOUNDLESS in parenting circles.  I’ll give you a few examples from my parenting life thus far to help you see where I am going:

  • I used cry it out with my son.  He screamed a lot, but he got to sleep. Then I read things like this.
  • I put my son in a separate bed from me, from Day 1.  After having a baby brother die from SIDS (even though it wasn’t a co-sleeping situation) I was going to do everything possible to protect my son.  Then I started to see things like this.
  • We didn’t have skin to skin straight away, we didn’t breastfeed straight away, he was away from me for the next 2-3 hours.  Now I know this
  • He had 1-2 bottles of formula on about day 2 in the hospital.  Because I was beside myself.  Now I know this and the ramifications of this break my heart every single day.
  • I used Time Out with him, and my daughter.  And now I am aware of the negative effects and how I can do things differently.
  • When my daughter bit me repeatedly, to the point where I got a breast infection, not once, but twice, I got so angry and cross, that I bit her back.  Now I would do things differently.
  • I called my kids “good boy” and “good girl” – in fact I still do it now, every now and again.  But now I am trying to do this.

ALL of those things, every single one of them, I am now opposed to or have changed my mind about.  They are all examples of where and when things went wrong.  For each of those things I have been exposed to information that made me really REALLY stop and think, that made me wonder, that made me doubt, and to be frank made me feel guilt.  The guilt was large for some, the guilt was small for others, but the guilt was still there.


The way I see it, when we are presented with things that challenge things we did in the PAST there are a few ways that we can choose to approach it.  The first is that we can dig our heels in, arm ourselves with the key defense of “I did it and he/she/I turned out FINE”.  I see this approach all the time.  I see it because I’m on Facebook a lot, and I read a lot of the Mummy blogs.  People get so wound up about this that I can just imagine people having apoplectic fits over it.  The thing is, you might be “fine” but how much better could you or your child have been had you not done some of those things?  You cannot and should not feel guilty for not knowing what you didn’t know, so why resort to the defense of “I’m fine” when the research, when the scientific and well researched evidence is not speaking to YOU directly and not saying you should feel guilty.  You are responsible for your reaction to the information, you choose to feel guilt or not over it, and you can choose how to express that guilt.

You could choose to just ignore it, pretend you didn’t read it, don’t engage, after all, it will all go away.  This is what a lot of ordinary folks do.  I see them, I’m friends with them on FB, they don’t want to examine things too closely for fear of what they might find.  They actively avoid it.

Or, you could choose the approach of confronting the information, making peace with it and yourself.  Realise that you did the best you could do in the circumstances you were in, realise that you cannot be held responsible for the information you didn’t know and realise that it is perfectly OK to change your mind, and to have been “wrong”.  I now choose this approach.  Further, I aim to help parents make INFORMED choices about these and many many more issues.  So many parents don’t have access to the information and so end up making the best of the situation.  Think how much harder it is to light a fire using sticks if you don’t know to use a hard wood and a soft wood… information can make things easier and offer us hope.  It can show us the door to a new world, the way to make peace with ourselves, and the path for others to follow.

So, I ask of you this, when you are next confronted with a piece of information that you THINK is judging you, that you think is trying to paint you as a BAD parent, pause, re-read and consider what you are painting over the picture and realise how much baggage you have brought to the place.  Once you let that baggage go, once you can look at it, acknowledge it and say “I don’t have to carry you any more” then life will become that much lighter, and your parenting journey will be open to a world of learning and opportunities.



Being “With” Other Parents, Other People

This is a post I wrote a while back at the beginning of this year, in what seemed like a different lifetime, aeons ago, but it’s ethos made me look for it today, to repost it, with a teeny bit of editing.  What made me think of it, what made me repost it?  Again I have seen nastiness online, again I have seen vitriol at other parents, this time not so public, this time of the bullying, insidious and cowardly nature, and it has made me inordinately sad.

So here we go…

A few weeks ago I came to realization.  It was one that required quite a bit of growth and one that flew under the radar until I was prepared to see it.  When it hit me I shared it with the online community:

“I’ve come to the realization that Attachment Parenting is not really just about parenting, it is about Attachment Living. As I have embraced attachment I feel more deeply connected to my husband, other people, indeed the environment. It’s all about respect, love, and treating others how you would like to be treated. All of a sudden your heart is that much bigger than it was before. This is about becoming attached, simply, no need to say parenting, it is about being with ♥”

This post is about being “with” and being with even when you wish to be “without”.  It is about how to be “with” when everyone around you seems to be railing against you.

