When does AP go too far? Watch the movie Away We Go

Away We Go Trailer

So I actually really enjoyed this movie despite its AP bashing. I particularly liked the main characters played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph and the 100% Alexi Murdoch soundtrack.

It was one of those movies that technically should be in the chic flick category and therefore begrudgingly watched by my husband.  But  Away We Go offered just the right combination of quirkiness and adult humor to have my husband totally on board. In fact, he picked it out.

In the movie, a 30-something couple, pregnant with their first child, decides to travel around the U.S. to find the best place to settle down as parents. This multi-city setting choice for the script worked well aesthetically, providing a lot of great contrast for the scenes. It also served as a convenient way to couch the real journey taking place for the couple which was not so much an exploration of different cities, but of different types of parenting styles and parenting experiences.

We got a window into the heartache and joy that is only possible to experience as a parent, as well as a snapshot of the kinds of parents most people don’t want to be:  a drunk mother who embarrasses and ignores her children, a highly negative and depressive father,  a mother who quizzes her child incessantly to perform in front of strangers, and then BAM, pull me out of my “oh yeah, I agree they suck” trance, next in line for how not to parent was the negative caricature of an AP mother.

This character, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, has been referred to as either a “radical earth mother” or “condescending earth mother” in reviews I found online (cnn, filminfocus, lovefilm and focusfeatures dot com).

She was passionately dedicated to breast-feeding, baby-wearing and co-sleeping.  We watch scenes with her tandem nursing a baby and a toddler (my husband says, “Toddler?  He looked five to me.”), wearing her baby in a baby carrier in which he looks totally awkward and uncomfortable, and discussing how important it is for children to witness love-making in their family bed.

In one scene, she expresses horror at the gift of a stroller and wants it out of her sight.  “I love my children. Why would I want to PUSH them away from me??!” she says later.

What made her character obnoxious was not what she believed in — but her over-the-top self-righteous nature about it all.

It’s unfortunate that the husband-wife screenwriter team of Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida chose to juxtapose judgmental personality traits with AP parenting choices.  People can choose to be self-righteous about anything — a parenting style they prefer, a religious belief, a political view, a diet.  But setting it up the way the writers did, viewers of the movie could assume that all or most people choosing to practice Attachment Parenting are radical and evangelistic.

I appreciate the opportunity the movie provided for me to reflect on my way of being with friends and strangers and to put in check any possible evangelizing that I might inadvertently do.

It’s just not cool. Every single pregnant woman and new mother receives hoards of unsolicited advice and it’s annoying as hell. I am working to be extremely conscious of doing this myself and resisting the temptation to offer advice to anyone about anything, including parenting, unless it is requested.

Yeah, I believe in the AP tenets. And I have a lot of friends who choose to parent differently and we all love our children more than anything in this world.

Taking AP too far, in my opinion, has nothing to do with nursing your children until they are four or five or believing it’s good for small children to witness love-making in the family bed. It’s acting like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s self-righteous character and touting that these parenting practices or any others are the only right way to parent for your child to be truly loved or nurtured.

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7 Responses to “When does AP go too far? Watch the movie Away We Go”

  1. Karen Adamo says:

    Thanks for some good pre-bed time reading, Monica. I also loved the movie but was disappointed at the absurd depiction of Attachment Parenting. But I also thought it was funny. What I loved most about the movie was the ending. After examining the lives of the parents in her life, the mom finally enters a space where she can return to the world of her wonderful childhood despite the huge pain it stirs up in her. It’s such a beautiful metaphor for what parenting is–to re-enter our childhoods in a new way, embracing pain and beauty. I loved it.

    Beautiful website, Monica!

    Karen Adamo

    • admin says:

      Karen –
      Thanks so much for stopping by! Good to get another person’s thoughts on the movie. I loved the ending too — your description of it. So so true!

  2. Mary says:

    Fantastic, Monica.
    I love your passion and thoughtfulness, and the way you are offering education/awareness building about parenting options here. I especially enjoyed the opening article, including your sharing about your own process with balance and self-care. Your loving devotion is so…
    a-pparent. 😉
    And as always, I appreciate your wit and humor with it all.

  3. sophia says:

    I don’t really agree with your explanation of the stroller situation…I don’t think it has to do with the fact of being self-righteous…but the lady( or other attachment parenting people) making a confusion between goals and tools. If the goal is proven to be that baby’s demand and need to be close to their mother, can it not be done with a stroller? I am one of the few attachment parenting people I know that used a stroller from a to b. At the sea, on vacation, this one anti-stroller mom ended up expressing” you right the stroller can be helpful “( in this case she was referring to carrying lost of stuff around).

    Anyway, I’ve noticed it seems like so many moms are focusing on tools that have been stigmatized by some. And these tools become symbolic in a crusade to eradicate anti AP acts.
    Why not try to integrate some of these tools by using them differently; I believe it can be done sometimes; And the other advantage would be that the majority of classical parenting people wouldn’t see us as anti everything.

  4. Justine says:

    Beautiful site, Monica! Even though the depiction of AP in this flick did sting a little, I was grateful for the reminder to actually BE the kind of parent that others would want to emulate!

  5. I am so with you on this. Although I am a devoted co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, babywearing freaker myself, I try not to push my views on others because I think each woman’s parenting journey is her own. I enjoy talking about parenting choices but would never want to judge what another parent is doing. There are benefits and drawbacks to all parenting theories. And theories and theories and this is real life. None of us live up to any parenting ideology fully. What a great post!! Thanks for sharing about this movie too. I had heard about it, but not seen it myself.

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