Whatever happened to the mother in the mother-baby dyad?

Happy African American mother and her daughter.

Every time I read the term ‘mother-baby dyad’ I cringe.

Inevitably what follows is an admonition to the mother or her providers to sacrifice her needs, desires and comfort for the “good” of the baby. The mother-baby dyad is used to justify forcing women to room in with their infants in hospitals, the closing of well baby nurseries, the practice of baby-wearing and the rest of the ritualized behaviors that are so beloved of attachment parenting aficionados.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]AP advocates have edited out Bowlby’s concern with the wellbeing of mothers to subvert Attachment Theory into attachment parenting.[/pullquote]

But providers — I’m looking at you midwives and lactation consultants — have subverted the meaning of the mother-baby dyad for their own ends. In truth, the relationship is bi-directional and the needs and comfort of both parties must be taken into consideration.

That’s what John Bowlby, the father of Attachment Theory, explained:

To grow up mentally healthy, “the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother SUBSTITUTE) in which BOTH find satisfaction and enjoyment (my emphasis)

As psychologist Inge Bretherton has noted:

Later summaries often overlook the reference to the substitute mother and to the partners’ mutual enjoyment.

That’s an understatment!

AP advocates have edited out those two phrases to subvert Attachment Theory into attachment parenting. The result is to mandate specific behaviors on the part of the mother and to ignore any concern for her wellbeing. The defining features of attachment parenting are constant physical proximity and constant maternal sacrifice. According to Bowlby, in contrast, neither is necessary or even good.

From the inception of Attachment Theory, Bowlby acknowledged that the mother herself was not required; a substitute is perfectly acceptable. To grow up mentally healthy, children need a long term caregiver they can depend upon. That person can be a father, a grandparent or a hired nanny. The child needs someone to be physically present on an ongoing basis, but that someone doesn’t have to be a female parent. Hence the notion of the mother-baby dyad is fundamentally flawed.

Since the caregiver doesn’t have to be the mother, or even a woman, all the admonitions around childbirth and breastfeeding have nothing to do with Attachment Theory. A baby doesn’t need his mother to suffer through labor without pain relief in order to bond with the caregiver; he doesn’t need skin-to-skin contact; he doesn’t need breastfeeding. Those things were added in by Dr. Sears to promote his religious philosophy that women are subservient to men and should stay home and care for children.

The key characteristics of the caregiver are emotional warmth and ongoing presence. What happens at birth and in the early hours after birth are irrelevant. Any adoptive parent could tell you that. It’s also what any mother who gave birth with an epidural, didn’t practice skin-to-skin, and didn’t breastfeed can tell you. The baby forms it first bond with whomever cares for it on an ongoing basis and the bond happens spontaneously without ritualized behaviors.

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of this fact. Almost every admonition of attachment parenting rests on the belief that the mother is needed uniquely and the baby’s health psychological development must therefore depend on things — like vaginal birth and breastfeeding — that only a biological mother can do. Attachment Theory tells us otherwise.

Equally, it’s hard to overemphasize that fact that maternal sacrifice is not required to ensure a child’s healthy psychological development. Indeed, healthy development requires the satisfaction and enjoyment of the mother as well as the child.

So where did we get the idea that maternal sacrifice is integral to child development? We have been socialized to believe it because of the misogyny in historical and contemporary culture. As I noted recently, sociologist Pam Lowe explains in Reproductive Health and Maternal Sacrifice:

…At its heart, maternal sacrifice is the notion that ‘proper’ women put the welfare of children, whether born, in utero, or not yet conceived, over and above any choices and/or desires of their own. The idea of maternal sacrifice acts as a powerful signifier in judging women’s behaviour…

Babies don’t require maternal sacrifice; other adults do.

But sacrifice isn’t merely unnecessary, it can be actively harmful. Or as an unknown philosopher, almost certainly female, once said: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

  • Babies don’t need and don’t benefit from mothers enduring agonizing childbirth pain.
  • Babies don’t need and don’t benefit from mothers being forced or forcing themselves to breastfeed.
  • Babies don’t need and don’t benefit from mothers being pressured to stay home full time.
  • Babies don’t need and don’t benefit from enforced physical proximity with their mothers if that’s not what their mothers enjoy.
  • Babies don’t need and don’t benefit from sharing the mother’s bed or room if that interferes with the mother’s sleep.

