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Are You an "EP" Parent?

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Have you heard of Evolutionary Parenting? I discovered this website on the subject today, and it looks like a happening place full of good information on all things natural parenthood: breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, birth choices, co-sleeping, baby wearing… I've only clicked around a little bit, but I think this might, in fact, be Attachment Parenting 2.0.

Evolutionary Parenting's basic approach appears to be right up the AP alley. (Indeed, some parents are using the terms interchangeably.) EvolutionaryParenting.com's stated goal is "to help parents be better parents for their babies by focusing on parenting as it has evolved for millions of years (not the drastic changes we have made to parenting in the last couple hundred years), for which human infants are adapted. But most importantly is to provide information so parents can make informed decisions about the ways in which they raise their children." As Kate Pickert's TIME magazine article on Dr. William Sears, and the generation of AP parents he inspired, described (yes, I'm referring to the actual article associated with the mag's famous "breastfeeding cover"), Attachment Parenting also looks to the way adults and children have related, and lived amidst each other, throughout human evolutionary history -- rather than in the past couple hundred years, during which new norms (including bottle feeding, medicalized birthing and more) appeared on the scene. According to AP followers, most of these new norms don't serve children, because they sever the natural bond children need to develop with their parents in order to relate healthily with the rest of the world as they mature. Attachment Parenting is a philosophy, and a term, that some parents embrace wholeheartedly, but -- as I pointed out in my post on Pickert's article -- many other parents refer to, and draw from, the AP approach, but also improvise according to their own preferences and circumstances. Some of these parents may practice breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and/or baby wearing, but may hesitate to claim full-on membership in the AP club. They're not AP purists, if you will.

Attachment Parenting practices have came under serious media fire in recent months, too, receiving criticism from moms, dads, feminists, and everyone in between as being ostensibly oppressive to women, alienating toward men, etc. etc. I maintain that any parenting philosophy is what you make of it, and I don't think Attachment Parenting is inherently any of these negative things. I obviously believe the status quo should absolutely be questioned, and that our kids always benefit from our researching and thinking about the decisions we're making and how they affect our families. But flexibility counts for a lot on the parenting front; I believe breastfeeding is awesome and gave it a go myself, but I also supplemented with organic formula and donated breast milk. I co-slept, but not forever. Babywearing didn't work for us, but toddler-wearing does. Ultimately, each family has a different way of incorporating natural parenting practices on their own turf, based on their own sets of circumstances. We're all different, right? As parents (individually and collectively), we're all, always, evolving.

So while I know the term Evolutionary Parenting is meant as a direct nod to human evolution thus far, I think it also captures the informed decision-making processes that 'natural,' AP-esque parents engage in, and that the "EP" website's mission statement mentions. Not that parents need labels, subgroups and acronyms to identify with -- in fact, that can be where things start to feel restrictive -- but it's interesting to see these labels, er, evolving and opening up a bit to account for the range of hybridized parenting styles and choices that are emerging from certain shared objectives and values. Evolutionary Parenting seems pretty okay, in light of this, and as labels go. I'd almost venture to take this a step further and call it "Revolutionary Parenting," but -- whoops -- that one's taken..

Is the term "Evolutionary Parenting" new to you, too? Do you like it? Do you think it describes your approach to parenting? Are labels like this helpful at all? Harmful? Whatcha think?

PS. Have you read my other blog, Alt-Mama, lately? Stop by and say hi!

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