What Goes Around Comes Around

I can’t help but wonder: If we placed a higher premium on family then we do industry, how would our society be different?

I was sitting in the chair at the dentist’s the other day and I started thinking about the correlation between how we parent our children in infancy and the relationships we have with our parents as adults. This random train of thought began while I pondered separation, possibly because it was the rarest of occasions when Coraline and I weren’t together and I was anxious (though she was just a few rooms over in the waiting room with Daddy). I’m grateful that I’m able to stay home with my girl, and believe every mother should have the same luxury — only it’s not a luxury, but a biological imperative: a right of the mother and the baby. I started thinking about places like Bali where babies don’t touch the ground until they are six months old and entire extended families live together — multiple generations within the same household — and how in the United States it is more common for people to place their aging parents in a nursing home then to take them into their own home. How six weeks paid maternity leave is standard in the U.S. (with the law protecting only an allowance of 12 unpaid weeks total) where in England it’s one full year, and in some countries, like Lithuania, it’s two full years for mothers and fathers. For such a “developed” country, we certainly seem to have our priorities out of whack.

Attachment parenting is not an excuse for clingy mothers to spoil their children. Its practices are rooted in bona fide science: Developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth over 50 years ago, attachment theory “is based on the belief that the mother-child bond is the essential and primary force in infant development, and thus forms the basis of coping, negotiation of relationships, and personality development. If the mother is absent or unavailable, a primary caregiver serves the mother’s role” (“The Science of Attachment: The Biological Roots of Love.” Mothering, Issue 119). Attachment parenting practices including baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding, and reliance upon intuition, and close attention to baby’s cues are all means to a desired end: an emotionally secure and independent child, who then grows to be an emotionally secure and independent adult. And while attachment parenting is often presented as the parenting style du jour, in many cultures it’s just the way it’s done — period.

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So what’s my point? I can’t help but wonder: If we, as a country, placed a higher premium on family then we do industry, how would our society be different? What would happen to adolescent alcohol and drug use statistics? What would the average household look like? How much happier would the average American be? Are the differences between Gen X and Gen Y as attributable to the parenting styles of the times as they are to technological or economic factors? And if so, what does the popularization of attachment parenting mean for Gen Z, of which my daughter belongs? And will the care she gives me someday be a direct reflection of the care I give her now?

What do you think?

For more information on the science of attachment parenting, check out this article.


coraline and giraffePhotograph by Shannon Gallagher

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