Attachment parenting advocates — lactivists in particular — have spent years attempting to normalize mothers’ pain, exhaustion and mental suffering by lying to them about what babies truly need. Attachment Theory teaches us the opposite. The mother is equally important as the baby in the mother-baby dyad and we must stop pretending maternal sacrifice is required.

  • Flamelily

    I haven’t been to these parts in some time now as my youngest child is two years old…but wow, reading this was like entering into some kind of bizarre, inside out, upside down parallel universe. I literally could not believe what I was reading and had to reread some of it just to make sure it wasn’t my lack of reading comprehension that was causing me to misunderstand what had been written. This is truly the most warped and twisted portrayal of attachment parenting I have ever read.

  • Lisa

    It seems if they want this child to grow up in a two-parent household [and I’m not convinced they do] then couple time and ALONE time for Mom are pretty darned important.

  • mabelcruet

    Personally I think the term mother-baby dyad is used by some of these non-professional lactivist types to give them a spurious ‘sciency’ sounding authority. I’ve never heard a single obstetrician or neonatologist use the term-they stick with the simple term ‘mum and baby’ (mum because we’re UK, we don’t have moms here).

  • fiftyfifty1

    “Attachment”, what a load of bullshit. And not just Attachment Parenting, but Attachment Theory, too. I mean Dr. Sears totally changed and warped the ideas of Attachment Theory, and I am glad that you call that out. But frankly even accurate Attachment Theory strikes me as a load of crap. They bring you into a lab and watch you leave and then reunite with your toddler through a 1-way mirror. Then they pronounce whether you are in the 70% of mothers who have managed a “secure attachment” or whether you are in the 30% who have warped their kids for life. I mean, kiss my ass, Mary Ainsworth.

    • mayonnaisejane

      Eh… I mean that particular *test* of it may or may not be accurate, but the structure of the theory holds, which is that not forming an attachment to SOMEONE as a baby will in fact harm your development, and that particular ways in which a child is either ignored, cared for, or frightened/abused tend to produce certain patterns of behavior that persist into adulthood.

      • fiftyfifty1

        “the structure of the theory holds, which is that not forming an attachment to SOMEONE as a baby will in fact harm your development”

        But my understanding is that even that didn’t hold up. The original theory held that that the baby needed to bond to either mother or permanent mother substitute. Basically a 1:1 thing. But then it was found that there are societies where babies are raised in more of a collaborative fashion and they turn out perfectly fine. Instead of a 1:1 deal they are cared for by a host of individuals who may rotate in and out, and come and go over time. So then it got watered down to “mother, or mother substitute, or a group or tribe.” I mean there comes a point where something gets so watered down that it doesn’t mean much anymore.

        So yeah, abusing babies is bad. Yeah, Romanian orphanages are bad. But if your baby isn’t abused, isn’t neglected, and is allowed to form some loving relationships, then the rest is gravy. We don’t need to be wringing our hands about “attachment.”

        • space_upstairs

          I’m inclined to agree that “attachment” as commonly invoked is pseudoscience, insofar as specific caregiver behaviors or products like breastfeeding, cosleeping, and (yes, I’ve heard this) rear-facing baby carriages (allowing the baby to see the caregiver’s face) are said to “promote attachment.” Also, as you point out, the notion that a child needs a single primary caregiver as opposed to several trusted adults seems highly culture-bound. I get the sense, though, that Dr. Tuteur considers attachment to be much easier than even those sketchy early studies, more forgiving and less superstitious than modern notions, say it is. I think she has written that many children bond even with abusive caregivers, so there may not be much needed besides dependence, closeness, and at least partial meeting of the child’s needs by the caregiver(s) involved.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I agree, and you summarize Dr. Tuteur’s position very well. I’m not railing at Dr. Tuteur, I’m just railing in general. I just am so sick of seeing attachment this, attachment that in the pseudoscience sense, but also in the research psychology sense and in the clinical psychology sense. I recently met a patient who has struggled with a number of problems. Recently she has been told by a psychologist that her problems stem from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and she is receiving therapy for that. Why RAD? Because apparently her mother was ill for a number of weeks of her infancy and she was cared for by a grandmother during that time. So even though she has no memory of it, that explains her problems. Apparently even though her mother was loving and stable, and her childhood was happy, she was not “securely attached” and that’s why she keeps landing in these abusive relationships with men. My own opinion is that it’s because she has a serious substance use disorder (just like many people on her father’s side of the family) and her dependence on the abusive boyfriends is down to the fact that they are her drug dealers. But what do I know, it was probably her mom, right?

