By Christy Farr Ferrelli, former executive director of API
**Originally published in the Fall 2006 Divorce & Single Parenting issue of The Journal of API
My experience as a single attachment parent started when my son was 19 months old and I was seven and one-half months pregnant with my daughter.
The Attachment Parenting (AP) practices that I chose before my divorce, such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing, become more like survival tactics for me as a single parent.
In my experience, the primary obstacle to AP single parenting is a monumental lack of resources.
Lack of Parenting Partner
The first resource I missed following my divorce was the loss of one half of my parenting team, my spouse. If the children had a need, it was up to me to meet it. When they needed to eat, I prepared the meal. When they needed a diaper changed, I changed it. Baths, bedtime, night waking, laundry, shopping, playing, nurturing, and educating – it all falls on the single parent.
Many stay-at-home parents with working partners experience the same situation, but as a single parent, there is no evening rescue parent or weekends of parenting partnerships to ease the load.
Lack of Adequate Income
The stress of single parenting was further complicated by the loss of financial resources experienced almost universally by single mothers. I handled the day-to-day care for my children, and at the same time had to make money to support my family. Unlike many other single parents, we received child support.
But courts don’t consider the children’s right to a secure attachment when deciding the amount of financial support a non-custodial parent should pay. They rarely order enough child support to keep a stay-at-home parent at home, even if the parents agreed to a one-income lifestyle when having the children.
Data entry from my home office, food stamps, and later earning a degree at the local university while living on student loans allowed me to continue as my children’s primary caregiver. My recent graduation was a huge celebration, but now the shocking amount of loans is due. Although the loans allowed me to be home with my children, they will be in the 40s before the loans are repaid.
Lack of Information
Another resource I find tragically insufficient for single parents is AP support. In our detached, Western culture, AP families often turn to trusted authors and publications, parent support groups, family-friendly organizations, and health practitioners with questions and concerns about childrearing. We read the sacred texts of the Sears’ parenting library, Jan Hunt, Katie Allison Granju, Alfie Kohn, Barbara Coloroso, and many others because the advice offered to mainstream families won’t work for us. We choose a gentler path of peaceful parenting.
I first encountered this support problem when my daughter was born and my son acquired a few new behaviors that concerned me. As I had done a hundred times before, I turned to my Dr. Sears books for support and solutions. I easily located the topic in the index, flipped to the page, and start to read – fully expecting to find help for my parenting dilemma.
The advice was simple enough: The mom should do this, and the dad should do that, and everything will be OK in a few days. But what, I wondered, should we do in the absence of a dad? I kept reading…to no avail. My parenting support books were written for families with two parents, and I was in trouble.
I called my AP girlfriends, and they did not have answers because I was the first AP mother they knew to get divorced and face the struggles of single parenthood. I took my concerns to a La Leche League (LLL) meeting…nothing. I found the same thing everywhere I turned – no one had experience doing AP alone, and all signs seemed to say, “You can’t do AP by yourself.” This resource shortage proved the most challenging for me, and I still wonder at times if I am “AP enough.”
No Answers for Unique Challenges
There are other challenges faced by single AP parents. Visitation with a non-AP parent is the first that comes to mind. I searched for ways to handle what I call the “post-visitation crash,” where the child returns to the safety of their primary attachment relationship and experiences a flood of the emotions they did not express while they were away. It is hard on everyone in the family, especially because parents can’t find anything about this in their trusted parenting books. I have found that talking about how they missed me and how hard it is to be away, then practically overdosing on physical contact, are the only real solutions.
Take Charge of Your Family Life
Without these resources, it falls on the single parent to create the solutions necessary to sustain their lifestyle financially and emotionally. The good is, it can be done! Priority number-one: Immediately begin to gather the village it takes to raise your children, because trying to handle everything alone will sabotage even the most capable parent.
I chose to swallow my pride and accept support from a variety of sources, because they allowed me to keep my “mommy promise” of connectedness with my children. A roof over our head from my mom, public assistance from my community, and an endless number of gifts, favors, and mental health breaks from my circle of LLL sisters allowed me to be home with my children for those first precious years. I realized my path to freedom was a college education, and for four and one-half years, a few of my closest friends and the teachers at a tiny preschool served as surrogate mothers while I took classes two days a week.
Ask for Help
The support system I developed for us empowered me to become the single AP parent my children needed and deserved. If you are a single parent who finds asking for help or accepting support too hard, please try to remember that you are not asking people to make your life “easy” and you are not passing off your responsibilities – you are gathering the tools necessary to build an attached relationship and a solid future for your children.
Seven years and million experiences have come and gone since I joined the ranks of single parents in the AP community. Today, single parents continue to experience this epidemic of insufficient resources, although API does provide resources to support single parents, including local parent support groups, leaders, or the API Forums (www.attachmentparenting.org/forums).
For More Information
API’s Divorce/Custody and Blended Families resources
Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way by M. Gary Neuman
Joint Custody with a Jerk by Julie A. Ross & Judy Corcoran
Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci
Parenting After Divorce by Philip Michael Stahl
What Children Learn from Their Parents’ Marriage by Judith P. Seigel
Winning Custody by Deedra E. Hunter
21 thoughts on “In Search of Support: My Experience as a Single AP Mom”
This is the first time I’ve ever read an article that was about MY situation. THANK YOU
I’m so glad you wrote this! I am new to the concept of “Attachment Parenting,” but have reading up lately as it’s occurred to me that I agree with the principles and ideals.
However, I am single (since I was 3months pregnant), with no shared custody and no chidl support. So I work. My son is in daycare. And I’m trying to form the healthiest attachments possible under those circumstances.
