Actress, neuroscientist, and mama Mayim Bialik can now add author to her impressive list of accomplishments. Her first book, Beyond The Sling: A Real-Life Guide To Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way, is currently out in bookstores and online. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Mayim about her book and her parenting practices. While the majority of our interview will end up in Bamboo Magazine‘s Spring issue, I have a few extra bits to tide you over with until then!
I have to be honest and share that it was a bit surreal to talk parenting with an icon of my childhood (come on, admit it: who else dressed up in babydoll-style dresses, crocheted vests & big floppy hats in the early ’90s along with me?), but as we discussed breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and yes! even feminism, I quickly got over it and was simply appreciative that somebody with a platform like Mayim was using it to talk to the benefits of Attachment Parenting (AP).
Parenting philosophies can certainly be a tricky topic to navigate. It can be even harder when you ascribe to one that is occasionally misunderstood, sometimes thought of as “avant-garde and radical,” and at times, declared dangerous. It was wonderful speaking with Mayim, not only because we both are into AP, but because as we talked, she reminded me why I am so attached to this parenting philosophy.
While my interview with Mayim for Bamboo focuses on the book itself and AP in general, these snippets strayed a bit from the beaten path. We talked about how important creating community is for any parent, but especially for folks who choose AP. We also talked about how society supports (or doesn’t!) parents in general, and how to navigate around that. And, we also talked about guilt – a word that seems to always creep in when talking parenting.
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I’ve noticed that sometimes, people who aren’t 100% confident or comfortable in their parenting, that’s when the defensiveness flares up.
And guilt, yes! That’s what I talk about that in the book, especially in the discipline chapter. It’s never too late to say, “this is not working, this doesn’t feel right.” Guilt is an indicator to change something. If you feel guilty, for example, that you are disciplining your children in a way that isn’t right, it’s never too late. You can say that about many aspects of parenting. And some things we can never go back and do again. And sometimes we have another child, and sometimes we don’t.
Someone, after I posted an article on Kveller, introducing the concept of the book, she said, “You know, I really thought it was all or nothing, and that I couldn’t call myself an Attachment Parenting mom. But this kind of philosophy helped me keep fighting the demons. I did not come from a family like this, but I’m trying. I can’t do it all the way because there’s a lot working against me, but it’s this kind of attitude that lets me keep going and believe I’m a part of something.”
I sent [her comment] to my editor and to my agent and said, “Look! Look at what we did. We made this one woman feel like she can do it, like it was worth it for this kid. Even if she’s not perfect.”
I think about all the Facebook “arguments” I unwittingly get into when I post articles on Crying It Out or nursing, and I just wonder why can’t we have healthy discussions before they spiral out into defensiveness and lashing out.
It’s also knowing your limits as a parent. I’ve learned when to shut up and not talk to people, and I’ve learned when people are legitimately asking me what are the benefits of breastfeeding your 3 year old. That’s something I didn’t know about as a new mom. Some people want to have a conversation with you just so they can be right. You know who those people are. You know the moms and the dads who start a conversation wanting to be right. And those are the people I’ve learned to just smile at and say, “it’s working for us.”
As I was reading the book, I really liked how you brought in scientific facts to back up your theories. Just the notion that we have these hormones that compel us to want to pick up and hold our kids seems so simple, yet…
When you fight those hormonal instincts, funny things happen. You get really, really frustrated and confused. And I think that’s the state of parenting today - at least for me, was one of confusion. I write about that in the book, like: “Hold them, but not too much. Love them but don’t touch them too much. It’s good to sleep with them, but not too much.” It confused me!
It’s interesting what those popular beliefs are and what realities are (I then went in to an overly long story of EZ & bedtime).
The notions of “sameness” are very, very important in Western culture. The notions of early independence are, I would argue, are clinically obsessive in Western culture. Bumbo seats are really cute, but a 3 month old should not…should not sit up. [...] To me, it’s more of a cultural lack of support for surrendering. And people get really scared of that word, but surrendering to a new life as a parent. And it means that your arms and your heart are very full.
While it’s a bit outside the scope of your book, the topic of feminism certainly isn’t outside the scope of the conversation surrounding motherhood. There’s definitely a debate within feminism regarding AP, and I’d love to get your take on it. Can the two (feminism and AP) exist simultaneously? How do you reconcile the two?
I think that there’s a really interesting wave of the feminist mother, which is someone who believes strongly in her power as a mother and doesn’t feel that it’s antithetical to her power as a regular woman. I just read the Elizabeth Badinter article on “The Tyranny of Breastfeeding” in Harper’s. It’s really, really complicated. Feminist politics is very, very complicated. There are women who believe that any forced attachment to this lifestyle robs you of the ability to be part of society. I would argue that they’re not mutually exclusive, but yes, I do believe in the biology of the human body. I do. I don’t think it’s for everyone. I don’t want to be a tyrant about it. But I think there is also a tremendous sense of empowerment that comes along with being a nurturer.
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What say you? If you are a parent, how do *you* reconcile motherhood/parenting and feminism?
Also – I am lucky enough to have a copy of Beyond The Sling up for grabs! Leave a comment below and you will be automatically entered to win!
(Book give-a-way ends Friday, 3/23 at midnight EST)