          • space_upstairs

            In clinical psychology a lot of pseudoscience and sloppy science does survive, and it’s no small task to try to apply the scientific method to human subjectivity. As for research, as in physical medicine, there are financial incentives in both treatment marketing and (even in the physical sciences, my own domain) academic grant and job assignment to do sloppy science that will take more time to self-correct than it could. The example you give does sound like quite the stretch, invoking the days of Freud and Bettelheim – the latter famous for blaming autism on distant mothers, who insofar as they existed were probably largely mothers with mild ASD themselves according to current understanding. There are tons of people who choose relationships poorly, and not all were suddenly deprived of their primary caregivers at any point in life. Your drug abuse hypothesis sounds plausible, but what are the causes? I think current research implies drug abuse is often linked to a poor social life in general: bad job, low status, distant current relationships. A more sensible therapist might ask about those things before caregiver situations in infancy.

        • mayonnaisejane

          No we certainly don’t need to be wringing our hands about attachment, and attachment theory doesn’t say we should either. The “Attachment Parenting” ppl are the ones wringing hands over it, and they’ve commandeered the theory and turned it inside out. It may seem “watered down” but at the same time as they found out that it could be a group if that group was consistent and responsive, they also figured out that no matter how close you keep the baby, or how you stay with him or her 100% of the time, if you’re not able to bond to the baby, say for instance if you wind up thinking of them as a chore and resenting them, the baby still doesn’t get the bond they need. Dr. Amy wrote about it way back when one mother straight up told the internet it woudn’t be so bad if her daughter died. http://www.skepticalob.com/2011/03/ghosts-in-nursery.html

          • fiftyfifty1

            Research psychologists rate 30% of middle class mothers as having “failed” in bonding. I’m sorry, but I think that’s bullshit.

          • mayonnaisejane

            It’s generational, so that number doesn’t surprise me at all to be honest. If you’re measuring “failed” bonding as full on RAD, as no bond at all, then yeah, those numbers are probably BS. But if you are measuring “failed” bonding by the metric of “produced a child and later adult with an insecure attachment type,” then that number doesn’t seem that strange at all. It doesn’t mean the mother doesn’t love her kid. It means that the kid has been given reason to feel genuinely uncertain about that love. Between 41 and 76% of American parents still spank, depending on what study you listen to, and pediatricians and child psychologists have been warning against that for years now, and that’s a major risk factor for insecure attachment. So no… honestly I don’t think the 30% figure is that farfetched.

            I don’t dispute that attachment is much MUCH easier than the “Attachment Parenting” people would have us believe, and that all the mumbo jumbo about baby wearing and car seat direction and co-sleeping is complete bullshit. What it really takes is just being a “good enough mother” and like I said, the mumbo jumbo co-sleeping performative “Attachment Parenting” moms are probably actually HURTING their attachment to their kids rather than furthering it by all their Musts and Shoulds and unnecessary maternal self sacrifice.

            I just happen to think that there’s credence in the attachment theory, and it pisses me off when it’s co-opted and turned inside out to support this kind of nonsense.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Well here’s something: a mother and child may seem to separate and reunite in a perfect “securely attached” manner to a less experienced psychologist. But an experienced researcher will know better and look for subtle signs of pathological attachment such as if the child hunches his shoulders, puts a hand behind his neck or cocks his head just so. An experienced research psychologist won’t be fooled by what looks to everyone else to be a perfectly happy relationship! No seriously, things like “cocking of the head” in a manner they feel is “tense” is how they downgrade bonding!

            There has been increased awareness lately that a lot of research in the field of Psychology is bullshit. I’m sorry, but Attachment Theory is an area that sets off my bullshit sensors. And it’s really sad, because this crap holds moms hostage. Mothers, by and large, really love their kids. And Attachment Theory and the 70% pass/30% fail claim keeps getting reported in the media. Mothers get told there is a substantial risk they are inadvertently screwing up their kid for life. Their kid might even be “tilting his chin” in distress and they won’t even realize he is suffering because on the surface he seems so happy!! This makes moms easy prey for further bullshit like pressure to do skin-to-skin, breastfeed,baby wear, never cry-it-out etc. Especially because the language of “promoting bonding” is even repeated in the hospital by professionals like the L&D nurse and lactation consultant.

            It’s mom-blaming and misogynistic and based on seriously weak evidence. We need to stop.

