Guilty feelings are common among mothers of my generation. We’ve come to the parenting task at a time when so-called “attachment theory” is common parlance. It’s being applied everywhere from inner-city preschools to executive coaching programs, according to The New York Times. For many of us, it’s a source of tremendous pressure.

According to attachment theorists, the quality of the early bond formed between children and their primary caregivers (usually mothers) influences emotional wellbeing for life. In response, many of us try to put into practice all the expert findings—how skin-to-skin contact at birth promotes bonding or how exclusive breastfeeding up until six months is best. Then we drive ourselves crazy with the possibility that we’re not getting it right and that all the missed moments will add up to a lifetime of emotional insecurity for our kids. (It’s worth noting that experts distinguish between official attachment theory and the pressures of attachment parenting.)

Some of my friends and I commiserate over our mom failures—and the expectations we feel to reach “attachment perfection.” All in all, we’re left wondering: Has parenting always been this hard? Is our intense contemporary approach the only way to parent well? And how does the gospel speak into our mothering angst?

Anthropologists Robert and Sarah LeVine have studied parenting in different parts of the world for decades. In their recent book Do Parents Matter?: Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don’t Fight, and American Families Should Just Relax, they conclude that, although parenting has taken on vastly varied forms throughout history and across different ...

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