Yes, I admit it. I’m on Twitter. I’m addicted – well, I was until recently anyway. I spent alot of time on Twitter talking to like-minded mothers, trading stories, supporting each other, offering advice. I went there looking for the kind of advice that I wanted and wasn’t receiving from my family and friends. That’s not to say that I didn’t appreciate the advice I was getting but some of the advice just didn’t suit the way I felt about parenting. I didn’t know back then that my parenting style is called Attachment Parenting.
Attachment parenting… is a parenting philosophy based on the principles of the attachment theory in developmental psychology. According to attachment theory, the child forms a strong emotional bond with caregivers during childhood with lifelong consequences. Sensitive and emotionally available parenting helps the child to form a secure attachment style which fosters a child’s socio-emotional development and well being.
I love Penny to bits, and there’s nothing I’d rather do than cuddle with her. I want to parent her in a mature manner, which in my mind means including her in decisions, using reasoning rather than dictation, and I never want her to doubt my love for her. In general, my beliefs about parenting fall under the umbrella of attachment parenting, even if I don’t subscribe to every ideal.
One of the big issues that is raised with regards to attachment parenting is the concept of “crying it out.” There is a huge debate between the different parenting styles, with attachment parenting denouncing crying it out (or CIO as it is commonly referred to) as harmful to the child and your parental relationship with them. I’m not here to debate this topic. I have always felt that letting my baby cry is unnatural, and not what nature intended. I won’t go so far as to say it is harmful to the child’s mental well being, but the reasoning does follow that it could be. A child may feel abandonned or that their needs are not being met when they are left to cry. I haven’t often heard about the potential mental health issues for a parent who lets their child cry. I am currently on anti-depressants and in counselling, thanks to Penny’s crying. No, my child crying did not give me post-partum depression. But my reaction to her crying led me to finally seek medical help. When your child cries and you can’t fix their problem, you can’t make their world right, you feel incompetent and unfit to be a parent. At least that’s how I feel.
Anyway, back to the issue of CIO. The mothers I talk to on Twitter are generally of the same mind as me. They believe in attachment parenting, and don’t belive in CIO. About a month back I had alot of problems with Penny’s entire sleep routine – she wasn’t napping long enough, was napping too late into the evening, fought going to sleep for the night, and was waking multiple times a night. My family all said she had to cry herself to sleep. That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I asked every one of them – my 2 sets of grandparents, my parents, my in-laws – and that was the answer I got from all of them. Only my father-in-law understood how difficult it would be and acknowledged that it wasn’t the best option. I turned to my friends on Twitter, and was surprised at how many of them said I had to let Penny cry. I still didn’t want to hear that answer. I never got the answer I was looking for. I don’t know what that answer was since I was probably looking for a quick fix.
After we moved and settled into our new house, Penny went to the dayhome and I went to work, and we all settled into a routine. Thanks to that routine Penny finally got onto a better sleep routine. But in the process of waiting for all of our routines to be reworked we ended up letting Penny cry it out. The first time we did was horrible, but I think it was less horrible than it could have been. Penny was still sleeping in her playpen in our room. The night we let her cry we stayed in the room with her, as we were trying to go to sleep as well. In my mind, being in the room with her helps mitigate the fear of abandonment. Hopefully it helped to have us there. Since then we’ve had to let her cry herself to sleep a number of times. It’s horrible every time. I just want to bash my head against a concrete wall every time we do it (fortunately I’m on meds that help stop me from doing it).
Ever since the first night that I let Penny cry, I’ve been avoiding my friends on Twitter. I’m disappointed that I let her cry, and ashamed that I continue to let her cry. I feel like I no longer belong to the ‘club’ of like-minded mothers. I am scared that they’ll look down on me and they won’t want to talk to me any more. I know better. I know that parents do what they need to do to get through. There’s no manual on how to raise a child. There’s no right or wrong way, just a right-for-you way (OK, there’s a wrong way, but we’re not talking about abuse and neglect here). But I still feel like I will be shunned if I admit that I let Penny cry herself to sleep. There are so many women I look up to on Twitter, and I think they’d never let a child cry. How can I aspire to be like them after I have crossed that line?