          • mayonnaisejane

            This is precisely WHY I hate attachment parenting so much. It’s taken
            the good name of a workable psychological theory that has helped many many people, and used it for mysogynistic purposes. And people diagnosing RAD from a few weeks of disrupted care aren’t helping the matter. RAD is serious and generally stems from either a Romanian Orphanage scenario, or severe abuse or neglect. That psych is a quack. A person can have insecure attachment without RAD.

            People like that create such a stir that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater, and we wind up dismissing that yes, there are in fact parent child relationships that look perfectly great to the unskilled outside observer that aren’t in actuality based on a secure bonding. It’s just that contrary to what “Attachment Parenting” would have you believe there aren’t 3,000 hoops to jump through to get there. You just have to NOT do the kinds of things they did in the “Still Face” experiment on the regular… which gets us back to the point of the article.

            A mother (or father) cannot provide emotional warmth in the way a baby needs if they’re worn out and miserable from the demands of so called “Attachment Parenting.” Babies know when mom (or dad) would really rather they weren’t there, and they don’t respond well to it. Maternal sacrifice (they never ask it of fathers) is not only unnecessary, but detrimental, to the secure attachment of the baby.

          • fiftyfifty1

            So you feel that Attachment Parenting is misogynistic but not Attachment Theory? For me, what makes me suspicious (among many other red flags) is that Attachment Theory came out at about the same time as many other mother-blaming theories. Leo Kanner blamed “Refrigerator Mothers” for autism. Hilde Bruch blamed mothers of anorexics for putting their daughters into “Golden Cages.” I mean mother blaming was the theory de jour for just about everything then. It was all an offshoot of Freud. Luckily Kanner, Bruch (and Freud) have been debunked. We now see that personality traits and mental illness are largely genetic, with contributions if there are *significant* childhood adverse experiences. This idea that 30% of middle class mothers (who care enough about childhood development that they sign up for child development studies no less!) don’t respond to their children “warmly” and “attentively” enough to create a “secure attachment” strikes me as total bullshit. If it doesn’t strike you that way, then I would say we are going to have to agree to disagree.

          • mayonnaisejane

            Correct, as I’ve been trying to convey, I don’t like or believe in “Attachment Parenting.” I’m not defending “Attachment Parenting.” I hate “Attachment Parenting.” Because despite the name “Attachment Parenting” doesn’t learn a damn thing from actual Attachment Theory, which I do believe in and is having it’s name sullied by ignorant mommy bloggers co-opting the language and terminology to convince mothers to do things that Attachment Theory says they should not.

            Sadly we are going to have to agree to disagree. I believe many, even most mothers are wonderful women who really wanted and love their children, but I also believe that it’s far from universal, that mothers who don’t love their children are not as rare as society would have us think, and that even a well meaning mother can screw up attachment by, for example, turning herself into the walking dead trying to keep up with “Attachment Parenting.” Parents are just human beings who raise a child and human beings are fallible.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Sounds good. But let’s just be clear on what we are disagreeing about. Attachment Theory claims that ~30% of middle class moms interact with their children in such a way that a “secure attachment” cannot form. You believe this is true. I believe it is false.

          • mayonnaisejane

            I agree that this is what we disagree about.

          • space_upstairs

            If there is some truth to the idea that a large percentage of primary caregivers do not make their children feel sufficiently loved, who’s to say that this happens in infancy? I’m more concerned about the high expectations for performance and low expectations for capacity for independent behavior commonly placed on school-age kids and teenagers. Infants’ emotional needs are relatively simple, and so probably harder for their caregivers to get substantially wrong. Insofar as physical punishment, far more taboo among the educated these days than formula-feeding, screws up relationships with kids, the impact is probably also more noticeable in older and more aware children, skaken baby syndrome and other cases of extreme application of force aside.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Infants’ emotional needs are relatively simple, and so probably harder for their caregivers to get substantially wrong.”

            And yet, the expert psychologists say that 30% of middle class mothers fail to meet the relatively simple needs of their infants. My goodness, think of the percentage that will recapitulate these dysfunctional relationships into adulthood. Add to that the additional percentage (likely large) that are screwed up by being spanked as children and the additional percentage (again likely large) who suffer from parental high expectations for performance and/or low expectations for capacity. Surely nearly everyone will need reprogramming in order to function. Luckily, we can hire psychologists to help us with that.

          • space_upstairs

            I think a lot of people do have issues they’d do well to discuss with someone, and which can turn into bona fide clinical depression, anxiety, and the like. But given just how common these issues are, and my inability to blame my parents for mine, I prefer sociological hypotheses to psychological ones for the origins of these kinds of problems. The high performance and low capacity thing, for example, seems to be a matter of 21st Century affluent Western culture, where book smarts and other marketable skills are highly revered as the ticket to maintaining decent class status, while the development of more practical skills is depreciated and the conditions needed to develop them are seen as a threat to child safety or a sign of a neglectful, lower class parenting style.

