Katha Pollitt says some cool shit on attachment parenting:
And only tangentially are child-raising fads about fathers; men are more “involved” now than 50 years ago, but you won’t catch them beating themselves or one another up over not making organic baby food from scratch. Indeed, Time’s attachment-parenting package includes a humorous “Detached Dad’s Manifesto,” which suggests that Dad’s role is to provide “a little dose of fatherly distance” from attachment parenting’s heavy demands. That tells you everything you need to know about these guilt-inducing scripts.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with attachment parenting as a concept; there are many parents that attachment parenting works very, very well for, just like there are many parents that attachment parenting doesn’t work well for at all, and ultimately we have to allow parents to choose what works for them and their kids. (Within certain limits, of course. Emotional abuse is not okay.) There are lots of different ways to raise good kids.
However, I think it’s necessary to distinguish attachment parenting as one parenting strategy out of many from attachment parenting as the latest iteration of Cult of the Perfect Mother. The latter says a lot more about our culture than it does about what’s optimal for children. Having a mom who is 100% on-call, 24/7, to cater to her kids’ every need? That’s a recipe for a lot of things, and very few of them particularly good. Burned-out moms who would rather spend three hours watching grass grow than talk to a child ever again. Dads who feel useless and disconnected from their kids’ lives. Children who have never had a healthy, balanced life modeled to them– one that includes friendships, hobbies, and meaningful activities that help those beyond the family circle.
I don’t even get what the point is, beyond the classic kyriarchal game of “let’s have everyone compete with each other to see who can fulfill our unreasonable demands the most perfectly!” Kids can bond well to multiple people. They’ve done it for literally thousands of years: the “nuclear family” is almost entirely an invention of the Industrial Revolution. Your kid will not fall apart if you leave him with your husband (who, presumably, is equally committed to raising a child in an attachment-parenting way) and go to Magic Mike with your friends. He is also a parent, so he should also have an equal share in raising the kid. And “equal share” doesn’t mean “he’s all detached and gives distance and perspective and doesn’t actually take care of the kid because that’s ladystuff!”, it means changing diapers and cleaning up puke, because that is what parents do, and men are parents.
The Cult of the Perfect Mother excludes fathers– even well-meaning fathers who want to take care of their children. I don’t really want to see the Cult of Perfect Parents; it would still not recognize the different circumstances that people live in and that you can raise excellent children in many different ways. But at least it’d be a start.