I like to do things the easy way, with the least amount of effort and/or stress. This applies to cleaning, studying, exercise, and yep, also to raising my child. Apparently I am doing something called attachment parenting. Many cultures just call it parenting, but hey, everything needs a brand in a capitalist world. I didn’t learn it in a book or get taught it in a class. Mostly I just do what feels right (and easiest!) in the moment, though I have found facebook groups useful for guidance occasionally, and to fine-tune some of my ideas.
The general gist is this: if the baby cries pick them up. Believe me, it’s so much easier to watch telly/sleep/have a conversation without a baby crying in the background. Some people might tell you you’re spoiling your child or that you need to get them into a routine quick smart to make your future life easier. Personally I find my life is the easiest when I have a baby that isn’t crying. Crying is pretty annoying.
Babies cry because they have no other way of telling you that they need something. Once I have figured out what it is they need I like to give it to them, whether it’s food, sleep, or a cuddle. Not so long ago, if a baby was left alone a dingo would have come along and eaten it, so babies are inbuilt with a siren to remind you to not leave them alone. Also they have just been inside a human for nine months, so the place they feel safest is right next to a human, not in a cot all alone.
Attachment parenting also aligns with my leftie politics. I believe in human rights and social justice and want to treat my child with respect so that they grow up to treat other people the same way. And I want to teach my child emotional intelligence—if they’re upset I want them to know this is a valid emotion, and I want to help them work through it. I don’t want to teach them to hold it inside and stay quiet. When people do that they often end up doing scary and / or dangerous things. Furthermore, current psychological theories of attachment believe that children who feel secure develop into confident and well-adjusted adults.This awesome blog post says it all and more, much better than me:
Considering I am doing this all on my own, so far I have mostly found being a parent fairly easy. I’m not saying I haven’t had days where I’ve ended up in tears telling my child I hate them, but overall it’s been pretty great. I know some of this has to do with the luck of the draw of scoring a reasonably “easy” baby, but I also think some of it has to do with attitude. I make less plans for my day and work around my kid, instead of expecting them to work around me. Ironically in the long run this doesn’t mean I am a slave to my child, but rather that I get to do more of the things I want to do. Babywearing and a lack of strict sleep routine means that I can go out to dinner or even to parties. Cosleeping, baby-led weaning and breastfeeding on demand made a six month road trip around Australia a viable thing to do by myself with a tiny sprog. Below is a list of my tips for being the laziest parent possible. Some may work for you and some may not. Every baby is different, just as every parent is different. And I’m not saying my way is the best—it’s just what’s worked for me.
It’s a lot of work to get a baby to go to sleep in a cot in the daytime. You have to stand there patting them or rocking them or singing. Furthermore babies in cots often wake up once they realise they are either alone or no longer moving. Then you have to do that patting and singing and rocking all over again. Boring! Instead, get some material and wrap that baby to you. Or strap it, using something with buckles. Less comfortable in the long run, but easier in the short. This is ESSENTIAL when you are a solo parent. Then you have two hands free to do things, or you can go for a walk and invariably a crying baby will stop crying and also fall asleep. And stay asleep. Babies like lots of movement because they have been inside a moving body for the past nine months. Mine would sleep for 4 hour stretches in the middle of the day when strapped to me or a willing friend, but only for ten minutes if left alone in a bed. Please please find your local babywearing community on facebook though, so an expert can show you how to wrap or wear your baby properly. Positioning of hips etc is super important so that they grow in the right way.
It’s also a lot of work to get a baby to go to sleep in a cot in the night time. So instead I sleep with my baby in my bed. I know SIDS information will scare you off doing this, but do your research. Do it thoroughly. There’s no evidence that it increases the rate of SIDS unless you’re drunk, a smoker, really overweight, or on drugs or meds. In fact there’s plenty of speculation that cosleeping actually prevents SIDS coz a) you are super tuned in to the baby’s breathing and will wake up if something is wrong, and b) the baby will mimic your breathing patterns which helps keep them on track to keep on breathing in and out.
