Confessions of an accidental attachment parent

Mar 21, 2016 at 5:10 p.m. ET
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Some days, if I'm lucky, I can quietly sneak out of bed in the morning without my baby waking up. Usually I'll be about to brew my morning tea before I hear his cries on the baby monitor, and that is when my only shred of alone time for the day is over. I put on my wrap so I can wear him around while I do absolutely everything, and fight back tears of my own. I've accidentally fallen into attachment parenting with my third child, and it's absolutely suffocating.

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I never meant to become an attachment parent. With my older two children I would babywear every now and again. I would let them in our bed when they were tiny and needed to breastfeed often. I wanted to be close with them, and I was, but never to this extent. I knew I could put them down every now and again. I knew that a time would come each weary day when I could put them down for a nap. The physical weight would be lifted, even if only for a little while.

Those moments of respite don’t happen anymore.

My baby is constantly with me. He screams when I try to eat a meal that requires me to put him down, even if he is right next to me. I find myself going to the bathroom with him still strapped to my chest, because it is easier than having him wail outside the door. I write while standing at the breakfast bar with him wrapped in his sling, sleeping if I’m lucky. I rock, try to keep my thoughts focused, but so often I can’t. I’m too exhausted. This type of mothering is weighing too heavy on me.

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It is too constant, too smothering. I fell into this pattern, mostly because it was easy. As I transitioned into being a mother of three, it made sense to pack him around so I could move about as I pleased, or to co-sleep through the nights so I got some rest. But now it is wearing on me — not just the physical weight of constantly carrying around a 9-month-old, but also the emotional weight of being tethered to my child in such an intense way.

Any break I do get is thanks to my husband, who now is rarely my lover or partner but instead the other caregiver. We no longer have that precious hour or two when all our kids are sleeping, because the baby will not sleep without me. He wakes as soon as I leave his side, in the bed we share each night — where he lays, wedged between my husband and me, killing any romantic thought that may occur. Though even if we had the chance for intimacy, I would be too tired out from the wear and tear of this fierce form of parenthood.

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Yet, as often as I wish this period of attachment parenting would just end, I also catch myself willing my son to stay little. The reason I fell into this style of parenting in the first place was not only ease, but because I wanted to hold my last baby close to me as long as I could. I know how quickly the years pass, even when the days are achingly long.

There will come a day when his favorite place in the world is not close to my beating heart. I simply have to keep reminding myself to try to enjoy this time, because even when these back-breaking days seem to stretch on forever, the truth is that they will be over far too quickly.

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