With Attachment Parenting we talk about how we have to love our children, no matter their behavior.  We talk all the time about ‘unconditional love’ and how that is the BEST way to raise our children.  Indeed there is a very popular Swedish Proverb that specifies exactly this:
Love me when I least deserve it because that is when I really need it

So what did I see this week?  What did I see sprawled across Facebook pages, across websites, blogs, newspapers and even television?   I saw hatred.  I saw plain unadulterated hatred spewed forth by parents on Facebook pages, everywhere, parents sniping at each other, name calling, refusal to see points of views, plenty of people suffering from “I am right, so there”.  I even saw people calling others “nazis”.  What saddened me even further is that I saw this behavior from both “sides” of the fence.  And, I haltingly confess that I fell prey to it as well.  I called someone some not very nice names, I got worked up, all het up, and I let forth my fury, not to the person, just about the person.  Admittedly this was in a private online group, but still, I got het up in a way that made me feel ashamed.  Fortunately someone called me up on it, and they were right.  I should not have responded like that.  I own my reaction, but I need to choose how to respond.

How would we explain ourselves to our children if they saw what we were doing?  How would you explain it in the future if they were somehow able to pull your entire Facebook file as a memory and then saw you spewing forth such vitriol towards other people?  Would they wonder?  Ok, so they might think, Mummy or Daddy got a bit angry and carried away and forgive you for it.  I know I would to my parents, and have forgiven them for outbursts of anger.  But really?  I mean, how does it make you feel to think that your kids could see it?  Look at yourself through their eyes…

If we want an attachment parenting world, if we want our children to grow up in a world that is more peaceful than ours, we have to practice the principles of attachment parenting OUTSIDE the parenting dyad as WELL.  We have to love those people who are most unlovable, because in that moment, in that struggle to find empathy with someone who is totally doing your head in, springs forth the well of empathy.  Think.  What do they have to protect?  Why are they behaving this way?  What compels them to do so?  Can I find something to love here?  Can I be “with” them in this moment?

What if someone is arguing with you?  Particularly over parenting issues (very topical I know) and you get the sense that they think you are trying to make them feel guilty?  Bearing in mind of course that I don’t think anyone can make you feel guilty, and that you choose your own guilt.  What can you do??  I found this blog piece literally this week that I think has some answers about this, so I’m going to quote from it at length:

“So what should you do if you are accused of ‘making someone feel guilty’?

Firstly, I always take a breather from the situation, and look at the whole picture. I always ask myself the following questions:

– Do I know what I am saying is facts or opinions? – How does telling my friend about this ‘help’ them? – Could she be feeling anger at her situation?

If what you are saying is not research based but something someone else has told you, then tell them you will look into it more or tell them about the source of the information. Think deeply about what you are saying to them can it actually ‘help’ them? Is it worth telling a formula feeding mother the risks of formula feed ung unless she is pregnant or dishing out advice to pregnant women? Put yourself in her shoes, could she have just felt undermined and judged by what you have said? Let her rant and have her say. If you know what you are telling her to be true then use tactful, respectful phrases such as ‘I know this may be hard for you, I do not want you to feel bad but I think sharing this information could help you because…’ avoid statements such as ‘well its the truth!’ getting annoyed at their anger is not constructive, they need you to be supportive & accepting of their feelings. However, if they deliberately insult you (i.e. ‘oh look at the breastapo!’) then tell them you are offended and you are only trying to help.”

But what if you think that they are making YOU feel guilty?  How should you respond?  Again from the same blog:

“Again, stand back. Ask them questions: – Is there any research to back up what you are saying? – Where can I go to find out more? – Why are you telling me this? 

If they say what they are saying is opinion based or non-researched, suggest you talk about this another time when there are more facts, you can then research it yourself. If she is telling you something to help you then try your best to accept what she is saying, it may be hard, tell her you find it hard if that’s the case, confide in your feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, what have you but try not to shoot the messenger. She is probably finding the conversation hard enough without also being shouted at or called a liar. Obviously there are some Mums out there who do seem to revel in other peoples misery but life is nicer when we give people the benefit of the doubt.

If you find there is a particular person who seems to constantly undermine your parenting, that can be hard. Ask them why they parent the way they do, you never know, you may learn something and have more in common in the future. Parents can be passionate, I find the more informed a mother is, the more passionate she is. I know now, that at times my own passion has upset others, with knowledge needs to come tact and also acceptance in that some people just cannot be ‘helped’.”  

When you choose to respond in a way that respects them, and respect your feelings you choose to respond to a person in an attachment way.  You choose to respond in a way that reflects the society you want to see.  You have chosen to respect them, lessons which I am sure you are trying to teach your children.  You are choosing to love someone in their most unlovable moment.  You are truly living attachment parenting.  You are choosing to be “with”.

So, next time you see a blog, a comment, a feed, a whatever that winds you up, respond in an Attachment parenting way.  Imagine that that is your child talking to you, how would you respond?  Choose to see love, not hate, choose to be “with” that person for long enough so that the anger fades.  We can fight with love, we can fight with peace.  And in saying that, I will leave you with the words of the man who is eternally famous for this sort of fighting and being “with”:

Be the change you wish to see in the world

You have to be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Ghandi

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