TIP: Now that my baby has started crawling I have sold my bed and put my mattress on the floor. Much safer.
* Babies don’t sleep through the night. Accept this and then figure out how to ensure this fact has as little impact on you as possible. If the baby is in bed with you, when they wake up you will know immediately. If you are breastfeeding/chestfeeding you will be able to stick a nipple in their mouth before they even manage to cry. Often they will be comforted and fall straight back to sleep, as will you. Not always. But often. You may get achey hips from sleeping on your side and feeding in your sleep, but notice how I said the word “sleep” twice just then?! In comparison, if a baby is in a cot, even if it is in your room, by the time you wake up and get out of bed and reach them they’ll have had the time to wake up properly and work themselves up. And you have to get out of bed. Fuck that. And then you have to sit up and feed them which wakes you up properly which means you will find it harder to go back to sleep again.
I once boiled up some carrots and a bit of broccoli. Once. My child ignored the broccoli and ground the carrot into their toes. I never bothered again. Now I just feed Bub off my plate. Apparently this also has a name: baby-led weaning. I just call it feeding my baby. Fundamentalist baby-led weaners don’t believe you should ever physically put food into your child’s mouth. In the true spirit of lazy parenting I don’t follow anything too strictly. Too hard! Yawn. Flexibility is the key to true laziness. Sometimes I feed my kid with a spoon (usually this is for things like yoghurt). Sometimes I put food in my kid’s mouth (if I’m in a hurry or if I can’t face it being smeared all over both our clean outfits). Sometimes I let my kid feed themselves, with a drop sheet underneath them, or outside near a hose. I never ever make anything special for them, or puree anything. Fuck that.
TIP: No need to alter your meal plan much. Other than really hot chilli, most under-1s eat absolutely everything; they’re not really discerning. I mean, hello, they’ll eat dirt and bark and rocks, right?
I am of the opinion that what can’t kill you makes your immune system stronger. Or so I like to say, in order to make me look more like an on-to-it parent and less like a lazy one. Unless my baby is in serious danger of choking, drowning, or sustaining an injury involving blood or broken bones, I let them go for it. Sand, dirt, bark, stones, dirty socks and dog toys all go in my baby’s mouth. I let them crawl up and down stairs (with a bit of spotting where necessary), I let them shut their fingers in drawers, and I even let my baby touch the oven (it’s hot but not dangerously so). It saves me the effort of leaping up every five seconds and taking things off my curious child. Apparently it also helps them learn about the world. I’m not a big fan of overusing the word “no” either, so until my kid is old enough to reason with I’ve done things like moved the bin to a bench top or the toilet brush to the shelf, to put gross things out of reach.
On The Move
I can’t be bothered bending down to hold my child’s hands while they practice walking. It hurts my back and it’s boring. You might say I’m a shit parent, but there’s a school of thought that supports my laziness: http://www.janetlansbury.com/2009/12/dont-stand-me-up/ This article talks about the importance of letting kids reach physical milestones like sitting, standing, and walking on their own. It gives them better physical awareness and more confidence. And it means you can sit on the couch more. As usual I support flexibility with this one though, and don’t see the harm in a little assistance here and there. And as a solo parent, helping my 5 month old to get to a sitting position so that they could look around at the world meant they stopped grizzling for long enough for me to feed myself or poo, and eating and pooing are two things that are really key to staying alive. And being alive means you’re halfway to being a good parent.
I’m not saying the tips above are magical cures—I know plenty of parents with similar politics to me who have had babies who haven’t liked cosleeping or babywearing, or who have had to surrender to various versions of “controlled crying” in sheer desperation to save their mental health. Whatever style of parenting you follow, the parents who I’ve seen struggle the most in my friendship circles are the ones who have rigid ideas of how things “should” be, and who stick to these rules or follow those books even when all signs are saying that another way might actually be easier. After all, the path of least resistance is invariably the smoothest.