  • rational thinker

    Skin to skin is beneficial if you give birth outside a hospital somewhere like a mud hut in Africa or any other place where they don’t have heat lamps. Babies often need help to regulate body temp when they are born. In that instance it is beneficial and possibly life saving. If you are in a hospital they have heat lamps. Both of my kids needed help with body temp so they were under one for a few hours. Personally I would rather they are under the lamp than skin to skin with me, I know damn well that lamp would do a better job of warming the baby than me. My babies well being was all I cared about so under the lamp they went.

    • AnnaD2013

      Thank you for the info!

  • AnnaD2013

    Attachment parenting is so poisonous, because in its smarmy dictums imply that regular parents are unwilling to sacrifice for their children. NOT TRUE— so many parents sacrifice every day for children! It’s good to have proper boundaries with children, and it’s up to the parents to decide what is best for them as a family and as individuals.

    Like most things parenting related, it went from being one theory in how to raise/relate to your children to a way where some women decide to judge other women for their choices.

    I do have one question about skin-to-skin: I vaguely remember from nursing school that skin-to-skin is good for newborns bc it helps regulate/stabilize their body temperature. I also remember the textbook saying that it doesn’t have to be Mother who holds baby for skin-to-skin; Dad and Grandparents can also do skin to skin. Does anyone happen to know if skin-to-skin is actually beneficial? Or perhaps the benefits don’t outweigh the stress to Mom if she is the one who is required to hold baby ? Anyway — I don’t mean to say Dr Tuteur’s statements are wrong at all, I was just trying to remember if there is any benefit to the baby. But, it is definitely small potatoes in the grand scheme of Motherhood and the baby’s life!

    • swbarnes2

      Skin to skin is better for premie babies when the alternative is leaving them to lie a non-incubated bassinet. Doesn’t mean it’s better for a full term baby than being held by someone wearing clothes.

      https://scienceofmom.com/2013/10/02/the-magic-and-the-mystery-of-skin-to-skin/

      • AnnaD2013

        Thinking on that research, it kills me that a study that is meant for a specific population (i.e. premature neonates in hospitals which do not have access to incubated bassinets) is implemented for ALL populations of neonates, and in particular used as a weapon against their mothers. It discredits science and unbiased research as well.

        • Anna

          Reminds me of a recent post on skin to skin shared by a homebirther with the comment “when will we see this in Australian NICUs? ?”. I didnt read the article but the picture was of what looked like full term or close babies doing skin to skin in a SE Asian hospital, clearly not wealthy first world. NICUs and SCUs here do encourage skin to skin kangaroo care where appropriate but if they disourage it its because the baby is safer in the isolette! I didnt get to hold my youngest after the initial 3min cuddle from theatre to recovery until day 5, didnt harm our bond at all.

          • AnnaPDE

            AFAIK, skin to skin is pretty normal in Australian hospitals, including in the NICU. I mean, my kid got placed on my chest (tucked halfway under the hospital gown top, covered by a towel for warmth) in the actual operating room while I was getting my CS stitched up. (Yes, I’d signed up for it, and liked it.) It doesn’t get a lot more “skin to skin regardless of surroundings” than that?

          • AnnaD2013

            Good to know! I didn’t realize that a heated isolette is the first choice for neonate temperature regulation (kind of embarrassing as a nurse to admit that, but I am not a maternal/child RN). I wish I had known these details before having my daughter; I would have worried A LOT less about skin-to-skin and the “Golden hour” and just rested and dealt with the problems at hand. It is amazing how one detail about skin to skin changes its necessity for implementation.

          • Anna

            Skin to skin is first choice, they also have warm towels they pile on because theatre needs to be cold. NICU babies are kept warm. Theyre just in nappies till they can regulate.

    • BeatriceC

      It’s another case of research to help high risk babies in low resource environments has been inappropriately extrapolated to apply to low risk infants in high resource environments.

      • AnnaD2013

        Yes I think you are completely right! Thank you for summarizing it so well!

    • A little-known corollary to “attachment” parenting is to know when it’s not just beneficial, but essential, to “unattach” the children from you.

      • AnnaD2013

        AMEN!!! Could not agree more!