Thanks for posting- This article is very hopeful!
I am also a single mum and am looking for inspiration and help in my situation. Thank you for this article. I was trying to reach the forum but I can’t access it. I would like to contact with people in similar situation and AP in Scotland, Edinburgh.
To reach the API Forum, go to http://www.attachmentparenting.org/forums. Our support group locations can be found here: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/groups/groups.php.
A friend suggested to me that I look for an online support community. I am a (now) single parent, embraced attachment parenting with my whole heart when my oldest was born. It was beautiful, but was soon shattered by reality — my husband (and the children’s father) began abusing our first child when I was pregnant with the second. So — attachment parenting in a dv shelter, attachment parenting when you are terrified and your eldest is traumatized, attachment parenting when attachment parenting can be used against you in court, attachment parenting when you have to go to work — I found it difficult to find community in this. This thread gives me hope! Thank you.
I went to the links given above, and found that registration for the forums has been disabled. Can anyone tell me why? I tried getting involved in the API group in my area, but it was clearly set up for two partner families, including the way the meetings were scheduled. I just couldn’t do it. So I’m hoping to access an online support group. That way I can log in at 3 am when I actually have some quite time (LOL).
You may appreciate the support you can find on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AttachmentParenting
You may appreciate the support on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/AttachmentParenting
Wow! Finally.. An article that I can relate to! My husband left me before I found out I was pregnant. My baby girl is now 8 months old and we are still in a custody battle. It breaks my heart every time I have to drop her off for a 3 hour visit.
hello me too im a single mum with a 19 month old and i had no idea what attachment paretning was untill 3 months ago and now i dont know how i coped before. x
I am absolutely committed to AP, it means the world to me to be able to spend as much time with my child as possible, so much so that I am going back to my childs immature selfish father so I can continue to be with my child these first years. I really believe it takes a lot of courage and strength to AP as a single parent and you’re giving your babies the best!! I believe no matter how scary, frustrating, difficult or draining AP might get at times we are all clearly making the better, healthier choice and giving our children the best start and will be reaping these benefits for years and years! To Happy Memories!
thanks for the article. i’m an as-yet unemployed single mom in Alaska; there aren’t any groups i can get to so the internet is the only place to turn when my friends/family/fellow parents/pediatrician tell me that my 5 month old daughter is or will be too attached to me.
it can be disheartening to go in search of advice only to be bombarded by examples of my seeming inadequacy.
Thank you so much for this article, I am also a single mum, totally devoted to AP. It has been rough to do all the night wakings, illnesses, teethings an so forth alone, but I know that it will all be worth it. And knowing the truth deep down gives me the strenght to not go along with all the ”good” advice you get from parents, friends and others.
Thank you. This article helped me feel less lonely one late night alone.
Thank you for the article and to all you ladies who have responded. I am a single mother of two boys, separated from their father when they were one and two. Did the DV shelter bit, went back to school for the BA and the student loan income. Lived in public housing on food stamps for years. I am now trying everyday to come to terms with living in a trailer park at age 34 with a pile of student loans and a useless degree all so I can continue homeschooling. My boys are 9 and 7 1/2 now and attachment parenting is as important as ever. I have been faced with courts, counselors, social workers and even child protective services, always trying to explain and justify attachment parenting. I was so greatful when my son’s latest counselor found this website on her own and assured me that this movement has enough weight behind it to provide some real support for my parenting style. I am hoping to start an AP group in my area, as the nearest listed is two hours away. I wish you all the best and thank you again for reaching out.
This reads so true for me. I found this article looking for a book on Attachment Parenting for single parents. Any chance such a book exists?
I don’t have a book recommendation, but you may wish to download a free copy of Attached Family magazine – “Divorced and Single Parenting 2010-2011.” Click here for more information about how to access a free download of this and other issues of the magazine.
I am a single mom to a 14 month old baby girl. AP for the first 13 months have been amazing. This pass month has been very difficult. I left her father before I found out I was pregnant. AP was going fantastic and I was able to work from home and spend all my time with her. But now things have been challenging. Because it’s only been US for so long, I can’t leave her side for even a second or she cries bloody murder :'( It breaks my heart so bad and I know it must be so hard for her. I don’t know what to do. I sometimes just cry when she’s asleep at night. My family looks at me like I’m crazy. At family events she wont even let anyone hold her. My sister just came to stay with me from out of town. She was so excited to get to know her niece and spend time with her and it took almost 2 weeks for my daughter to open up to her 🙁 I can’t leave her with my sister or anyone because she cries and cries. My LO will now play with my sister and have fun but if I leave the room for over 5 minutes she runs looking for me and sometimes cries, if she doesn’t find me. LO also doesn’t want to take the bottle and she doesn’t want to fall asleep to nothing else but my breast. It has been so hard and all of Dr. Sears books are catered to 2 family households. I feel awful and confused. I began weaning her during the day. I would love to nurse her longer but I am hoping she will take to the bottle, so I can leave her with family when I have to step out. I began working once a week outside of the home and my family says she cries like shes beginning killed the whole time til she falls asleep. I am at wits end and beginning to get depressed. I need help before my sweet angel is even more affected by this. I am begining to feel like I messed up some where. My family says it’s all my fault she’s like that because of AP. Ugh
Sofia’s Mommy –
I would encourage you to post this question on the API Neighborhood (API Forum), where you will be in contact with an experienced API Leader, who can offer advice and support, as well as other parents who may have experienced similar situations. Here is the link: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/forums/. In order to post, you will need to sign up using the link in the upper right corner of the forums homepage.
~Editor, The Attached Family.com
Thank you SO much. This was like reading my own life. I can relate to it all. VERY helpful!