  • namaste

    I think the AP attitude is even more insidious than you’re giving it credit for, Dr. Tuteur. It’s not just that women are expected to sacrifice their needs in order to care for the husband and children’s needs. Meeting their needs is supposed to BECOME her need, and her only need at that. She is supposed to need to meet their needs, and to be so totally consumed by that need that every aspect of her identity not directly related to caring for them ceases to exist. Hell, even her leisure activities are to be directly related to caring for her family, such as sewing Little Susie a new dress or knitting a sweater for Darling Husband. Think: Stepford Wives/Mothers. And yet, she is supposed to be just knowledgeable enough about current events to dazzle the boss at Hubby’s office cocktail party, and be an absolute superfreak in the sack.

    • Isilzha

      And if you’re a woman who doesn’t want children or who doesn’t have them then you’re some sort of bizarre alien that needs to be chastised then pitied.

    • RudyTooty

      “Meeting their needs is supposed to BECOME her need, and her only need at that.”

      OMG. This.
      So much this.

      This pressure to let go of any semblance of yourself once you become a mother, to be ONLY a mother, and to ONLY perform maternal duties (with your body), and to be completely satisfied with your new role.

      It’s horrifically oppressive.

  • Griffin

    I also think that the whole Attachment Parenting thing is designed to keep men in THEIR place and alienated from their wife and children. Two heads and two sets of hands are better than one yet AP explicitly prevents that true partnership from evolving. How many marriages has AP destroyed, I wonder? How many children feel alienated from their father in adulthood because of AP?

    • space_upstairs

      Indeed, my husband is glad his part-time, summers-off job as an adjunct professor gives him time for his family, and he enjoys caring for the baby as much as I do. Sexism as a status symbol seems weird to me, except in the context that old-fashioned gender roles are largely unfeasible for middle- and lower-income families in which men’s job prospects are commonly no better than those of women and both parents if present must work to keep the lights on. It’s kind of like how thinness, even to the unhealthy extreme of underweight for female models, became fashionable once high-calorie food was cheap enough for the masses and vegetables and fruits became relatively expensive, and exercise became leisure as manual labor was outsourced.

    • Sarah

      I always wondered about Mayim Bialik’s.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

        Yeah, me too. I just don’t see how carrying your kid 24/7, breastfeeding on demand until they are a preschooler and having a “family” bed is that great for a marriage. Sorry , I love my kid but I need my own/our own space too.

      • rational thinker

        I am pretty sure I heard they are divorced.

        • Sarah

          Yes, they are indeed.

          • rational thinker

            I wonder why? LOL

    • momofone

      That’s an interesting thought. I don’t get it either. My husband and I wanted to have a child together so that we could be parents together. I try to imagine how that conversation might have gone differently; somehow “hey, let’s have a baby so I can be a martyr–I mean mother” isn’t quite the same for me.

    • swbarnes2

      No question. it was popularized by a Christian fundamentalist who thought that women should stay in the home with the babies.

    • guest

      My husband is the stay-at-home-parent and is obviously very hands on. Even 7 years later, we still get comments, questions, and odd looks about the situation, which always baffles me. We get to witness a lot of old-fashioned ideas about parenthood and families that still exist in society today. As an example, when I was pregnant with my first, I got harassed a lot by family that I wouldn’t be able to leave my child after he was born and was I sure I REALLY wanted to go back to work? And my husband was harassed by the same family that he was going to hate staying home with the baby and he should really rethink his decision to stay home.
      I absolutely love our arrangement and I think it has made parenthood easier on both of us to know the other is equally as capable in caring for the kids and the house and our lives. We have had to switch off who takes on most of the responsibility during stressful times, such as when my husband was first diagnosed with a mental illness and later when I had some major health issues that prevented me from day to day contributions to the family.

  • space_upstairs

    My little one seems happy so far to be cared for by both parents, and sometimes unhappy to be cuddled too much by either parent in 90F/32C weather. And I doubt she’ll ever care that she was born by C-section or fed mostly pumped rather than fresh breastmilk. If she someday has formula, I doubt she’ll care about that either. (And she’s probably better off from the glucose solution supplements in the hospital nursery while I was waiting for my milk to come in and the pain from surgery to subside a bit.) As for her future social status, well, I’d rather she grow up relaxed with modest means than well-off but psychologically insecure, and the modern child-rearing practices that probably most affect a child’s status anyways are the schools, tutors, and sports, not the birth and infant care details. The latter seems to be mostly about showing off the parents’ status, as is often mentioned here: one-income families and time and energy to learn and follow all the latest fads.